Xpress Reviews: Graphic Novels | First Look at New Books, February 15, 2013

Week ending February 15, 2013

Jodorowsky, Alexandro (text) & Moebius & others (illus.). Madwoman of the Sacred Heart. Humanoids. 2013. 192p. ISBN 9781594650628. pap. $24.95. GRAPHIC NOVELS
Jodorowsky’s films (El Topo; The Holy Mountain) and the late Moebius’s (d. 2012) artwork (Arzach; Silver Surfer: Parable) have bolstered their reputations as creative craftsmen without making them household names. Their phantasmagorical, erotic Madwoman won’t change that, but theirs is a kind of “supergroup” collaboration that’s worthy of mention, as examples of artists pushing one another into challenging territory. The plot concerns a philosophy scholar whose midlife crisis begins with an embarrassing divorce and continues with torrid sex, abduction, and gambling, leading to the Colombian jungle where a drug lord’ s daughter merges with a zealot to produce the Second Coming of Christ. But it doesn’t end there. Jodorowsky lays his patented mix of psychological, religious, and mystical symbolism with a trowel; Moebius responds with detailed, elegant illustrations despite the salacious material. Readers get a unique tale of unexpected self-discovery and renewal.
Verdict A purely enjoyable alliance and a wild rewarding ride, besides. Highly recommended for any adventurous adult graphic novel collection, emphasis on adult: explicit sex, nudity, violence, gore, drug use, and sacrilege.—J. Osicki, Saint John Free P.L., NB

Katchor, Ben. Hand-Drying in America: And Other Stories. Pantheon. 2013. 160p. ISBN 9780307906908. $29.95. GRAPHIC NOVELS
Katchor’s page-long comic stories are reminiscent of Gary Larson’s work in terms of irony and absurdity, but Katchor’s focus on modern life introduces a world of imaginative urban living: where apartment dwellers compulsively climb the perimeters of their living rooms by hanging from moldings, trendy people wear valet uniforms and high visibility vests, and vandals cover public spaces in gold leaf. Within these picture-stories are artificial tree parks constructed for allergic persons and hotels that deploy tiny garbage cans in guest suites to earn more profit by overcharging the frustrated guests who destroy them. In the title story, a man has wet hands in a public restroom that’s run out of paper towels. Katchor’s unique and intentionally sketchy artwork delivered in full color should excite new fans.
Verdict This collection will appeal to readers who enjoy comics with thoughtful humor or criticism on contemporary life and be appreciated by those with experience living in urban metropolises.—Brian Looker, Appleton P.L., WI

Lee, Stan (creator) & Tamon Ohta (illus.). Heroman. Vol. 1. Vertical. 2012. 192p. ISBN 9781935654582. pap. $10.95. GRAPHIC NOVELS
From comics legend Lee (Spiderman; X-Men; Fantastic Four) and the Japanese production company BONES comes the first volume of a series originally published in Japan in 2010. Joey Jones is a middle school student at the fictional Center City located on the United States’ West Coast. Feeling like a loser and desperate for a hero to look up to, Joey repairs a discarded toy called Heybo. When struck by lightning, the toy turns into a giant robot that Joey names Heroman. With help from Heroman’s strength, Joey finds the confidence he needs to protect his friends and the rest of Earth from a new alien enemy, the Skruggs.
Verdict While Ohta’s artwork is both cute and impressively detailed, Lee blends his signature weakling-turned-hero plot with some rather clichéd manga elements (a school-aged child who gains mysterious powers and has repetitive fights with cookie-cutter character villains). An awkward English translation detracts from the story. Readers who are fans of Lee’s but less familiar with manga may enjoy it, as well as younger male readers who are newer to both comics and manga.—Heather Williams, Whatcom Community Coll., Bellingham, WA

Pope, Paul. The One Trick Rip-Off + Deep Cuts. Image. 2013. 288p. ISBN 9781607067184. $29.99. GRAPHIC NOVELS
Originally published in the mid-1990s, marking territory in a landscape of comics populated by women characters with disproportionate busts and muscular superheroes gritting their teeth at one another, Eisner Award–winning writer and artist Pope’s (Batman: Year 100; THB; Heavy Liquid; 100%) work stood out like a sore thumb. His art marries the romance found in European comics and the frenetic pace of manga, while his writing is both authentic and poetic. The story follows young lovers Tubby and Vim, whose plan to escape the mistakes of their lives involves breaking into a safe belonging to Tubby’s gang, the One Tricks. But they aren’t the only ones with this plan, and things quickly deteriorate. Reprinted for the first time in color by Jamie Grant (All-Star Superman), the story is followed by a section titled “Deep Cuts,” which features some of Pope’s rarest works, from two-page illustrated poems and personal reflections to full-length manga adventures.
Verdict The work in its entirety is a must-read for Pope fans. Purists might be turned off by the added color, but the “Deep Cuts” are largely historical. A stylish neonoir recommended for crime fiction fans.—Peter Petruski, Cumberland Cty. Lib. Syst., Carlisle, PA

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"