Graphic Novels Reviews, January 2012

SUPERHEROES: REBOOTS OF A DIFFERENT COLOR If anyone had told me as a child, blogged cartoonist Kyle Baker in 2009, that both Captain America and the President would be Black some day in my lifetime, I wouldn’t have believed them. In 2003, supersoldier Isaiah Bradley impersonated Captain America in the main Marvel Universe, then became that superhero in a 2004 alternate Earth version.

It gets better, though. Spider-Man’s webs are now cast by black Latino teen Miles Morales, even if in an alternate universe within Marvel’s Ultimate family of series. In DC Comics land, the New 52 relaunch gives four heroes of color eponymous titles. One is an all-new character from Batman International, a series begun last summer about Batman representatives around the globe. Former child soldier‚ turned‚ police officer David Zavimbe is the African agent, operating as Batwing out of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Stateside, the younger Virgil Ovid Hawkins, aka Static, has a rich history originating in the Dakota-verse of the now-defunct Milestone Comics, plus an animated incarnation. Now relocated to a New York City high school, Virgil reenters as a dreadlocked teen nerd, spouting almost-plausible tech speak to explain his electromagnetic powers and the supercool gadgets in his toolbox.

Another science hero is the world’s third smartest man, a former chairman of the Justice Society of America. As Mister Terrific, billionaire Michael Holt fights technological crimes and science-mad villains with his own distinctive gear, like that flock of sleek T-Spheres with numerous functions. In a different sociocultural niche, alien/human hybrid Priscilla Kitaen works as exotic dancer Voodoo to gather data for an alien plot while evading the humans out to dissect her.

Beyond these four series, several mega-favorite DC teams continue with black members. The Justice League incorporates the Teen Titans’ Victor Stone as Cyborg, and the Green Lantern Corps has John Stewart. The odd couple making up the energy nexus of Firestorm has been reestablished as teen brainiac Jason Rusch coupled up with frenemy white jock, Ronnie Raymond.

Graphic novel collections for these DC and Marvel series start this spring. Meanwhile, Archaia has stepped into the gender gap with African American space adventurer Miranda Mercury, an engaging sf superheroine. Princess Leia, Miranda’s got your back!

starred review starShahin, Tarek. Rise: The Story of the Egyptian Revolution as Written Shortly Before It Began. CreateSpace. 2011. c.132p. ISBN 9781461120544. pap. $12.99. F/pol sci

The magazine’s editor is a feminist firebrand, the publisher torn between sexist and progressive thinking, and the staff photographer an old lefty yet still a virgin. This semidysfunctional team still manages some pretty cutting-edge reporting despite (or perhaps because of) corrupt government officials, greedhead industrialists, friends and relatives with wildly careening agendas, and simple human needs for friendship and romance. Sound familiar? Well, this is Egypt, baby. And the looking glass of this comic, originally titled Al Khan, reflects the same-ole, same-ole with not-so-subtle differences. Taking Doonesbury as inspiration, Shahin ran the English-language strip in the Daily News Egypt from 2008 to 2010, using his loveable and complex characters to plot deftly around Muslim-Christian-Jewish interactions, political earthquakes, and marital dilemmas (traditionalist Anwar takes a second wife, but she’s actually an undercover journalist), not omitting rape and murder. VERDICT A superb immersion in Middle East affairs delivered with a light touch, Shahin’s comic more than deserves comparison to Doonesbury for evoking the political through the personal. The attractive, simple art is less practiced than Trudeau’s but works very well. Highly recommended for high schoolers and adults, especially Persepolis veterans.‚ M.C.

The following titles are reviewed in the January print issue. Visit our Reviews Center (Beta) for the full reviews.

Duin, Steve (text) & Shannon Wheeler (illus.). Oil and Water. Fantagraphics. 2011. c.120p. ISBN 9781606994924. $19.99. SCI/ENVIRONMENTALISM

Eichler, Glenn (text) & Joe Infurnari (illus.). Mush!: Sled Dogs with Issues. First Second: Roaring Brook. 2011. c.128p. ISBN 9781596434578. pap. $17.99. F

1001 Comics You Must Read Before You Die. Universe: Rizzoli. 2011. c.960p. ed. by Paul Gravett. ISBN 9780789322715. $36.95. GRAPHIC NOVELS

Hechinger, Josh (text) & mpMann (illus.). The Grave Doug Freshley. Archaia. 2011. c.168p. ISBN 9781932386707. $21.95. F/western/horror

Lang, Swifty (text) & Michael Lapinski (illus.). Feeding Ground. Archaia. 2011. c.184p. ISBN 9781936393022. $24.95. F/hORROR

Lee, Tony (text) & Dan Boultwood (illus.). The Adventure of the Missing Detective. Vol. 1. ISBN 9781445103426.
Lee, Tony (text) & Dan Boultwood (illus.). The Adventure of the Phantom of Drury Lane. Vol. 2. ISBN 9781445103433.
Lee, Tony (text) & Dan Boultwood (illus.). The Adventure of the Charge of the Light Brigade. Vol. 3. ISBN 9781445103440.
Lee, Tony (text) & Dan Boultwood (illus.). The Adventure of the Family Reunion. Vol. 4. ISBN 9781445103457.
ea. vol: Watts: Grolier Publishing Co. (Sherlock Holmes: The Baker Street Irregulars). 2011. c.48p. pap. F/mYS

McLeod, Kagan. Infinite Kung Fu. Top Shelf Productions. 2011. c.464p. ISBN 9781891830839. pap. $24.95. F/action/horror/mANga

Runberg, Sylvain (text) & Eduardo Oca√±a (illus.). Darwin’s Diaries. Vol. 1. Cinebook. (Eye of the Celts). Jan. 2012. c.56p. tr. from French by Jerome Saincantin. ISBN 9781849180955. pap. $13.95. f/mys/historical

Shahin, Tarek. Rise: The Story of the Egyptian Revolution as Written Shortly Before It Began. CreateSpace. 2011. c.132p. ISBN 9781461120544. pap. $12.99. F/pol sci

Willingham, Bill (text) & Neil Edwards (illus.). Warriors Three: Dog Day Afternoon. Marvel. 2011. c.128p. ISBN 9780785153214. $24.99. f/sf/Fantasy