Xpress Reviews: Graphic Novels | First Look at New Books, September 14, 2012

Week ending September 14, 2012

Bendis, Brian Michael (text) & John Romita Jr. & Bryan Hitch (illus.). Avengers. Vol. 2. Marvel. 2011. 186p. ISBN 9780785145059. pap. $19.99. F/SUPERHERO
When Parker Robbins, aka the Red Hood, steals the yellow infinity gem, he threatens to become a villain too powerful for any collection of superheroes, including the Avengers. Controlling reality itself with the gem, Parker steals the red gem from Reed Richards and savagely beats Red Hulk to a pulp in the desert. Red Hulk consults the Avengers, and Iron Man convenes the secret group the Illuminati, comprised of Reed Richards, Dr. Strange, Namor, Iron Man, Professor X, and the deceased Black Bolt. Namor, Thor, Cap, Iron Man, Red Hulk, and a host of other superpowered elites eventually band together despite their differences, executing a plan to overcome the now godlike Parker in several all-out, awe-inspiring battles.
Verdict Fans of Romita’s artwork will delight in the visually arresting splash panels, battle scenes, and myriad players in this sprawling tale. His figures are impressive and weighty, the layouts exciting and dramatic. Hitch, another fan favorite, provides excellent pencils to kick off a new story arc. Bendis’s writing is clever, witty, and incorporates a wide cast with aplomb, remaining faithful to prior renderings of the characters. Recommended.—Jeff Hunter, Royal Oak, MI

Jerwa, Brandon & Eric Trautmann (text) & Steven Lieber (illus.). Shooters. Vertigo. 2011. 144p. ISBN 9781401222154. $22.99. F
Army chief Terry Glass resigns from the military after it covers up the “friendly fire” incident in Iraq that leaves him injured and many of his comrades dead. Unable to find and keep a good job in the civilian world, Glass joins on with a Blackwater-type corporation. This choice eventually returns him to Iraq as a soldier but this time as a private contractor. Although this synopsis sounds like the setup for a blockbuster action movie, writers Trautmann (cowriter, Final Crisis: Resist) and Jerwa (Battlestar Galactica: Season Zero) and artist Lieber (Whiteout) tell the story, based on the true story of Trautmann’s brother-in-law, in a way that avoids sensationalizing it. The art focuses on the characters, especially their faces, and large amounts of dialog and first-person narration supplant action scenes.
Verdict The subdued storytelling makes the relatively short page count pass slowly, but the art, stylized but with many realistic details, holds the reader’s attention well. This is an interesting look at a rarely seen world. Recommended.—Robert Mixner, Bartholomew Cty. P.L., Columbus, IN

Johns, Geoff (text) & Gary Frank & Brad Anderson (illus.). Batman: Earth One. DC. 2012. 144p. ISBN 9781401232085. $22.99. F/SUPERHERO
Johns, well known for his work with DC Comics’ Green Lantern character, aims to shake up some of the comfort that longtime fans of Batman have enjoyed with this dark and complex new take on the Dark Knight’s origin. Johns steps on more than a few toes with his version of the Batman mythos—especially when it comes to the character of Alfred, Batman’s loyal and fatherly butler—but also manages to craft a story that is multilayered in its humanity, if more than a little cynical. The art by Frank is immune to criticism, with dynamic action and effortless flow from panel to panel—one can easily see the characters in full motion—brought to life by the rich and deep colors of Anderson.
New comic book readers and those introduced to Batman via the recent films will enjoy this read, but aficionados will likely not appreciate the liberties Johns has taken with their beloved characters, even if they must admit there’s an adequate story and fantastic art underneath it all.—M. Brandon Robbins, Wayne Cty. P.L., Goldsboro, NC

Remender, Rick (text) & Eric Nguyen (illus.). Strange Girl Omnibus. Image Comics. 2012. 450p. ISBN 9781607063971. $59.99. F
This collection follows nonbeliever Bethany Black after her family is taken up in the Rapture and she is left behind for her faithlessness. Demons overrun the Earth, and she becomes a slave to Lord Belial, after which the plot skips several years. With the Second Coming overdue, the world looks doomed to Bethany. And so with the magical knowledge she’s learned from Belial, she and her mixed-breed demon friend Bloato try to escape the malevolent red demons and find a way to Heaven.
The series starts out a bit rocky, with long sections of dialog, a few typos, and simply average-looking artwork, but there is some improvement as the story moves forward. The story might appeal to readers who are interested in Christian and demonic lore yet are open to playful skepticism concerning religion and God. Fans of more well-known series with religious themes, like Hellblazer or Preacher, may be interested in trying Strange Girl. Overall, an interesting premise that expresses thoughtful ideas through a strong yet flawed female protagonist.—Rachel Hoover, Thomas Ford Memorial Lib., Western Springs, IL

Runberg, Sylvain (text) & Eduardo Ocaña (illus.). Darwin’s Diaries: Death of a Beast. Vol. 2. Cinebook. 2011. 56p. ISBN 9781849181105. pap. $13.95. F
Set in Victorian England, this horror tale posits that the naturalist Charles Darwin has come to Yorkshire in order to investigate a series of brutal killings of horses and railroad workers. The beast responsible for the slayings in the first story line has seemingly been dispatched, but a new beast has arisen. Here, a young girl is killed, and her death triggers more violence between the neo-druids living in the forests and the railroad workers and townspeople. Darwin battles his own demons—heavy drinking and solicitation of prostitutes—while investigating the killings, and a shocking reveal concludes this second act.
Verdict Ocaña illustrates with a pleasingly simple, elegant style. Runberg (Orbital) relates a nicely plotted tale, incorporating historical tidbits such as details related to the feminist movements taking place in America and England. Readers may seek out Vol. 1 first, but this second arc is entertaining on its own. Recommended for ages 15 and up, for libraries building horror and suspense collections.—Jeff Hunter, Royal Oak, MI

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"