Xpress Reviews: Graphic Novels | First Look at New Books, August 10, 2012

Week ending August 10, 2012

Fujisawa, Toru (text & illus.). GTO: 14 Days in Shonan. Vol. 1: ISBN 9781932234886; Vol. 2: ISBN 9781932234893. ea. vol: Vertical. (Great Teacher Onizuka). 2012. 200p. pap. $10.95. F/MANGA
After embarrassing his school on national television, Eikichi Onizuko—manga’s most popular teacher and favorite pervert—disappeared for 14 days. This spin-off to Fujisawa’s award-winning GTO (an acronym for “Great Teacher Onizuko”) explores where he went during those mysterious two weeks. To lay low, Onizuko heads back to his old home in Shonan. Along the way, he runs across a coworker’s friend who looks after youth at a local foster home. With sweaty hopes of seducing her, Onizuko volunteers to help mentor her troubled teens and vows to “open the doors to their hearts!” Relying on the best aspects of his former life as a street thug, Onizuko reaches out to youth who, for their own reasons, distrust adults. Fujisawa gives us more of what we love about GTO—fun action, lessons about accountability, and moderate amounts of hopeless flirting. The plot here is distanced enough from the main series that it stands well on its own. Note that GTO is out of print; however, Vertical is publishing its prequel, GTO: The Early Years, which describes Onizuko’s life as a young hoodlum in Shonan before he becomes a teacher.
Verdict There is the occasional odd phrase grouping in the English translation, but Fujisawa’s expressive art and hilarious plot make it easy to forgive. Recommended for older teens and up who enjoy slice-of-life comedies that balance thoughtful life lessons with entertaining fight sequences.—Marlan Brinkley, Atlanta-Fulton P.L. Syst.

Mutard, Bruce (text & illus.). The Sacrifice. Allen & Unwin, dist. by Trafalgar Square. (Robert Wells Trilogy). 2012. c.252p. ISBN 9781741751178. pap. $24.95. F
Pacifist Robert Wells finds his ideals challenged with the outbreak of World War II. As a Catholic, a socialist, and an Australian who remembers what the last war cost his family and country, he is firmly against fighting, but his intellectual beliefs struggle with the emotional pull to enlist. Family duties and his sense of responsibility for German refugees heighten the internal conflict. In this first volume of a trilogy, Mutard, cofounder of the Australian journal Comics Quarterly, skillfully explores Australia’s home front, examining issues such as refugee integration, anti-Semitism, socialism, and government censorship. The intense philosophical discussion can slow the story’s momentum, but there is plenty of human drama. The physical sense of place is equally strong: you can practically feel the heat and smell the dust in the detailed black-and-white art.
Verdict One man’s moral struggle illuminates Australia’s experience of World War II. The wealth of social and political detail will appeal to history buffs seeking a fresh perspective on the period, and the thoughtful look at the social costs of war has contemporary relevance as well. Coarse language and mature content make this suitable for adult collections.—Julia Cox, Penticton P.L., BC

Petty, J.T. (text) & Hilary Florido (illus.). Bloody Chester. First Second: Roaring Brook. 2012. 160p. ISBN 9781596431003. pap. $18.99. F/HORROR/WESTERN
Chester Kates isn’t called Bloody Chester because he is a ruthless bad guy—he received his moniker by taking beatings and being passed around like an enslaved whipping boy. When a chance comes to make a break from his filthy past, populated by demented maniacs, it comes at a hefty price: he must burn an entire town to the ground, residents be damned. As with most vigorously assumed quests, Chester discovers life becomes complicated very quickly. Petty has also written Fairly Killer, The Squamkin Patch, and Scrivener Bees; Florido has illustrated a number of posters, short comic strips, and poems.
Verdict Although the writing is at times clever and snappy, the visuals come across as weak. The color choices are so dark in places that it is impossible to see what’s going on with the line art, and the tale stumbles at these points. Best for hard-core fans of horror set in the Old West.—Russell Miller, Prescott P.L., AZ

