Xpress Reviews: Graphic Novels | First Look at New Books, September 28, 2012

Week ending September 28, 2012

Ciaramella, Jason (text) & Zach Howards & Nelson Daniels (illus.). The Cape. IDW. 2012. 132p. ISBN 9781613771969. $24.99. F
Based on Joe Hill’s short story of the same name (published in 20th Century Ghosts), this is the story of a supervillain named, simply, Eric. Eric isn’t an intelligent, powerful schemer (such as iconic bad guys Lex Luthor or Ra’s al Ghul) but rather a man with no charm, little intelligence, and zero useful skills. When he acquires a superpowered cape, he wields his newfound potency like a disturbed child with a gun. The reader is never quite clear whether Eric’s insanity and cruelty are innate, the result of a childhood brain injury, or if they spring from some evil influence of the cape itself.
Verdict Howards’s gritty and raw artwork perfectly captures the nightmarish tone of this thoroughly riveting and entertaining read. It is also extremely violent and is therefore not recommended for every reader (certainly not children). A well-written thriller that will appeal to fans of general horror, of Joe Hill’s other work (such as Locke & Key), and of twisted superhero stories (such as last year’s major motion picture Chronicle).—Tammy Ivins, Francis Marion Univ., Florence, SC

Eden, Martin (text & illus.). Spandex: Fast and Hard. Titan. 2012. 96p. ISBN 9780857689733. $19.95. F/SUPERHERO
A rampaging, 50-foot lesbian? An attacking army of pink ninjas? Who you gonna call? Team Spandex! The all-gay superteam battles random baddies and arch villains (Les Girlz) with panache in this British import. The creator of the O-Men has his tongue firmly in his cheek with this fresh take on the superhero genre. Despite the comedy, there are some serious bits: even camp superheroes struggle with self-doubt and personal loss. The storytelling is fast paced, with varied layouts helping to move the action along. Crisp lines and saturated colors whip up eye candy with an indie feel, from the rainbow cover to the back of the “spandex shorts” that close the volume.
Verdict Though traditionalists may not appreciate the irreverence, the appearance of more LGBTQ characters in genre fiction is a logical and welcome evolution, and the execution here is solid. While nudity, sexuality, and coarse language may make this a challenging pick for school library shelves, both mature teens and adults—gay or straight—could connect with this one. Nominated for “Best British Comic” at the Eagle Awards.—Julia Cox, Penticton P. L., BC

O’Connor, Flannery. Flannery O’Connor: The Cartoons. Fantagraphics. 2012. 152p. ISBN 9781606994795. $22.99. LIT/ART
O’Connor is best known for her iconic novels, short stories, and essays. But before she was a published writer, O’Connor was a cartoonist. As a teenager, she was urged by her mother and a school advisor to cultivate her unique talents by helping with the Peabody Palladium, her school paper. Too shy to publish her writing, she instead chose to submit cartoons. In college at Georgia State College for Women, her cartoons began to receive some notoriety and showed up regularly in the newspaper and many of the other campus publications. This collection highlights her remarkable growth in her chosen medium of linoleum cuts; although earlier cartoons are rough, later cartoons capture expression and the refinement of her visual style. Still more interesting for most readers than the cartoons themselves is seeing hints of the writer O’Connor would grow to be. The cartoons predictably lampoon student life, but her dark humor and remarkable understanding of human foibles are in plain view.
Verdict A treasure for fans of O’Connor’s work.—E.W. Goodman, Art Inst. of Pittsburgh

Pearson, Luke (text & illus.). Everything We Miss. Nobrow. 2012. 38p. ISBN 9781907704178. $18. F
The title of Pearson’s graphic novel tells the reader exactly what to expect from the narrative. The tale follows a young couple whose romance is on the rocks, as well as myriad other characters as they maneuver through a strange world with supernatural curiosities and dangers literally around every corner. However, as the title suggests, none of these creatures or occurrences are noticed by any of the book’s characters. In fact, even within the small, mundane spheres of their own lives things go unnoticed: relationships souring, resentments growing, health slipping away, apologies unheard, and so on. Through absurdist flights of rhetoric, Pearson encourages readers to question the curiosities and dangers that are neglected in their own lives as well. His artwork is cartoony but also highly expressive and brilliantly conveys sadness, frustration, anger, and futility.
Verdict Pearson delivers a story suggesting that deep introspection can sometimes be at odds with self-discovery. While the tone often feels cynical, there is also an optimism here that comes from the notion that none of us are alone in our confusion and uncertainty.—Alger C. Newberry III, Genesee Dist. Lib., Flint, MI

Skelly, Katie (text & illus.). Nurse Nurse. Sparkplug. 2012. 160p. ISBN 9780985415006. pap. $15. F
Intergalactic Nurse Gemma hurtles through the solar system battling space criminals and making out with rock stars. Among her many erratic adventures, the nurse discovers that she’s been cloned and subsequently learns that she’s become a television star back on Earth. The plot is secondary and perhaps willfully convoluted. Instead, the charm of this comic lies in its rudimentary yet addictively quirky illustrations and its unique genre-busting tone. Nurse Nurse has a manga-like enthusiasm (exclamations everywhere!) with a darker, tense undercurrent, especially in the plots to undo Gemma and in the way her whole sexy-nurse persona factors in to Gemma’s relationships with her enemies. Originally printed as a series of eight minicomics, this collection walks the line of esoteric indie appeal without diving into the unrelatable and off-putting, but it’s not straightforward and skillful enough to appeal to everyone.
Verdict Funky, fun, and a little sexy, this collection is a great example of the joys of minicomics. Not ideal for newcomers, but perfect for those looking for an introduction to an ever-present but under-the-radar subgenre of the comic book universe.—Emilia

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"