Xpress Reviews: Graphic Novels | First Look at New Books, October 5, 2012

Week ending October 5, 2012

Bendis, Brian Michael (text) & Alex Maleev (illus.). Moon Knight. Vol. 1. Marvel. 2012. c.176p. ISBN 9780785151708. pap. $19.99. F/SUPERHERO
We don’t often run into superheroes with mental instability as serious as multiple personality disorder, but Moon Knight is indeed such a superhero. Lucky for him, his submerged personae include Spider-Man, Wolverine, and Captain America. While establishing a new life in Los Angeles, Moon Knight inadvertently stumbles upon a mysterious kingpin attempting to take over the West Coast. With the help of an ex-S.H.I.E.L.D. member and former Avenger, Moon Knight resolves to take down a villain that has gone toe-to-toe with Thor. Bendis keeps the dialog fresh and humorous, providing a light perspective on Moon Knight’s disorder when he can. Maleev’s art has a gritty quality that seems to fit the L.A. setting, and the action scenes are carried off so well that each hit feels authentic.
Verdict This volume is a great way to jump on board and read about one of the C-list heroes in Marvel’s universe. Moon Knight has always unfairly been considered a poor man’s knockoff of DC’s Batman, but Moon Knight is actually a unique, compelling character. This is a great read for those who like action, intrigue, daredevilry, and noir.—Ryan Claringbole, Chesapeake, VA

Dezago, Todd & others (text) & Mark Bagley & others (illus.). The Amazing Spider-Man. Marvel. (Complete Ben Reilly Epic, Bk. 5). 2012. 464p. ISBN 9780785163831. pap. $39.99. F/SUPERHERO
Although the publication date on this hefty volume is from 2012, the collected Spider-Man issues inside are from 1996 and feature part of a story line that current Spidey fans may find completely unfamiliar. The story of Peter Parker’s morally conflicted clone up to this point has been a mystery of “who-begat-whom”: the man behind the mask calls himself Ben Reilly and believes he is a copy of Peter Parker, but he is indeed the original Peter Parker. The man whom the public knows as Peter Parker is the clone, Ben Reilly. While identities shift and reshift among Ben, Peter, and their shared superhero persona, dramatic changes take place in the Marvel universe. Aunt May has died, along with, for a time, all of the Avengers and the Fantastic Four. The color palette is less sophisticated in these issues than in current ones, although some of the same artists’ work appears.
Only hard-core fans will be interested in this volume, and then only if they’ve collected the first four books in this series and are willing to add the sixth as well.—Eric Norton, McMillan Memorial Lib., Wisconsin Rapids

McDaniel, Scott (text & illus.) & John Rozum & Marc Bernardin (text). Static Shock. Vol. 1: Supercharged. DC Comics. 2012. 192p. ISBN 9781401234843. pap. $16.99. F/SUPERHERO
DC Comics is revamping its old superhero universe by launching 52 new titles (known as the “New 52”). Although all the books’ stars existed in DC’s old universe, and despite some of DC’s major heroes having multiple titles, many of the new books belong to less well-known characters. This volume’s protagonist, Static—the teenaged Virgil Hawkins—has certainly been one of the more obscure heroes in the DC pantheon. Virgil and his family recently moved to New York City, and Virgil, still in high school, must fight various villains while maintaining his secret identity, doing well in school, and having a social life. Although Static, a wisecracking science genius, is similar to the young Spider-Man, writer/artist McDaniel (Batman) and writers Rozum (Xombi) and Bernardin (Push) have differentiated him by making Virgil more self-confident than the early Peter Parker ever was. McDaniel portrays Virgil’s civilian life well with his bold, blocky artwork, but the unusual panel layouts he uses make action scenes difficult to follow.
Verdict This entry to the New 52 is an average but well-executed superhero book, appropriate for all ages. Recommended for fans of the 1960s Spider-Man or the more recent Ultimate Spider-Man.—Robert Mixner, Bartholomew Cty. P.L., Columbus, IN

Simone, Gail (text) & Ardian Syaf & Vicente Cifuentes (illus.). Batgirl: The Darkest Reflection. Vol. 1. DC. 2012. 160p. ISBN 9781401234751. $22.99. F/SUPERHERO
Batgirl finds herself on the hit list of a villain called Mirror in this new series. Having lived through an accident, Mirror is suffering survivor’s guilt that has driven him to reverse the results of similar lucky breaks, including Batgirl’s recovery from a gunshot-inflicted spine injury three years earlier. Batgirl grapples with proving her recovered abilities to herself and others while trying to stop Mirror from “correcting” any more miracles. In another story, Batgirl confronts Gretel, a villain who gains satisfaction from controlling men’s minds telepathically and causing them to kill. Throughout the volume, Batgirl uses her characteristic brains-over-brawn style to get at the heart of her opponents’ weaknesses, even heading to the library to do background research.
Verdict Simone’s perspective as a woman contributes veracity to the character, and Syaf and Cifuentes’s stunningly realistic art style is refreshing in their portrayal of a superheroine with a normal physique. While many male comic book fans will enjoy Batgirl, this series has the potential to attract a large female readership, perhaps even those who are new to comics. Librarians will love it, too.—Heather Williams, Whatcom Community Coll., Bellingham, WA

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"