Xpress Reviews: Graphic Novels | First Look at New Books, December 23, 2011

Week ending December 23, 2011

Bendis, Brian Michael (text) & Stuart Immonen (illus.). New Avengers. Vol. 1. Marvel. 2011. 160p. ed. by Tom Brevoort. ISBN 9780785148739. pap. $19.99. F
Luke Cage assembles another new Avengers team, with a roster including Spider-Man, Wolverine, the Thing, and others. At a team gathering, the orb known as the Eye of Agamotto mysteriously appears in Luke’s hand, transforming him into an evil giant who rages against Ms. Marvel, the Thing, and Iron Fist. During the fisticuffs, Iron Fist grabs the orb and is transported to a mystical realm. Iron Fist learns that the demons inhabiting this world want the Eye, and they believe Dr. Strange has stolen it. Then, Fist returns to the normal world and unites with Dr. Strange, Dr. Voodoo, and other New Avengers. The group elects Wolverine to be imbued with ten team members’ powers via magic, whereupon Super-Wolverine embarks on an epic battle, vanquishing the evil forces and saving the world.
Verdict Bendis’s trademark humor and complex, layered story lines are evidenced throughout. Although much of the narrative focuses on the casting of weird spells and involves Strange and Voodoo poring over mystical texts, this work should please readers as it spotlights numerous B-list fan favorites. Immonen’s art is crisp, clear, elegant, and reminiscent of that of David Finch and Frank Cho, with vivid colors enhancing the pages. Highly recommended.‚ Jeff Hunter, Royal Oak, MI

Bollers, Karl (text) & Randall Green & others (illus.). Emma Frost: Ultimate Collection. Marvel. 2011. c.432p. ISBN 9780785155102. pap. $34.99. F
Bollers & Co. are clearly aware that the best origin stories don’t just show the personae that readers know best while under construction‚ they explore families, first loves, school days, disappointments, etc., so that vulnerabilities show through, making hero and heavy alike relatable, if not sympathetic. This 18-issue look at the past of the X-Men’s Emma Frost, originally published between 2003 and 2005, sets out to explore just those influences and is quite a ride, following Frost from her awkward teenage years, when she is bullied by schoolmates and family members, notably her cold, ruthless father; to her early love affairs, in which she suffers the terrible consequences of falling for the wrong guys; to her shocking experiences as a university undergrad, which turn her against the rest of humanity. All the while, she is gradually discovering and honing her mental powers. X-fans can decide if these stories do their beloved Emma justice; either way, this is more a pleasant diversion than a central entry point into the X-universe.
Nothing to write home about, but a well-rendered (especially Greg Horn’s cover art), occasionally compelling addition to existing X-Men collections. With disturbing scenes and violence.‚ J. Osicki, Saint John Free P.L., NB

Dillies, Renaud. Bubbles & Gondola. ComicsLit: NBM. 2011. 80p. ISBN 9781561636112. $16.99. F
Severe writer’s block launches Charlie the mouse into a fantastical exploration of the stifling effects of solitude and inertia. French author and illustrator Dillies’s (Betty Blues) creativity, perceptiveness, and subtle humor shine in this story as Charlie drifts through the festive environment of his town, which is holding a carnival. As Charlie navigates from a flying gondola ride to a family dinner to a wild carnival parade, he is periodically joined by a companion, a bluebird who attempts to guide him out of his creative funk. The whimsical and expressive illustrations complement the narrative’s theme and do justice to the characters, revealing their depth and emotion. Although the art could be compared to that of children’s illustrators such as Maurice Sendak (Where the Wild Things Are) and Ian Falconer (Olivia), the story is tailored for adults and encourages readers to reacquaint themselves with the creativity and fearlessness of childhood.
Verdict A delightful and well-executed story recommended to those needing a spiritual lift or creative inspiration. Dillies’s fresh, quirky perspective makes this singular comic a valuable supplement for public library collections.‚ Willow Fitzgibbon, Fayetteville P.L., AR

Krueger, Jim & Alex Ross (text) & Doug Braithwaite & Alex Ross (illus.). Justice. DC. 2011. 384p. ISBN 9781401231859. $39.99. F
You have never seen an epic more beautifully crafted than this one, both visually and structurally. Ross is a familiar name in the comics world for his breathtaking artwork on comic book covers in series such as Marvels and Kingdom Come. The current volume, which collects the 12-issue limited series released between 2005 and 2007, offers nearly 400 pages, each showcasing Ross’s more realistic artistic vision of the DC universe. But the book will be enjoyed for more than its art; Ross and Krueger’s story‚ in which a team of supervillains united by Lex Luthor attempts to destroy the heroic Justice League of America, ostensibly to prevent an apocalypse‚ is expertly paced, taking the reader through the methodical defeat of the heroes as well as their triumphant return.
Verdict This is one of the best-written and best-drawn stories of the past five years. Each of Ross’s exquisite panels can be appreciated like a fine painting. The epic, tightly woven story populated by a vivid cast of heroes and villains will appeal to even the most casual comics fans. This will stand as one of the definitive interpretations of the DC universe.‚ Ryan Claringbole, Chesapeake P.L., VA

Nix. Kinky & Cosy. NBM/ComicsLit. 2011. 96p. ISBN 9781561636044. $15.99. F
If you’re eager to see prepubescent twins run amok in Europe, look no further. This collected comic strip, a hit in its native Belgium, features the titular eight-year-old sisters terrorizing and being terrorized by classmates and authority figures alike, with time taken out for appearances by their sexually frustrated mother, brainteasers, and fumetti. The art is colorful and deceptively simple; careful inspection reveals skillful use of shadow and attention to detail. The unique orange foil cover, with its cut-out holes to accommodate two pairs of googly eyes, is sure to get attention.
Verdict This is a fashionable mix of cynicism, absurdity, and the surreal. Its digs at the silliness and the horror of modern life are well taken, but as a whole it lacks a certain something that seems to occur naturally in its British and North American forebears, from Monty Python to South Park. With racy and provocative content; suitable for YA readers and up who have an interest in its particular brand of humor and international setting.‚ J. Osicki, Saint John Free P.L., NB

Winick, Judd (text) & Doug Mahnke & others (illus.). Batman: Under the Red Hood. DC. 2011. 384p. ISBN 9781401231453. pap. $29.99. F
This volume reintroduces the character Red Hood, also known as Jason Todd‚ the second person to wear the Robin costume (after Dick Grayson). There’s just one problem, though: the Joker killed Jason Todd years ago. Red Hood is a tricky person to figure out: he’s out to rid Gotham of criminals, but his habit of brutally murdering his victims is out of line with the Jason Todd Batman we once knew. Winick’s storytelling flows naturally from page to page, keeping readers engaged. Mahnke’s art is stellar and, with its dark tones and crisp character depictions, fits perfectly into the Batman universe.
Verdict This is a solid Batman title, full of compelling action. The supernatural overtones of Jason Todd’s reappearance may be a bit too much for some readers (including this reviewer), but Batman completists will not be bothered.‚ Justin Hoenke, Portland P.L., ME

Bette-Lee Fox About Bette-Lee Fox

Bette-Lee Fox (blfox@mediasourceinc.com) is Managing Editor, Library Journal.

Now in her 46th year with Library Journal, Bette-Lee also edits LJ's Video Reviews column, six times a year Romance column, and e-original Romance reviews, which post weekly as LJ Xpress Reviews. She received the Romance Writers of America (RWA) Vivian Stephens Industry Award in 2013 for having "contributed to the genre or to RWA in a significant and/or continuing manner"