Graphic Novels Reviews | January 2013

STAR WARS FOREVER! Star Wars has been a multimedia gorilla of pop culture for more than 30 years, and Darth Vader’s familiar wheezing continues to welcome fans to comics conventions. Indeed, hundreds of Star Warscomics exist: adaptations of the six classic films as well as many spin-off novels, plus a multitude of comics-original stories set before, during, or after events in the films and recent animations. Certainly, Disney’s purchasing Lucas Films will only hype fandomania. A few suggestions follow—ask your Jedi-wannabe patrons for more titles. A core purchase, Star Wars Omnibus: The Complete Saga adapts all six films. Star Wars: The Thrawn Trilogy, 3rd ed. was adapted from Timothy Zahn’s best-selling novels about a lingering Imperial threat to the New Republic after Return of the Jedi concludes. Star Wars: Dark Empire Trilogy, 3rd ed. follows the Thrawn Trilogy, introducing a reincarnated Emperor Palpatine and a Luke co-opted to the Dark Side. Star Wars: Legacy (11 vols. ending in 2012) jumps much further into the future, as a new Dark Lord of the Sith overthrows the Galactic Alliance. But what if events in the original three films had happened differently? Star Wars Omnibus: Infinities (2013) collects alternate plots and outcomes for Luke, Leia, and Han. Darth Vader has compelling character appeal, and Star Wars: Darth Vader and the Lost Command lets the grieving, newly revamped technovillain loose on a mission soon after his beloved Padmé’s death in Return of the Sith. A new solo character book stars Jahan Cross as an Agent of the Empire, a James Bond-type superspy working for Palpatine immediately before A New Hope. We must not forget the lighter side of Star Wars. Suppose Darth Vader actually acted as a sort of normal daddy to Luke? For example, catching his kid trying to use the Force to rob the cookie jar? It’s all in Jeffrey Brown’s amusing Darth Vader and Son. For more excuses to snort your coffee, check out MAD About Star Wars: Thirty Years of Classic Parodies. Lucas, who grew up reading MAD Magazine, wrote the introduction.—M.C.

Library Journal Reviews starred review Crumb, Aline & R. Crumb. Drawn Together: The Collected Works of R. and A. Crumb. Liveright: Norton. 2012. 272p. ISBN 9780871404299. $29.95. memoir

Cartooning couple Aline and Robert Crumb have drawn together, in both senses, throughout 35 years of marriage while supporting each other’s individual artistic careers. Drawing themselves into each panel, the couple has produced numerous improvisational cowritten comics since the 1970s, in addition to contributing reportage for The New Yorker about the Cannes Film Festival and a Crumb family reunion, among other topics. Whereas all stories integrate uncensored confessional comedy into usual and unusual daily events, earlier stories wander unexpectedly into freewheeling fantasy. Later stories are tighter in plot and offer more subtle insights into the couple’s emotional and sexual relationship. Their somewhat Bohemian saga has much to offer readers, both as broad satire and as sometimes surrealist testimony about a successful, if perhaps unusual, marriage. The final episode about senior sex, designed to shock, also shows their mutual fondness. VERDICT Using very adult imagery and language, the Crumbs sound off in sometimes hilarious excess about themselves, each other, sex, art, fame, France vs. America, and everything else. His detailed draftsmanship is complemented by her simpler and more self-mocking approach. For fans of candid confessionals with gravitas. [For more from Aline Crumb, read Martha Cornog’s Q&A with her at—Ed.] —M.C.

Library Journal Reviews starred review Tyler, C. Soldier’s Heart. Fantagraphics. (You’ll Never Know.) 2012. 128p. ISBN 9781606995488. $24.99. F

A newly single parent trying to understand her middle-aged self and her family heritage, Tyler set out to find the human being and soldier behind her World War II veteran dad’s taciturn persona. She intercuts real-time relationships with her parents’ own stories of love and loss. Books one and two in the “You’ll Never Know” series follow Carol and her parents, Chuck and Hannah, in their quest to learn what Chuck experienced but could never remember and certainly never discussed, interposing tragedy, comedy, and orneriness all around. In this concluding volume, the dam of Chuck’s war memories finally breaks, revealing how battlefield scars come to be and never quite fade. Tyler’s detailed art recreates the wartime period expressively and inspires empathy for those who serve but don’t talk about it. VERDICT Tyler crafts a crazy quilt of imagery, blending brushwork with watercolor and text. This beautiful tribute to her parents and their generation will appeal to lovers of literary comics, historical memoirs like Maus , and World War II histories. For high school readers and up. —M.C.

