Xpress Reviews: Graphic Novels | First Look at New Books, November 30, 2012

Week ending November 30, 2012

CLAMP. Gate 7. Vol. 3. Dark Horse. 2012. c.182p. tr. from Japanese by William Flanagan. ISBN 9781595829023. pap. $10.99. F/MANGA
New enemies and allies appear when a seemingly ordinary high schooler, Chikahito Takamoto, is drawn deeper into Kyoto’s supernatural battleground by Hana and her mysterious Ura-schichiken team. CLAMP’s (Chobits, xxxHolic) distinctively delicate lines and dynamic battle scenes maintain their appeal; unfortunately, style doesn’t make up for a clunker of a story. The central plot involves reincarnations of ancient Japanese warlords, who wage secret supernatural warfare on the present day and who are clearly designed to appeal to a niche market of Japanese history buffs. While the translator’s notes are helpful, many allusions and aspects of the relationships between characters and their historical counterparts may be lost on readers unfamiliar with Japanese language and culture. An off-target story hook, flat characters, stop-and-start pacing, and awkward dialog ensure this won’t be added to the“Best of CLAMP” anthology anytime soon.
Verdict Visually lovely, but lacks the substance needed to hold a reader’s attention. Recommended for the CLAMP completest only.—Neil Derksen, Snohomish, WA

Cornell, Paul (text) & Diogenes Neves (illus.). Demon Knights: Seven Against the Dark. DC. 2012. 160p. ISBN 9781401234720. pap. $14.99. F
Forget about Batman, this collection trades superheroes for swords and sorcery. The medieval village of Little Spring is caught between the fabled city of Alba Sarum and the Horde of the Questing Queen seeking its treasures. Little Spring’s only chance for salvation comes from seven supernatural warriors including an Amazon exile; refugees from Camelot; and longtime DC demon, Etrigan. However, shifting alliances and ulterior motives among this team of heroes mean potential doom for the village. Cornell enlivens a standard fantasy by writing entertaining banter and fulfilling, shocking twists. Neves’s art is just as impressive—dazzling the reader by capturing intimate interactions in full battle-soaked pages.
Verdict This book (collecting the first seven issues of the series) is a perfect read for fantasy fans who might typically avoid mainstream comics. A predominant chorus of female characters is refreshing. Fans familiar with Etrigan, Madame Xanadu, and Vandal Savage will appreciate this book on another level.—Terry Bosky, Palm Beach Cty. Lib. Syst., FL

Kristiansen, Teddy (text & illus.) & Steven T. Seagle (text). The Red Diary/The Re[a]d Diary. Image. 2012. c.144p. ISBN 9781607065609. $29.99. F
A fascinating read, this book offers two renditions of the same story in a flip-novel format that creates alternate versions of the script featuring the same panels, but different captions and word bubbles. One side showcases Kristiansen’s original work, translated from French, and the other side introduces Seagle’s English language redux. The story follows the hypnotic journey of the writer William Akroyd into the life of a little known artist, Philip Marnham. Kristiansen spaces the short life of Marnham into three diaries, the most revealing of which is bound in red. From the streets of pre-war Paris to the trenches of World War I France, the hazy, sharp-edged water color panels depict a beautifully tragic life cut short by turbulent times.
Kristiansen and Seagle deliver haunting stories that express the depth of torment the human soul endures in pursuit of creating art. This volume is the epitome of art, both in the rendering of the panels and in the lyricism of the prose.—Alger C. Newberry III, Genesee Dist. Lib., Flint, MI

starred review starSnyder, Scott (text) & Various (illus.). American Vampire. Vol. 4. DC. 2012. c.208p. ISBN 9781401237189. $24.99. F
Volume four picks up with American Vampire’s original bad penny, Skinner Sweet, in the U. S. Army of the old west. At this point, yet another breed of vampire is discovered, this time descended from Native Americans. From this shoot ‘em up, and eat ‘em up portion of the story, we rocket into the cool, leather clad, muscle cars of the 1950s. Here, vampire hunters can be punk “greasers” with DA haircuts, shades, and wooden teeth for “biting them back,” as Travis Kidd might say. Engaging and action packed, this high-octane parcel of tales delivers thrills, sexiness, and devil-may-care verve. Along the way, a new species of veteran dog soldiers proves they can still be plenty scary, though they’re long in the tooth. Nifty bonus pages grace the end of the book.
Verdict A well-crafted story by award winner Snyder and wonderfully rendered throughout by disciplined cartoonists led by Albuquerque. Even though vampire romance and alternative history is well worn, this series still feels fresh. An ambitious and cleverly wrought work. Recommended!—Russell Miller, Prescott P.L., AZ

Tomasi, Peter J. Green Lantern Corps: Fearsome. DC. Aug. 2012. c.160 p. ISBN 9781401237011. $22.99. F
This volume in the “The New 52” revamped series reintroduces Green Lanterns John Stewart and Guy Gardner, and their alien comrades who serve the mysterious Guardians in protecting the universe. Although aided by powerful rings that create anything the GLs imagine, the strength is determined by the sheer willpower of its wearer. On Oa, Stewart and Gardner accept a mission to investigate a genocide that occurred on a water planet after the water disappeared. The GLs track down the guilty party, the Keepers, whose willpower doesn’t appear to waver. In order to save the planet they must find a way to overcome the evil Keepers.
Verdict A fast-paced, adventure-packed story that reads like an action film—appealing for GL fans and teen readers of superhero comics. Libraries with limited budgets for graphic novels should instead consider the “The New 52” series Geoff Johns’s Justice League, Vol. 1: Origin, or Scott Snyder’s Batman, Vol. 1: Court of the Owls.—Brian Looker, Appleton P.L., WI

Triano, Matt & Raven Gregory (text) & Various (illus.). Grimm Myths and Legends. Vol. 3. Zenescope. 2012. 177p. ISBN 9781937068417. $15.99. F
Fans know and love this series for its modern fairy tales, twisted with sex, blood, and violence. This spin-off not only plays in the same universe but also revisits and expands upon previously told tales. While the amount of blood and the cleavage count remains true to the original, this collection tells new stories without being repetitious. For example, an expanded version of the classic, Beauty and the Beast, takes on a new face (keeping some characters and the same mythology) by following a previously unseen family relative. The Playboy pinup girl of the cover belies the lush artwork and sharp writing found within. Although the book is not appropriate for a juvenile audience, there is a greater depth inside the suggestive cover.
Verdict This book of fairy tales will appeal to any adult fan of Zenoscope’s similar comics, or any fan of dark fairy tales in general.—Tammy Ivins, Francis Marion Univ., Florence, SC


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"