Xpress Reviews: Graphic Novels | First Look at New Books, February 22, 2013

Week ending February 22, 2013

Axe, David (text) & Tim Hamilton (illus.). Army of God: Joseph Kony’s War in Central Africa. Public Affairs. Mar. 2013. 128p. ISBN 9781610392990. pap. $14.99. BIOG/INT AFFAIRS
Based on Axe’s reporting in the DR Congo and central Africa, this nonfiction narrative tackles the unruly Ugandan rebel Joseph Kony and his Lord’s Resistance Army—purportedly a political movement with spiritual/religious bases—which strayed from its original goals decades ago. Today the army exists as a hunted guerrilla group that uses child abduction as a means for recruiting and sexual violence as cheap weaponry. Axe reports on the politics (including the U.S. involvement and the media’s awareness) as well as the victims’ personal stories. Axe covers a lot of ground in this brief title, and it shows. Readers are offered valuable insights, but the situation feels rushed and shortchanged. Hamilton’s black-and-white brushwork is bold and notably expresses the heightened emotion of the jungle’s mystery. Still, a greater effect is sacrificed by the use of small, confined frames. Oddly, the extensive preface and epilog are not illustrated.
Verdict As a seasoned reporter (Wired; BBC; Salon) and experienced graphic novelist (War Is Boring), Axe presents a work here that is a little disappointing. Initially engaging, the book loses direction and doesn’t regain its momentum. Political junkies would love an expanded edition.—David Garza, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Lib., Cincinnati

Mallozzi, Joseph & Paul Mullie (text) & Garry Brown (illus.). Dark Matter. Vol. 1: Rebirth. Dark Horse. 2012. 104p. ISBN 9781595829986. pap. $14.99. MANGA
In this sf tale, a crew of six wake up on a spaceship with no memory of who they are; the ship and its initially dangerous android offer few clues. All they have is a supply of weapons, a suspicion that someone intentionally erased their memories, and a preplotted course to a planet’s colony. Eventually, they learn their true purpose, but first they have the opportunity of either being who they were or who they’d like to become. Thanks to Joss Whedon’s “Firefly” series, a spaceship motley crew isn’t a new concept, yet the writing by Mallozzi and Mullie (Stargate SG-1; Stargate: Atlantis) is fun and compelling. Brown’s rough line work successfully adds visual grit to the story, which at times is too rough. Meanwhile, subtle facial expressions are lost, and several fight scenes come across as static rather than exciting.
Verdict Plot-driven sf readers will be rewarded by the twists and turns of this volume. A great purchase for libraries expanding their collection beyond the capes and tights genre.—Marlan Brinkley, Atlanta-Fulton P.L.

starred review starOku, Hiroya. Gantz/25. Dark Horse. 2012. 216p. ISBN 9781595829085. pap. $12.99. MANGA
Things look bleak for our heroes as the Osaka mission reaches its climax. With the Osaka Gantz squad decimated and little Takeshi mortally wounded, Kaze steps up to face the Nurarihyon alien in hand-to-hand combat. Despite Kaze’s strength, the alien’s regenerative powers prove to be too much to handle, and leadership falls to the character Kato who leads the survivors in a desperate last-ditch attack. Help from an unlikely ally finally brings the carnage to an end but not without painful, personal cost to Kato. After the scores are tallied, a very familiar face is brought back into the game, and Nishi reveals that the clock is ticking not only for the Gantz teams but possibly for all humanity!
Verdict Another big serving of the gory, over-the-top action that fans of the series have come to expect. Definitely not for the squeamish. Recommended for adrenaline junkies and lovers of the grotesque.—Neil Derksen, Pierce Cty. Lib. Syst., Tacoma

starred review starRiche, Philippe. The Alliance of the Curious. Humanoids Inc. 2013. 96p. ISBN 9781594650338. $29.95. GRAPHIC NOVELS
Translated from the French, this eccentric tale turns violent, thought-provoking, and funny. After losing his mother to an ongoing heat wave, a homeless man wanders the streets of Paris while he tries to make sense of the current visions he is experiencing. Meanwhile, three antiques dealers investigate the history of an ornate skull found in a box of old photos. As the two stories begin to merge readers meet a cast of unique supporting characters, learn about the French royal bloodline, and may begin to question the nature of humanity. Suited perfectly to the story is the absorbing artwork. It features sinewy figures, skewed perspectives, and a muted palette with simple but rock solid characterization. Riche has a knack for creating quiet moments in the midst of chaos, whether in a throwaway conversation or a simple panel. In these moments he’s able to handle his multiple plotlines, pace his action, and make the absurd plausible.
Verdict An unusual book that will surely excite even the most jaded fans of the medium.—Ellen W. Goodman, Art Inst. of Pittsburgh

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"