Xpress Reviews: Graphic Novels | First Look at New Books, June 21, 2013

Week ending June 21, 2013

Chihoi (text & illus.). The Library. Conundrum. 2013. 160p. ISBN 9781894994729. $20. LITERARY FICTION
The English-language debut of artist Chihoi’s latest graphic novel (after Hijacking; The Train) is proof that the small comics scene in Hong Kong is growing. Raw in both content and style, the collection offers stories that are unsettling, surreal, and deeply emotional. Chapters like “Father” read like a nightmare, while “The Sea” seems like a dream. One can’t help but feel that there is more to these stories than what’s presented; it is the artwork that proves troubling. At best, the illustrated awkward postures and hand-lettering are refreshing and suit the poetic storytelling. Unfortunately, though, the naiveté of the imagery often distracts from the narrative. In stories involving multiple characters, Chihoi’s lack of pictorial direction can be confusing, leaving readers to ponder the invisible details. Awkward panel layouts and slow pacing lessen the impact of many of these twisted tales.
Verdict These are powerful stories, but the art is only modest. This collection may not find broad appeal; fans of independent comics and the international scene may consider Chihoi worth a read.—E.W. Goodman, Art Inst. of Pittsburgh

Fink, Jess (text & illus.). We Can Fix It! A Time Travel Memoir. Top Shelf. 2013. 112p. ISBN 9781603090650. pap. $14.95. MEMOIR
Apparently, a time machine and a fancy bodysuit are all graphic novelist Fink (Chester 5000) needs to return to the past. Playing off the fantasy of traveling back in time to alter the past or possibly relive our experiences, Fink doesn’t hop across vast expanses of periods like Doctor Who or the Time Traveller from H.G. Wells’s The Time Machine. Instead, she returns to pivotal moments in her early life. To begin, she focuses on her past sexual relationships, wanting her breadth of experience to warn, improve, and change the outcomes. But, in the end, her plan doesn’t go over well, so she decides to change other parts of her character. After failing at transformation, eventually Fink’s back-in-time self tells her present self that she was doing just fine without her help. Fink learns that past experiences—both good and bad—contribute to who we are. Focusing on trying to change past events causes us to lose sight of the good in them.
Verdict Hilarious and poignant, Fink’s book draws upon adult themes and angst to teach us about self-acceptance with a story that’s easy to sympathize with by focusing on regretful experiences with previous relationships, bullies, parents, and high school drama. Recommended to readers interested in humor.—Scott Vieira, Sam Houston State Univ. Lib., Huntsville, TX

Griffith, Bill (text & illus.). Zippy: The Dingburg Diaries. Fantagraphics. Jul. 2013. 232p. ISBN 9781606996416. pap. $29.99. COMICS/HUMOR
This latest collection of cartoonist Griffith’s most famous creation, the newspaper strip Zippy the Pinhead, is dominated by stories based in Zippy’s fictional hometown, Dingburg, where all the residents are like him, both in appearance—having pear-shaped heads with stemlike topknots and dressed in polka-dotted muumuus—and in their bizarre behavior and speech. The collection is divided into seven sections, each gathering strips that focus on a subject or character. Although only the first two sections are exclusively about Dingburg, the city and its residents appear throughout, with the exception of Griffith’s autobiographical strips. The art is detailed, especially the backgrounds, and the color in the Sunday strips is beautiful. However, the Dingburg pieces merely describe odd things like Dingburgers and, when not relying on stale puns, generally fail to have any sort of resolution. The absence of the elements most readers expect from a comic strip—humor, characterization, or an ongoing plot—will turn them off; even fans may be disappointed, as many strips lack even Zippy himself.
Verdict Not recommended.—Robert Mixner, Bartholomew Cty. P.L., Columbus, IN

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"