Xpress Reviews: Graphic Novels | First Look at New Books, May 3, 2013

Week ending May 3, 2013

Gagné, Michel (text & illus.). Zed: A Cosmic Tale. Image. 2013. 280p. ISBN 9781607066682. pap. $19.99. SF
A young alien named Zed has traveled to the planet Xandria to compete in the Nob-L prize for inventions. Something goes awry when his entry, which is supposed to create a clean and efficient energy source, destroys the planet and everyone on it. Zed luckily escapes only to learn his machine had been sabotaged. Illustrated in comic strip style, the story and character designs aim to be silly and charming. Unfortunately, Gagné’s goal to create a quirky and occasionally dark story fails to live up to its potential. Attempts at being cute and clever come across as flat and without direction.
Verdict Poor storytelling and weak gags make this an easy book to pass up. Also, while the characters are charming, darker elements such as body parts being punched or blasted off shouts to older audiences. For readers who appreciate the absurd in storytelling, Ethan Nicolle’s Axecop would be a much more satisfying read; for those who like comic strip–styled art with masterly storytelling, Jeff Smith’s Bone is an excellent choice.—Marlan Brinkley, Atlanta-Fulton P.L.

starred review starKirkman, Robert (text) & Cory Walker & others (illus). What’s Happening. Image. (Invincible, Vol. 17). 2013. 144p. ISBN 9781607066620. pap. $16.99. SUPERHERO
The “Invincible” series by Kirkman (Walking Dead) and artists Ryan Ottley (Haunt) and Walker (Irredeemable Ant-Man) features the protagonist Mark Grayson. In earlier issues, teenager Grayson developed superpowers and fought crime with his father, the hero Omni-Man (later revealed as the advance scout of an invading alien army). In this volume, which collects issues 91–96, Grayson has been depowered by an illness, and Kirkman focuses instead on the series’ large cast of supporting characters, especially on the relationship between the heroes Monster Girl and Robot, who had previously been trapped in another dimension together.
Verdict The numerous characters are realistically distinct from one another, and Kirkman adroitly sprinkles humor throughout a mostly serious story line. The cartoony artwork keeps the story from seeming too heavy, while colorist John Rauch imparts visual depth through a pastel palette that is reminiscent of art nouveau. Longtime series fans will not be disappointed here, but the numerous backstories will make it confusing for new readers. Recommended only with the rest of the series.—Robert Mixner, Bartholomew Cty. P.L., Columbus, IN

starred review starMechner, Jordan (text) & LeUyen Pham & Alex Puvilland (illus.). Templar. First Second. Jul. 2013. 480p. ISBN 9781596433939. $39.99. HISTORICAL FICTION/FANTASY
Esteemed author, screenwriter, and video game designer Mechner (Karateka; Prince of Persia) and renowned husband-and-wife team Pham and Puvilland have created a story where the Knights Templar, who, known for their devout faith and warrior prowess, have fallen on hard times and become anachronistic and heretical in the eyes of the Church and certain French magistrates. This leads to the wholesale hunting and slaughter of the remaining bands of the Templar, along with the theft of the treasures amassed by the Knights over decades. Martin, a rather atypical knight, has escaped detection along with a cadre of others. Together, they devise a clever and daring plan to take back the store of plunder and possibly salvage the honor of the Templar.
Verdict At nearly 500 pages, this is an ambitious work that maintains its momentum throughout. At times the coloring is a bit muddy, creating an imbalance in the delicate line art. Over all, a lovely and moving adventure both in print and picture. Librarians will love the afterword.—Russell Miller, Prescott P.L., AZ

Straczynski, J. Michael (text) & Phil Hester & others (illus.). Odyssey. Vol. 2. DC. (Wonder Woman). 2013. 192p. ISBN 9781401234324. pap. $16.99. SUPERHERO
Writer and television producer Straczynski (Amazing Spider-Man; Babylon 5O; Changeling) presents the second and final volume of Wonder Woman’s odyssey story arc. It begins with Wonder Woman trying to track down those responsible for the destruction of Paradise Island and the death of her mother, Hyppolyta. A few of her Amazonian sisters were able to escape, and they remain in hiding. But they are under threat, too, as Cheetah, Giganta, and Huntress look for Wonder Woman and her siblings in order to kill them. All of this takes place within confusing alternate time lines while raising questions of who is friend or foe. Despite these challenges, Wonder Woman must discover who she is and find the strength to overcome her true nemesis, which isn’t revealed until the end.
Verdict The reader may be just as confused as Wonder Woman, with the alternate time line becoming a device that changes abruptly the direction of the story; some may enjoy this, whereas others will find it incredibly frustrating. Recommended especially for readers interested in Wonder Woman.—Scott Vieira, Sam Houston State Univ. Lib., Huntsville, TX

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"