Rushkoff, Douglas (text) & Goran Sudzuka (illus.). A.D.D.: Adolescent Demo Division. Vertigo: DC. 2012. 152p. ISBN 9781401223557. $24.99. F/DYSTOPIA
Rushkoff’s fifth fictional work (see also his nonfiction Program or Be Programmed) follows a dysfunctional group of teenagers raised from birth to be software testers and marketing fodder. When the teens begin to display psychic powers, their true purpose and hidden potential are revealed. Reminiscent of Ender’s Game and Dune, A.D.D. is about the incredible power of adolescence and how that power is damaged, exploited, and feared by adults. A mix of superpowered teens, evil corporations, and gaming culture seems to be infallible graphic novel fodder, but Rushkoff tries to include too many plot points to the detriment of basic storytelling.
Verdict What would make a fascinating full-length novel instead comes off as a carelessly written graphic novel. However, A.D.D. does a good job of realistically presenting a variety of developmental disorders (including autism). There’s also lovely artwork from Sudzuka (Y: The Last Man). Recommended only for hard-core Ender’s Game fans seeking a similar read.—Tammy Ivins, Francis Marion Univ. Lib., Florence, SC

Snyder, Scott & others (text) & Gene Ha & others (illus.). Flashpoint: The World of Flashpoint Featuring Superman. DC. 2012. 256p. ISBN 9781401234348. pap. $17.99. F/SUPERHERO
The “Flashpoint” mega event in DC facilitated the greatest change in comics history, rebooting the imprint’s entire line back to issue #1. This volume contains four miniseries from the “Flashpoint” saga: Flashpoint: Superman, World of Flashpoint, Booster Gold, and Canterbury Cricket. In Snyder and Ha’s Flashpoint: Superman, two supermen are born, one on Earth and one from Krypton. The issues of Booster Gold collected are written and drawn by the character’s creator, Dan Jurgens, with occasional pencil assists from Ig Guara and Rick Leonardi. This jaunt into the altered DC universe pits Booster against the Superman-killing monster Doomsday. Also, Mike Carlin and artist Rags Morales deliver a poignant vignette introducing Canterbury Cricket. From self-absorbed human to selfless, patriotic insect, the Cricket is perhaps the most endearing character in Flashpoint. Finally, World of Flashpoint by Rex Ogles and drawn by Eduardo Francisco gives an overview of the world in which these individual series occur, as well as capturing what is good in this world and what is truly evil.
Verdict This is a stark and vivid journey into a DCU like none that’s ever been seen. For comic book aficionados and casual readers alike, the alternate versions of popular characters compel, entertain, and intrigue.—Alger Newberry III, Genesee Dist. Lib., Flint, MI

Yaginuma, Kou (text & illus.). Twin Spica. Vol. 11: ISBN 9781935654339; Vol. 12: ISBN 9781935654346. ea. vol: Vertical. (Twin Spica). 2012. 400p. pap. $13.95. F/MANGA
The candidates of the first class of the Tokyo National Space School have overcome many obstacles while trying to become astronauts, but they cannot avoid loss when one of their friends dies suddenly. Shu’s passing leaves a hole in the tight-knit group that has formed in the three years of their training, with one person losing a best friend and another losing her secret crush. Loss and perseverance fill the pages. The obstacles and tragedies play out in a microdrama among classmates, parents, and the community. The mangaka uses an understated, sentimental shojo style to display the small stories that can have big consequences, such as the plotline about cloning. In the final volume of the series (Vol. 12), the only successful candidate of the Tokyo National Space School is accepted to the first manned mission into space since the Lion disaster that curbed the ambitions of the Japanese Space Program. The principal characters have overcome many challenges to become the first graduating class from the astronaut high school, generally by supporting and encouraging one another. For a manga about a fictional Japanese space program, the characters spend almost no time in space; however, the point of the manga is the exploration of the relationships and the determination of the candidates to reach their dreams despite overwhelming obstacles.
Verdict Twin Spica is a slice-of-life manga about astronaut high school, but unlike Planetes and Evangelion, the action never leaves Earth, and the genre is not hard sf or apocalyptic. There is a touch of mysticism and Japanese perseverance and camaraderie. Although the series is identified as a seinen (adult male) manga, many principal characters are female, and the narrative pace is slow and thoughtful, not adrenaline-pumping, so it will appeal to both genders and readers looking for a sentimental story. For teen and adult readers of manga high school dramas.—Christine Gertz, Univ. of Alberta, Edmonton

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"