Xpress Reviews: Graphic Novels | First Look at New Books, September 13, 2013

Week ending September 13, 2013

Ellis, Warren (text) & Tom Raney & others (illus.). StormWatch. Vol. 2. DC. (New 52). 2013. 384p. ISBN 9781401237257. $29.99. SUPERHERO
StormWatch is a group of superheroes living in an outer space base, commissioned by the UN to handle crises around the world. In this volume, collecting the series from 1997 to 1998, such crises include a group of idealistic “heroes” intent on making Earth a paradise, by any means necessary; illegal genetic experiments; and the machinations of a corrupt former StormWatch director. Writer Ellis (The Authority) is more interested in intrigue and political commentary than in action, and his often talky style is poorly served by Raney’s (Dark Reign: Hawkeye) bland art but later finds a match in Bryan Hitch’s (The Ultimates) subtle, realistic work.
Verdict As part of its “New 52” universewide reboot, DC resurrected StormWatch, but the two series are very different. This collection is interesting mainly for what came after—following this run, Ellis goes on dexterously to write another, but self-created, superhero team book, Planetary, illustrated by John Cassady. Since StormWatch, Raney’s art has dramatically improved and Hitch has become a specialist in drawing similarly thoughtful, character-driven team comics. For those uninterested in following these creators’ careers, however, this volume is not recommended.—Robert Mixner, Bartholomew Cty. P.L., Columbus, IN

Gaiman, Neil (text) & Dave McKean (illus.). Black Orchid. Vertigo: DC. 2013. 176p. ISBN 9781401240356. pap. $16.99. SUPERHERO/FANTASY
Black Orchid first appeared in 1973 as a DC comics superhero. In 1988, author Gaiman (The Ocean at the End of the Lane) and illustrator McKean (Arkham Asylum) came together to relaunch Black Orchid in a three-part miniseries. Black Orchid was famous for not having an origin story or a name, which Gaiman offers, explaining how and why this woman, now named Susan Linden-Thorne, became Black Orchid. Susan is no longer a metahuman, as the original series portrayed her, but a human-plant hybrid with ties to the force of nature called the Green. Making appearances in this origin story are DC superheroes including Batman, Poison Ivy, and Swamp Thing, and they are woven into the plot without feeling too forced. Black Orchid’s narrative is one of redemption and beauty as well as hope despite the ugliness and horror of the so-called civilized world. Breaking with common comic and superhero tropes, Gaiman, speaking through the villain, kills the Black Orchid and prepares his readers for a “new mythology.” This story is one of McKean’s first illustrative successes.
Verdict This tale is a vehicle more for McKean’s early artwork than for Gaiman’s deep imagination, stuck as he is with working on an established character. Regardless, this book is enjoyable.—Michelle Martinez, Sam Houston State Univ. Lib., Huntsville, TX

starred review starKennedy, Mike (text) & Francisco Ruiz Velasco (illus.). Lone Wolf 2100: Omnibus. Dark Horse. 2013. 300p. ISBN 9781616551414. pap. $24.99. MANGA
This action-filled and thought-provoking work by writer Kennedy (Bleedout) and illustrator Velasco (Star Wars Tales) reframes creator Kazuo Koike’s classic manga epic Lone Wolf and Cub in a future world of corporate hegemony where all of humanity is threatened by the War Spore virus. In this reimagining, Koike’s main character Itto is not a ronin (Japanese warrior) but a rogue emulation construct or “emcon” (an organic android) carrying out his final mission to protect Daisy, daughter of doctor Ogami, against Itto’s former corporate masters Cygnat Owari. The collection’s first story owes as much to spaghetti Westerns or samurai films as it does to the original series, featuring the lone drifter arriving in town with trouble on his trail. From there, Itto’s troubles and foes mount as the significance of Daisy is gradually revealed. The artwork appropriately shares characteristics of both Japanese and Western comics.
Verdict This volume feels like a mixture of samurai manga and Ridley Scott’s classic film Blade Runner, both sharing the questions of what it truly means to be human. The blend of martial arts and military sequences with fairly heady philosophy makes for a powerful combination.—Eric Norton, McMillan Memorial Lib., Wisconsin Rapids

starred review starMaroh, Julie. Blue Is the Warmest Color. Arsenal Pulp. 2013. 160p. tr. from French by Ivanka Hahnenberger. ISBN 9781551525143. pap. $19.95; ebk. ISBN 9781551525136. F
French creator Maroh’s Audience Award–winning graphic novel is a sincere love story told through the journal entries of Clementine, spanning her years in high school to adulthood. Despite Clementine’s unhappy attempts at having a “normal” relationship with a boy, there is love at first sight when she sees the confident blue-haired Emma. Eventually, they meet and begin a relationship characterized by deep love but haunted by Clementine’s difficulty in accepting herself and the depression brought on by her parents’ and classmates’ homophobia. Maroh’s use of color is deliberate enough to be eye-catching in a world of grey tones, with Emma’s bright blue hair capturing Clementine’s imagination, but is used sparingly enough that it supports and blends naturally with the story.
Verdict Even though the setting is dated, Paris in the mid-1990s, and the fight for LGBT rights is just beginning to gain public awareness, the electric emotions of falling in love and the difficult process of self-acceptance will resonate with all readers. Some nudity and brief sex scenes are depicted. The French film version of the graphic novel won the 2013 Palme d’Or, the highest honor awarded at the Cannes Film Festival, which may draw general interest.—Marlan Brinkley, Atlanta-Fulton P.L.

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"