Xpress Reviews: Graphic Novels | First Look at New Books, August 16, 2013

Week ending August 16, 2013

starred review starBarr, Mike W. (text) & Brian Bolland (illus.). Camelot 3000. DC. 2013. 320p. ISBN 9781401240363. pap. $19.99; ebk. ISBN 9781401247928. F
Writer Barr (Batman: Son of the Demon) and illustrator Bolland (Batman: The Killing Joke) redefine the Arthurian myth in a modern setting, in this remarkable title that opens in the year 3000 to a world beset by an invading alien peril as well as having suffered a nuclear war that set civilization back many centuries to a time that is close to mirroring our 21st-century level of technology. Amid this alien threat King Arthur is awoken and gathers six of his knights reincarnated into 31st-century bodies, spread across the globe. Though Lancelot is reborn a youthful Frenchman, his son Galahad is reincarnated as an older Japanese man, and Sir Tristan, the most intriguing of all, who was one of the more masculine personalities, is reincarnated in the body of a very feminine woman. The resulting story lays bare modern political intrigue, sexual politics, and human characteristics that transcend time in a truly engrossing epic.
Verdict Barr and Bolland’s new creation springs from a clear love and firm grasp of the original medieval text and reinterprets it beautifully into a new context, while maintaining the flavor of a bygone era. For any fan of comics or Arthurian lore, this essential read will capture the imagination.—Alger C. Newberry III, Genesee Dist. Lib., Flint, MI

CLAMP. Tokyo Babylon. Bk. 2. Dark Horse. 2013. 560p. ISBN 9781616551896. pap. $19.99. MANGA
In the second and final omnibus volume of CLAMP’s earliest work, teen medium Subaru Sumeragi saves a girl from a cult, witnesses the final days of an old man no longer wanted by his family, and befriends a young boy suffering from kidney failure. Meanwhile, Subaru is falling in love with his older friend Seishirõ Sakurazuka. When Subaru was nine years old and training to become the 13th leader of the Sumeragi onmyoji clan, Seishirõ made a bet with him, then erased Subaru’s memory of their meeting. What Subaru can’t remember is that Seishirõ is an assassin of the Sakurazukamori clan, who is close to winning their mysterious bet, with Subaru’s life hanging in the balance. Gentle Subaru experiences the ultimate betrayal, and his twin sister, Hokuto, makes an unthinkable sacrifice that will shatter Subaru’s heart forever.
Verdict The artwork and translation continue to be stellar in the series’ conclusion. The second volume turns the drama up a notch to keep the reader turning pages. Recommended to fans of CLAMP and ghost stories who have read book one.—Heather Williams, Whatcom Community Coll., Bellingham, WA

Cooke, Darwyn (text) & Amanda Conner & others (illus.). Minutemen/Silk Spectre. DC. (Before Watchmen). 2013. 288p. ISBN 9781401238926. $29.99. SUPERHERO
This collection includes two prequels to Alan Moore and Dave Gibbon’s classic Watchmen. “Minutemen,” written and penciled by Eisner Award winner Cooke (DC: The New Frontier) concludes with the Comedian ominously telling the original Nite Owl, “There is no truth, there are only truths,” which summarizes the tell-all memoir by Nite Owl on the Minutemen and is at the core of the story. A separate narrative deals with the memoir’s unpopularity among the other Minutemen, who clearly have something to hide. Nite Owl’s memoir occurs during the 1940s, with World War II being an important backstory, along with the pivotal event of Minutemen Silhouette’s murder. “Silk Spectre” is written by Cooke and penciled by Conner (Power Girl) and tells the backstory of the second Silk Spectre, Laurel Jane, daughter to Sally Jupiter, the original Silk Spectre and Minutemen member. Jupiter is a domineering mother determined to protect her daughter from reliving her own past bad experiences with men. Alas, Laurel runs away with her boyfriend to colorful 1960s San Francisco.
Verdict Cooke captures some of the morally conflicted characterizations that readers loved in the original Watchmen. Artist Paul Mounts’s coloring stands out along with Conner’s artwork in “Silk Spectre.” Includes variant covers. Recommended.—Scott Vieira, Sam Houston State Univ. Lib., Huntsville, TX

Jurgens, Dan & others (text & illus.). Superman. Vol. 2: Secrets and Lies. DC. (New 52). 2013. 176p. ISBN 9781401240288. $24.99; pap. ISBN 9781401242572. $14.98. SUPERHERO
The second volume of DC’s revamped Superman begins with the portrayal of the enduring image of a superhero who is sure of himself and his role as a beacon of hope and protector of the human race. The villains Superman encounters here are tormented by similar issues he has already overcome—no home, no real family, and no friends to offer support. Yet Superman prevails over each of his foes, transcending the challenges owing to his certainty of his chosen path. But when Helspont, a descendant of the ancient alien race of Daemonites, ultimately reveals his role in the shaping of humankind, Superman’s confidence is shattered, leaving the hero unable to ascertain what direction he must take next. Though the collection’s overarching concept deserves merit, the actual executions fall below par, with the final issue by Scott Lobdell and Fabian Nicieza picking up much of the slack from the issues penned and penciled by Jurgens. At moments when the overall feel of the book seems dated, its flaws are marked by the verbose, thought-bubble exposition and drawing style that screams the Nineties. New readers, especially those who are more familiar with the films, should look instead to J. Michael Straczynski’s Superman: Earth One, which provides a much more realistic and grounded reimagining of the hero.
Verdict Longtime Superman and Wildstorm fans will most appreciate this volume, especially the integration of Wildstorm into the current DC universe. For the general graphic novels reader, this collection fails in presenting an accessible, contemporary Superman.—Laura Gallardo, St. Louis

starred review starRabagliati, Michel (text & illus.). Paul Joins the Scouts. BDANG: Conundrum. 2013. 172p. tr. from French by Helge Dascher. ISBN 9781894994699. pap. $20. LITERARY/ADVENTURE
The English translation of French-Canadian Rabagliati’s (Song of Roland) semiautobiographical adventures of Paul is just as enjoyable as previous outings. Rabagliati weaves story lines of Paul joining the scouts and falling in love with those of the tense political environment created by the Quebec Liberation Front, family clashes between Paul’s mother and her in-laws, and one young Cub Master–in–training, whose political leanings get him into trouble. Each Cub Master gets a one-page vignette, and Rabagliati expertly crafts deep characters with a few frames. The black-and-white retro style features detailed backgrounds and easily distinguishable characters.
These engaging, well-written, attractively illustrated stories will be enjoyed by any graphic novel reader. [The French edition, Paul au Parc, was nominated for a Shuster Award, a youth award at the 2012 Angoulême Festival, and Friends of the Library Award in Montreal.—Ed.]—Brian Looker, Appleton P.L., WI

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"


  1. David Clar says:

    I always love the works of the Canadian cartoonist!