Xpress Reviews: Graphic Novels | First Look at New Books, August 3, 2012

Week ending August 3, 2012

Byrne, John (text & illus.). Spider-Man: Chapter One. Marvel. 2012. 328p. illus. ISBN 9780785158486. pap. $34.99. F/SUPERHERO
Byrne first retold the story of Spider-Man’s origin and fights with his best-known allies and foes in 1999, and those issues have been collected in this volume. Studious nerd Peter Parker is one of many people injured in Doctor Octavius’s lab demonstration, but he is the only one bitten by a radioactive spider. He develops superpowers and uses them at first to earn money and then following the murder of his uncle to fight crime as Spider-Man. Parker attends school, tries to help his aunt make ends meet, and fails at dating, while Spider-Man fights supervillains, quarrels with allies, and is ridiculed by the Daily Bugle. Guest stars include the Green Goblin, Doctor Octopus, the Lizard, the Vulture, Mysterio, Doctor Doom, the Fantastic Four, Daredevil, the Incredible Hulk, and the Avengers. The self-contained volume ends with Parker reconsidering his decision to give up his vigilante alter ego.
Byrne efficiently fills this volume with action and the relatable troubles of everyman Peter Parker, though the compressed space for retelling these stories results in a rushed pace. Occasionally, story elements feel dated and lines sound cheesy, but they pass soon enough. Owing to the perennial popularity of Spider-Man (and the recent release of the latest celluloid retelling, The Amazing Spider-Man), this volume should be popular with superhero fans.—Brian Looker, Oshkosh, WI

Jones, Bruce (text) & Rahsan Ekedal & others (illus.). Solomon Kane. Vol. 3: Red Shadows. Dark Horse. 2011. 112p. illus. ISBN 9781595828781. pap. $17.99. F/ADVENTURE
The late Robert E. Howard’s reputation is largely based on his tales of the stalwart barbarian Conan, but the audience for his righteous Puritan adventurer Solomon Kane remains because of the contradictory audacity of the character, and because Kane’s stories still kick plenty of butt. Red Shadows collects Dark Horse’s recent adaptations of two Howard originals, the titular story and “Skulls in the Stars”: in the former, Kane pursues a despicable brigand across Europe and Africa to avenge the violation and destruction of a young girl and her village; in the latter, he grapples with a demon on the moors of England, with an unexpected resolution. Arguably, Kane has never been in better hands in comic form, as veteran scribe Jones adapts with respect rather than slavishness, and the darkly luminous, richly colored artwork is a perfect fit.
A most worthy interpretation of Howard’s work, and ripping adventure fiction besides; recommended for all YA and up graphic novel collections (there is frequent violent imagery and gore). Essential for any library carrying Howard’s texts.—J. Osicki, Saint John Free P.L., NB

Lemire, Jeff (text) & Pier Gallo (illus.). Superboy: Smallville Attacks. DC. 2011. 256p. ISBN 9781401232511. pap. $24.99. F/SUPERHERO
In this 11-issue collection of a short-lived Superboy series taking place just before the “New 52” DC universe relaunch, Phantom Stranger interrupts Superboy’s soul-searching in Smallville with portents of doom. After run-ins with Parasite and Poison Ivy, Superboy (Conner Kent) struggles with the danger his presence poses to Smallville and follows a trail of supernatural disturbances rooted in the town’s past. Aided by his allies—superdog Krypto, genius kid Simon Valentine, 23rd-century hero Psionic Lad, and Lori (niece of villain Lex Luthor)—Superboy must find the cause of Smallville’s predicament before the town is ripped apart. In an unrelated interlude, he battles Doomsday as part of the Superman: Reign of Doomsday crossover.
Lemire (Sweet Tooth; Essex County) fails to tie up loose ends owing to the premature ending of the series, but he ultimately delivers on the main plot. Gallo’s characters would look less cartoonish if his work weren’t sandwiched between that of Marco Rudy and others’ bold lines, watercolor, and more realistic faces in issues six and seven of the run. Still, his detailed backgrounds help with the transition. Recommended for fans of Superboy who aren’t starting from scratch with the DC revamp.—Heather Williams, Whatcom Community Coll., Bellingham, WA

