Xpress Reviews: Graphic Novels | First Look at New Books, January 4, 2013

Week ending January 4, 2013

Evens, Brecht. The Making Of. Drawn & Quarterly. 2012. 160p. tr. from Dutch by Laura Watkinson & Michele Hutchison. ISBN 9781770460737. $29.95. F
A graphic novel done entirely in watercolor celebrates the versatility and edginess of an often mild medium. The intricate visual language of overlapping figures and structures, with frequent explosions of flora, fauna, and fire, draws the reader into a deceptively straightforward story. A big-city artist participates in a small-town art show, where he meets the salt-of-the-earth show organizer, a spiral drawing psychotic, a tag along with alien eyes, and an ingenue documenting their artistic process. The artist grows impatient with the amateurs and rallies everyone to create a colossal sculpture of a garden gnome. He also has a pleasant tryst with the ingenue. At the story’s core are compelling questions about the cynicism and hope that fuel the artistic process.
Verdict A bold statement about the medium as message—simultaneously surreal and organic—Evens’s watercolors reveal how art can be as natural as breathing and as unpredictable as a summer storm. For art lovers moonlighting as graphic novel fans and for graphic novel fans willing to dive into a foreign and lovely world of visual language.—Emilia Packard, Bloomington, IN

Johnson, Mat (text) & Andrea Mutti (illus.). The Right State. Vertigo. 2012. 144p. ISBN 9781401229436. $24.99. F/THRILLER
The second African American President of the United States is campaigning for reelection while facing threats from an expanding citizen militia movement. In an 11th-hour attempt to suss out a suspected assassination plot, a Muslim FBI agent recruits conservative newscaster and ex–Special Forces commando Ted Akers to infiltrate the movement, Akers being a revered spokesman for veterans with pro-militia sympathies. The hero faces conflicting loyalties from the get-go, and things get worse when his cell phone is trashed and the assassination plot isn’t what he expected. Johnson (Incognegro SC; Dark Rain) delivers a story with admirable twists and dialog; he excels at portraying characters who evoke sympathy (though you wouldn’t trust them with your wallet). His militia members range from certifiable wing nuts ranting about peanuts as biological weapons to “Occupy” types whose livelihood dried up owing to outsourcing. Mutti’s realistic art works, although touches of color wash would have enhanced emotional and visual interest.
Verdict This fine political thriller—at times uncomfortably realistic—will appeal to graphic thriller and mystery fans who savored The Homeland Directive. Recommended for adult collections.—Martha Cornog, Philadelphia

Muchamore, Robert (text) & John Aggs (illus.). The Recruit. Hodder & Stoughton. 2012. c.176p. ISBN 9781444903188. pap. $12.99.
Who would suspect a kid of being a highly trained international spy? This action-packed comic, adapted by Ian Edginton (Scarlett Traces; Sterling’s Illustrated Classics) from the popular YA novels by Muchamore, follows 11-year-old James Adams’s transformation from an orphan with anger management issues to a promising new recruit in the British Secret Service’s top secret child espionage program, CHERUB. James struggles with inner demons and physical obstacles but eventually emerges victorious, putting a handful of dangerous ecoterrorists behinds bars and earning a coveted blue CHERUB shirt.
Verdict The premise of training children as spies who carry out high-stakes missions is interesting but clichéd. Eye-rolling dialog and clunky artwork make it hard to root for any of the characters in this volume. YA readers who enjoy Muchamore’s “CHERUB” novels will probably be interested in reading the graphic novel version. For an overall better take on the “being a teenager is hard, especially when dark forces want to kill you” theme, readers may enjoy the “Morning Glories” titles by Nick Spencer or Nunzio DeFilippis and Christina Weir’s Amazing Agent Jennifer.—Ingrid Bohnenkamp, Library Ctr., Springfield, MO

Wood, Brian (text) & Grant Bond (illus.). Supernatural: The Dogs of Edinburgh. DC. (Supernatural). 2012. c.144p. ISBN 9781401235062. $14.99. F/HORROR/ACTION
In this prequel to the hit series Supernatural, Sam Winchester is en route to a college exchange program in Edinburgh, Scotland. At his first destination, the library, he meets a cute bookworm named Emma. It turns out that Emma is also a hunter, or as the Scottish say, a “breaker.” Wood’s (DMZ; Northlanders) Emma is another fantastic, strong female character following the lead of “Zee” from DMZ. Though Sam’s brother Dean isn’t with him in the Scottish Isles, Sam is constantly thinking of him and always wondering what Dean would do if he were there. The art by Bond is a perfect fit for this spooky tale of bloodthirsty seal maidens.
Verdict A must-read for fans of Supernatural; also, a good pick for fans of Buffy the Vampire Slayer or Mike Mignola’s B.P.R.D.—Amy Galante, Bentley Univ., Waltham, MA

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"