Graphic Novels Reviews, March 15, 2012

Henson, Jim & Jerry Juhl (text) & Ramón K. Pérez (illus.). Jim Henson’s Tale of Sand. Archaia. 2012. c.152p. ISBN 9781936393091. $29.95. F

It’s not a new observation that life is simply an endless struggle with A) death and B) oneself, but here it is realized with graphic brilliance. A man named Mac enjoys an ebullient welcome from the populace of a small desert town until the sheriff sends him away with a knapsack, map, ten minutes’ lead time, and two recommendations: if he can get to Eagle Mountain, he’ll be safe; and don’t trust the map. Clearly, Mac shouldn’t trust anything else, either, since an avalanche of surrealistic, often comic near-disasters follows, e.g., knife-wielding Arabs, a football team, a lion, and explosions aplenty, all seemingly masterminded by a mysterious eye-patched fellow and his chilly blond friend. This adaptation of an unproduced screenplay by the late Henson and his writing parter Juhl (who died in 2005), combined with Perez’s realistic art, entrains the eye with a beautiful, nearly wordless collage of colorful panels. Indeed, the trip is so fascinating that the destination may surprise, though it might be obvious in retrospect. VERDICT This startling glimpse into Henson’s psyche draws on themes from his films (The Cube; Timepiece; Labyrinth) for a dramatic and existential reading experience. Recommended for adult and sophisticated teen fans of literary black humor.‚ M.C.

Long, Mark & Jim Demonakos (text) & Nate Powell (illus.). The Silence of Our Friends: The Civil Rights Struggle Was Never Black and White. First Second: Roaring Brook. 2012. c.208p. ISBN 9781596436183. pap. $16.99. MEMOIR/HIST

Local TV reporting was not a glam gig in the late 1960s, especially when it covers racial ferment in the South. Long grew up in a KKK-leaning white Texas neighborhood, and his family walked a dangerous path in befriending an African American couple involved in the civil rights movement. In this lightly fictionalized account, Long’s reporter father overcomes hesitation and supervisor prejudice to provide testimony that helped free five students accused of killing a white policeman during a sit-in at Texas Southern University. The sit-in was intended to protest harassment by hostile locals who had injured a black child while driving dangerously and yelling insults along the campus main drag. The title derives from a Martin Luther King quote: In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies but the silence of our friends. VERDICT A moving evocation of a tipping point in our country’s regrettable history of race relations, Long and Demonakos’s story flows perfectly in Eisner and Ignatz Award winner Powell’s (Swallow Me Whole) graceful and vivid yet unpretty black-and-gray wash. A concise time line would have been helpful as back matter. Great for history classes and interested readers, teen through adult.‚ M.C.

The Zen of Steve Jobs. Wiley. 2012. c.80p. ISBN 9781118295267. pap. $19.95. f/biog

This innovative graphic novel unveils a less publicized part of Jobs: his flirtation with Zen Buddhism and friendship with Kobun Chino Otogawa, as iconoclastic a Zen priest as Jobs was a computer guru‚ and how Jobs’ tinge of Zenitude affected Apple products. Drawing on extensive research, Melby reimagines their relationship as a push-pull between action and letting go, between substance and space, between perfection and mistakes. The final image depicts Jobs crowing Perfect at his own calligraphy of the kanji character for mistake. Kobun’s final mistake was attending to meditation rather than to his young daughter, which led to their joint drowning. The art is fluid, two-color washes, abetted by insightful extras that supply context. VERDICT Drawing on two famous figures, Melby raises many of the Important Questions: how to live one’s life? What is substance and what is background, and how can they dance together? What will be left as legacy? An intriguing readalike for teen and adult readers of Isaacson’s bestselling Jobs biography plus other geeks and geek-curious.‚ M.C.

The following titles are reviewed in the March 15 print issue. Visit our Reviews Center (Beta) for the full reviews.

Beaton, Kate. Hark! A Vagrant. Drawn & Quarterly. 2011. c.160p.ISBN 9781770460607. $19.95. LIT/Satire

Bocquet, José-Louis & Jean-Luc Fromental (text) & Stanislaw Barthélémy (illus.). The Adventures of Hergé. Drawn & Quarterly. 2011. c.70p. tr. from French by Helge Dascher. bibliog. ISBN 9781770460591. $19.95. F/BIOG

Kinutani, Yu. Ghost in the Shell. Vol. 2: Stand Alone Complex. Kodansha, dist. by Random. 2011. 288p. ISBN 9781935429869. pap. $10.99. F/manga

Melby, Caleb & Forbes LLC (text) & JESS3 (illus.). Peterson, Paul & Jason Gilmore (text) & John Porcellino (illus.). The Next Day: A Graphic Novella. 2011. c.100p. ISBN 9780986488412. pap. $16.95. PSYCH

Pratt, Hugo. Corto Maltese: The Ballad of the Salt Sea. Rizzoli, dist. by Random. Mar. 2012. c.254p. tr. from Italian by Hall Powell. ISBN 9780789324986. pap. $25. F/adventure

Waid, Mark (text) & Jorge Molina & others (illus.). Captain America: Man Out of Time. Marvel. 2011. c.144p. ISBN 9780785151296. pap. $16.99. F/superhero

Weaver, E.K. The Less Than Epic Adventures of TJ and Amal. Vol. 1: Poor Boys and Pilgrims. c.127p. ISBN 9780983875505. pap. $15. f

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Martha Cornog About Martha Cornog

Martha Cornog is a longtime reviewer for LJ and, with Timothy Perper, edited Graphic Novels Beyond the Basics: Insights and Issues for Libraries (Libraries Unlimited, 2009).