Xpress Reviews: Graphic Novels | First Look at New Books, August 31, 2012

Week ending August 31, 2012

Bocquet, José-Louis & Catel Muller. Kiki de Montparnasse. SelfMadeHero. 2012. 416p. tr. from French by Nora Mahony. ISBN 9781906838256. pap. $24.95. BIOG
She was born Alice Prin in 1901, but by 1918 she was known simply as Kiki. Model and muse, friend (and sometimes lover) to many avant-garde artists and writers, her circle included Modigliani, Foujita, Cocteau, and Man Ray. She was also a hugely popular cabaret performer and an artist and author in her own right. Despite brushes with poverty, hunger, and the seamier side of Paris, Kiki retained an innocent joy for life. She was known to be generous and loving, but she also seemed eternally lonely for the family she never had. Kiki died at 52, claimed by drugs and alcohol, but her irrepressible spirit lives in the works she inspired. Inky black-and-white art captures the characters and atmosphere of Montparnasse—vibrant, grubby, and wonderful—in this award-winning import.
Verdict Familiar or not, the bawdy but sweet Kiki is an appealing character and an excellent window on a time and place of intense artistic creation. Nudity, sexuality, and mature content make this biography for adult collections. Recommended.—Julia Cox, Penticton P.L., BC

CLAMP. Magic Knight Rayearth. Vol. 2. Dark Horse. 2012. 664p. ISBN 9781595826695. pap. $19.99. F/MANGA
Umi, Fuu, and Hikaru are summoned back to the magical land of Cefiro, which is once again in peril. In the previous volume, the three young students from Tokyo were transported to Cefiro and learned to assume the mecha forms of the Magic Knights, elemental creatures that serve as Cefiro’s guardians. Unfortunately, the Magic Knights destabilized the world they were charged with defending during their previous adventure. Now that invaders are set on conquering a vulnerable Cefiro, the three teenagers return to save once again the magical kingdom and assist in the quest to find a new princess of Cefiro. Magic Knight Rayearth is one of the earlier works by CLAMP, a superpower manga collective that has created reader favorites such as Chobits and XXXHOLiC. The naïve and sweet girl characters, the fantastical mecha, the hyperbolically embellished character designs, and the alternate world setting place this series in a particular period of shojo manga.
This series lacks some of the depth and complexity of CLAMP’s later work, but it is suitable for younger readers, and it will complete the collections of devoted CLAMP fans.—Christine Gertz, Univ. of Alberta, Edmonton

Fultz, John (text) & Roel Wielinga (illus.). Primordia. Archaia Entertainment. 2011. 104p. ISBN 9781932386264. $19.95. F/ADVENTURE
In this hard-core sword-and-magic fantasy set in a primitive world, two brothers battle for power, the love of a woman, and the respect of their gods. The brothers’ adventures range across a magical elven wood, the demon underworld, the world of man, and even the gods’ domain. Don’t be fooled by the sword-wielding woman on the cover; women in the novel are mothers and lovers only. Although this adventure narrative includes nods to classical mythology, the stilted writing, one-dimensional characters, and conventional story place this book on the other side of the fantasy spectrum from high fantasy (such as Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings). Wielinga’s ludicrously sexy characters (of both sexes) confirm this entry’s standing as pulp fantasy, though his creature designs are lovely and creative.
Verdict At its best, Primordia is a beautiful, lightweight, escapist fantasy. At its worst, it is the type of fluffy fantasy that gives graphic novels a bad name. Recommended only for fans of classic pulp fantasy (in the vein of Dark Horse’s Conan); not recommended for first-time graphic novel readers.—Tammy Ivins, Francis Marion Univ., Florence, SC

Lenox, Emi (text & illus.). EmiTown: A Sketch Diary. Vol. 2. Image Comics. 2012. 400p. ISBN 9781607065074. pap. $24.99. MEMOIR
This daily sketch diary chronicles the aspirations, significant milestones, and small moments of author Lenox’s day-to-day life, ranging from interactions with her friends to reflections on her dreams of success. The first volume (2011) was charming and imaginative but felt tedious and repetitive at times. The second volume initially seems like more of the same; Emi eats breakfast burritos, tries to give up coffee, and hangs out with her friends. However, as the reader becomes more immersed in this entry, the larger themes of growing up, finding one’s path, and surviving heartbreak reveal themselves, and Lenox’s narrative transcends its daily diary format. Lenox’s art is superb. She employs flowing layouts, and her cartoonish style works surprisingly well—simple lines reveal deep emotions. The book is a telling reminder of the John Lennon quote, “Life is what happens while you are busy making other plans.”
Verdict Readers accustomed to informal media such as blogs, web comics, and tweets will relate to the diary format. All readers will relate to Emi herself.—E.W. Goodman, Art Inst. of Pittsburgh

Oshimi, Shuzo. Flowers of Evil. Vol. 1. Vertical. 2012. 208p. ISBN 9781935654469. pap. $10.95. F/MANGA
Titled after Baudelaire’s 1857 book of poems on the nature of ennui, this comic follows Takao Kasuga, an average middle-school student with a desperate crush on a popular girl in his class, Nanako Saeki. In a moment of weakness, he steals Saeki’s gym clothes. Soon, his anxiety and guilt are clearly reflected in images of shadowy walls of eyes, a sinking hole beneath his desk, and his trembling and nervous sweat. Unfortunately, a classmate who sits behind him, Nakamura, tells him she knows what he’s done and must form a contract with her and do whatever she says. Tension varies but some level is always sustained as we watch Takao try to regain control of his life while at the same time appease the mercurial and sadistic moods of Nakamura. Oshimi explains in between chapters that he wants the reader to question the meaning of perversion, but in this first volume he’s more successful in exploring issues of adolescence, developing sexuality, and the seemingly irrational impulses youth experience during puberty.
Verdict Older teens and adults who enjoy psychological cat-and-mouse games may appreciate Takao’s frantic maneuvering between Nakamura’s demands and his pursuit

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"