Xpress Reviews: Graphic Novels | First Look at New Books, July 5, 2013

Week ending July 5, 2013

Blain, Christophe (text & illus.) & Clemence Sapin (illus.). In the Kitchen with Alain Passard: Inside the World (and Mind) of a Master Chef. Chronicle. 2013. 94p. ISBN 9781452113463. $16.95. COOKING
Vignettes and vinaigrettes pepper creator and illustrator Blain’s (Gus & His Gang) documentary graphic novel, originally published in France in 2011. Included are 15 recipes by Alain Passard (The Art of Cooking with Vegetables), French chef and owner of the three-star restaurant L’Arpège in Paris, each accompanied by Blain’s comics to document their preparation. The ingredients are not listed separately but printed in a lighter blue ink within the step-by-step instructions, which is difficult to distinguish in low light. The recipes look delicious, unique, and surprisingly doable—most ingredients should be easily available and usable in other recipes. Separating the recipes are short comics depicting life at Passard’s restaurant, in his gardens in Normandy and Sarthe, his creative process in reimagining apple pie as a bouquet of roses, and more. Blain’s comics are in full color, and his style is fun and light.
Verdict Comparisons to Lucy Knisley’s recent Relish (2013) are unavoidable, but these are two different graphic novels about food, with recipes. Relish is a memoir, while this work succeeds in presenting a snapshot of Chef Passard’s philosophy, kitchen, gardens, staff, and restaurant. Foodies will devour this short book in one sitting and then begin debating which recipe to try first.—Brian Looker, Appleton P.L., WI

Divas, Dames & Daredevils: Lost Heroines of Golden Age Comics. Exterminating Angel. Oct. 2013. 240p. ed. by Mike Madrid. ISBN 9781935259237. pap. $16.95; ebk. ISBN 9781935259244. SUPERHEROES/LIT CRIT
Madrid (The Supergirls: Fashion, Feminism, Fantasy, and the History of Comic Book Heroines) is a scholar of comic book lore, especially that pertaining to the roles of women throughout the medium’s 80-year history. Here Madrid relates his entry into comic fandom in the 1970s and the characters that drew him in. During the Seventies, comics from the Golden Age (pre–1950s) and Silver Age (1950–70) were collected in anthologies that Madrid picked up and pored over. In the Silver Age, superheroes were stripped of anything remotely exciting or provocative and relegated to flashy role models of the status quo. However, the Golden Age, as chronicled by Madrid, was exciting and fraught with danger. Even more interesting to him was that alongside the male comic book heroes were strong female characters that exhibited the hallmark traits promoted during the women’s liberation movement happening concurrently with Madrid’s reading of the books set 40 years earlier. This work collects some of his favorites from many genres including war comics and includes masked vigilantes, mythic warriors, and occult mystery women.
Verdict Madrid presents the cream of a very ripe crop of empowered comic book heroines and introduces them quite eloquently, accentuating readers’ enjoyment of the stories themselves but also making readers aware of why the stories matter so much regardless of the era in which they are read. A valuable reference book of comics history, recommended for graphic novels collections.—Alger C. Newberry III, Genesee Dist. Lib., Flint, MI

starred review starKoike, Kazuo (text & illus.) & Goseki Kojima (illus.). Lone Wolf & Cub Omnibus. Vol. 1. Dark Horse. 2013. 706p. ISBN 9781616551346. pap. $19.99. MANGA
Since its 1970 debut, Koike’s tale of an outlaw samurai taking his infant son along on his road to revenge has set the standard by which all other historical manga epics are judged. As former executioner Ogami Ittou walks the brutal path of the assassin, his will to survive and his harsh but intense love for little Daigoro are tested again and again. The story and artwork exist in perfect harmony, giving scenes of fast action, deep emotion, or nature’s stark beauty equal but unique impact. The translation errs on the side of excessive accuracy, and readers will find themselves referring to the glossary often. In addition to their convenience and affordability, these new omnibus editions boast one more improvement, a larger 5″ x 7″ page size, which even owners of the earlier Dark Horse trade paperbacks (TPBs) will appreciate. The first three volumes of the earlier Dark Horse TPBs are included here.
Verdict A classic in every sense of the word. Strongly recommended for fans of historical epics and essential for all graphic novel collections.—Neil Derksen, Pierce Cty. Lib. Syst., Tacoma

Shakespeare, William (text) & Naresh Kumar (illus.). Julius Caesar: The Graphic Novel. Campfire. (Classics). Aug. 2013. 112p. ISBN 9789380741802. pap. $12.99. LIT
For better or worse, classic literature has long been adapted for comic books. Skillful graphic adaptations may be the perfect introduction to the knottiest texts, and Shakespeare’s plays are the ideal candidates for such treatment, with the visuals providing needed context for readers who may struggle with the language, plotting, and character motivations. Campfire Classics’ Caesar is an admirable stab, whose preservation of the original text and vivid-if-unimaginative artwork present the material without interference: a print equivalent of a BBC television production.
Verdict Seeing Caesar rendered as sequential art is a treat for those already sold on Shakespeare, and it’s a novel alternative to the regular text. Still, that’s not enough to capture and hold the attention of hi-lo readers, its intended audience, who may find “No Fear Shakespeare” or “Manga Shakespeare” graphic novels series more accessible. Optional but worthwhile for those wanting to introduce younger readers to the works of the Bard. Scenes of violence and gore; suitable for YA and up.—J Osicki, Saint John Free P.L., NB

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"