Mangatopia: Essays on Manga and Anime in the Modern World. Libraries Unlimited: ABC-CLIO. 2011. 254p. ed. by Timothy Perper & Martha Cornog. illus. index. ISBN 9781591589082. pap. $50. ABOUT MANGA
Perper and Cornog, six-year veteran review and commentary editors for Mechademia: An Annual Forum for Anime, Manga, and the Fan Arts, have managed to provide in this volume of scholarly essays both a broad overview of manga’s and anime’s exportation from Japan to the rest of the world and a deeper study of the mediums’ relationships to topics as varied as cinema, history, sexuality, politics, and fan culture. An introduction and conclusion educate the less-familiar reader to the past 20 years of manga and anime in the West, explaining what makes these Japanese art forms differ from Western comics and animation (hint—it has to do with audience, quality, and complexity). Essays focusing on Japanese fantasy, nationalist revisionist history manga, cosplay, and homoeroticism, among other subjects, stand beside the requisite analyses of the work of Osamu Tezuka, the internationally recognized “God of Manga.” A thorough index and list of contributors top it off.
Essential for manga or anime fans with an academic bent, as well as those interested in deepening their understanding of Japan in all areas through studying its popular culture. [Cornog is LJ’s longtime Graphic Novels columnist, along with Steve Raiteri.—Ed.]—Heather Williams, Whatcom Community Coll., Bellingham, WA

Opotowsky, Anne (text) & Aya Morton (illus.). His Dream of the Skyland. Bk. 1. Gestalt. (Walled City Trilogy). Oct. 2012. 312p. ed. by Wolfgang Bylsma. ISBN 9780980782363. pap. $31.95. F
Hong Kong 1925: Song Lu has a new job in the dead letter office, which is just as well since his hapless father is headed back to prison for theft and his fortune-telling mother can’t make the rent. Like a folktale hero on a government-issued bicycle, Song tries to solve puzzles and right wrongs. The full-color art creates a rich and mysterious world populated by sinister gangsters, generous prostitutes, tragic acrobats, and the curious inhabitants of the walled city—people who don’t exist because they have no papers. Images appear nearly translucent, floating on the pages as though painted on ceramics. Aerial views and references to flight contrast the dream of flying with the harsh reality of gravity—perhaps a metaphor for the diverging experience of the British and Chinese: glamour and games for the one; scraping and suffering for the other.
This intriguing combination of historical fiction and modern folktale explores the magic and corruption of colonial Hong Kong. Morton’s fluid art makes the story, eloquently expressing this complex world. Roll on, volumes two and three. Nudity, sex, and mature content limit the book to adult collections.—Julia Cox, Penticton P.L., BC

Petrucha, Stefan (text) & Rick Parker (illus.). Papercutz Slices #4: The Hunger Pains. Papercutz. 2012. 64p. illus. ISBN 9781597073127. pap. $6.99. F/SATIRE
In the first three volumes of the “Papercutz Slices” series, Petrucha (writer) and Parker (artist) parodied popular young adult novels with Harry Potty and the Deathly Boring (Papercutz, 2010), Breaking Down (2011), and Percy Jerkson and the Ovolactovegetarians (2011). In this most recent graphic novel, the two aim their satire at Suzanne Collins’s “Hunger Games” trilogy. Because Petrucha and Parker have only a short space to cover three books of almost 400 pages each, the story line jumps around too much to be comprehensible for anyone not well acquainted with the entire trilogy. Although in general the humor is a somewhat bland mix of pop culture references, anachronisms, and obvious puns (as one might expect from the titles of the other “Slices” books), it’s improved by Parker’s (intentionally) clownish artwork, while Petrucha does a good job imitating Collins’s writing style when needed.
Verdict Directed at the same YA audience as its source material, Petrucha and Parker’s latest parody will probably entertain the middle school age range, but older teens will likely find the humor too juvenile.—Robert J. Mixner, Bartholomew Cty. P.L., Columbus, IN

Straczynski, J. Michael & Phil Hester (text) & Don Kramer & others (illus.). Wonder Woman: Odyssey. Vol. 2. DC. 2012. 192p. ISBN 9781401234317. $22.99. F/SUPERHERO
In the first volume of Wonder Woman: Odyssey, Straczynski (The Amazing Spider-Man; Superman) and Hester’s (Green Arrow) version of Princess Diana has suffered some sort of amnesia; she doesn’t know of her history or superpowers. She is living in an unfamiliar world and is being hunted by the people who killed her mother and destroyed her home. Here, she is enraged. Those after her have kidnapped her friend’s mortal child. Her ancestral powers are rekindled. The villainous Morrigan send Giganta, Cheetah, and Artemis to battle with Diana and the remaining Amazons. But there’s someone else pulling the Morrigans’ strings. Toward the story’s end, some notable DC characters have cameos. The art team of Kramer (Batman) and Eduardo Pansica (Teen Titans) create stunning visuals to accompany the complex and compelling story.
Ardent Wonder Woman fans may take issue with the costume (she’s wearing pants!), but this is a solid tale, much better than that found in Volume 1. The art is spectacular. Recommended for any fan of superheroines or Greek myths.—Amy Galante, Bentley Univ. Lib., Waltham, MA

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"