Raymond, Alex & Don Moore. Flash Gordon: On the Planet Mongo: The Complete Flash Gordon Library 1934–37. Titan. 2012. 208p. ISBN 9780857681546. $39.95. superheroes

The action-packed Flash Gordon newspaper strip launched in 1934 as a competitor to Buck Rogers, and eclipsed that strip in style and influence, largely because of the illustrative mastery that Raymond showcases in this first of three volumes collecting his run. The battles of stranded Earthlings Flash, his girlfriend Dale Arden, and super-scientist Dr. Zarkov against the tyrant Ming of Mongo take them from the floating city of the Hawkmen to the underwater domain of Queen Undina and other exotic locales, with Raymond displaying a strong flair for landscape, deco-esque machines and spaceships, and gorgeously rendered human figures. These strips have been collected numerous times, by publishers including Checker ( LJ 3/15/05) and, in a current competing series, IDW. The $75 oversized IDW hardcovers present most strips slightly larger, with linework reproduction about equal to the Titan book, and also include Raymond’s companion strip Jungle Jim. But the Titan book, with off-white pages and softer colors, more closely matches the look the strips would have had in newspapers. VERDICT Whichever version is chosen, Flash Gordon is essential for fans of classic adventure comics. —S.R.

Road, Cristy C. Spit and Passion. Feminist Pr. (Blindspot Graphics.) 2012. 157p. ISBN 9781558618077. pap. $15.95. memoir

At age ten, Cristina is drawn to daring songs and to women dancing. Recognizing her emerging gay self, she says she “tried to pretend everyone on earth was gay,” but kept it to herself within her warm Cuban Catholic family. Over the next two years, she develops a rich inner life, drawing support from the punk-rock music of Green Day and gay-positive celebrities such as Roseanne Barr and Ellen DeGeneres. She feels safe in her closet for the time being, as “sometimes the doorways felt like pillars, the clothing on the racks like tropical foliage, and the ground like the ocean.” The book is more prose-illustration hybrid than comics, since Road’s long and fascinating monologues of intellectual post-processing about sexual identity intercut the art.VERDICT The queer Latina experience is underdocumented in general and especially in comics. Freelance illustrator Road excels with portraiture of the transgressive fringe. Her quirky, evocative drawings, black and white with tan wash, seem almost like brain-captures depicting memories of people and feelings. Good for teen collections where gay-identity material is acceptable for this age group. Road includes F-bombs and mention of masturbation but nothing explicit. —M.C.

The following titles are reviewed in the January 1 print issue. Visit Book Verdict for the full reviews.

Davis, Alan & Mike W. Barr. Legends of the Dark Knight: Alan Davis. DC Comics. 2013. 272p. ISBN 9781401236816. $39.99. superheroes

Mina, Denise (text) & Leonardo Manco & Andrea Mutti (illus.). Stieg Larsson’s The Girl with the Dragon TattooVertigo. (Millennium Trilogy.) 2012. 152p. ISBN 9781401235574. $19.99. m

District Comics: An Unconventional History of Washington, DC. Fulcrum. 2012. 256p. ed. by Matt Dembicki.ISBN 9781555917517. pap. $24.95. history

Mizuki, Shigeru. NonNonBa. Drawn & Quarterly. 2012. 432p. tr. from Japanese by Jocelyne Allen. ISBN 9781770460720. pap. $26.95. f

Straczynski, J. Michael & Shane Davis. Superman: Earth One.Vol. 2. DC Comics. 2012. 136p. ISBN 9781401231965. $22.99. superheroes

Vaughan, Brian K. & Fiona Staples. Saga. Vol. 1. Image Comics. 2012. 160p. ISBN 9781607066019. pap. $9.99. F