Xpress Reviews: Graphic Novels | First Look at New Books, October 11, 2013

Week ending October 11, 2013

DeSanto, F.J. & Bradley Cramp (text) & Marcus To & Ian Herring (illus.). Cyborg 009. Archaia. (Ishimori Universe, Bk. 1). 2013. 120p. ISBN 9781936393947. $24.95. MANGA
With a serialization run of nearly two decades and related anime series and movies released as recently as 2012, this classic manga is the most enduring creation of midcentury manga master Shotaro Ishinomori (1938–98). This reimagining, with Western-style art and layouts, pits the international cyborg squad against their creator and nemesis, the sinister Black Ghost organization. Artists To (Huntress) and Herring’s (Jim Henson’s Tale of Sand) character designs are slick and modern while retaining the iconic elements of Ishinomori’s originals. Unfortunately, DeSanto (Insurgent) and Cramp’s (Gattaca) script stretches itself far too thin, incorporating too many elements from too many unrelated story arcs into a scant 120 pages. The results include clipped dialog, superficial characterization, and rushed, confusing action scenes. An insightful afterword by David Brothers on the themes of the original may be this work’s most noteworthy feature.
Verdict Artistically, this book is a fine tribute to a classic series, but as a stand-alone work, it leaves much to be desired. Recommended for die-hard fans only.—Neil Derksen, Pierce Cty. Lib. Syst., Tacoma

Ellis, Warren (text) & Mike McKone & Jason Keith (illus.). Avengers: Endless Wartime. Marvel. Oct. 2013. 120p. ISBN 9780785184676. $24.99; ebk, ISBN 9781302368890. SUPERHERO
Rather than collecting previously published issues, this volume contains an original story by writer Ellis (The Authority) and artist McKone (Exiles). Here the frequently shifting lineup of the superhero supergroup the Avengers contains Captain America, Iron Man, Black Widow, Thor, Hawkeye, Captain Marvel, and Wolverine, with the Hulk showing up toward the end. The team takes on a resurrected Nazi experiment Captain America encountered during World War II that grafted weapons technology onto enormous monsters that Thor fought long ago. The book has an introduction by actor Clark Gregg, who played S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Coulson in the Avengers movie. Although his art is a little stiff, McKone fulfills the artist’s primary job—telling the story—with skill and by largely avoiding confusing layouts. The work’s weakness is in the writing: while abundant dialog and narration are Ellis hallmarks, here none of it clarifies a confusing plot that is heavy on digressions and deus ex machina and thin on structure.
Verdict This slim volume is well designed, but the slight story cannot justify the presentation or the price. Not recommended.—Robert Mixner, Bartholomew Cty. P.L., Columbus, IN

starred review starGreenberg, Isabel. The Encyclopedia of Early Earth. Little, Brown. Dec. 2013. 176p. ISBN 9780316225816. $23. F
More than another fictional odyssey that takes the protagonist through new lands to the ends of the earth, this gem may not be an encyclopedia, but it accomplishes the same primary goal of describing a world, the cultures and societies therein, and its material reality. The rich storytelling of London-based writer/artist Greenberg, whose short story “Love in a Very Cold Climate” was awarded the Observer/Cape Graphic Short Story Prize and is expanded on here, transcends fact and immerses readers in a mythical, prehistoric world that taps into timeless concerns like love, family, and identity, complete with modern vernacular and a snarky sense of humor. Greenberg’s striking illustrations are reminiscent of cave and folk art and children’s picture books, yet remain singular. The stunning denouement will move you.
Verdict What writer Alan Moore does with superheroes in Watchmen and Top 10, Greenberg accomplishes with folktales, creating an exemplary debut story and gripping commentary on the graphic form. Some profane, violent, and disturbing content; suitable for YA and up. An essential title, recommended for all fiction and graphic novels readers.—J. Osicki, Saint John Free P.L., NB

starred review starKoike, Kazuo (text) & Goseki Kojima (illus.). Lone Wolf and Cub Omnibus. Vol. 2. Dark Horse. 2013. 706p. ISBN 9781616551353. pap. $19.99. MANGA
This second omnibus from Koike and Kojima (after Lone Wolf and Cub Omnibus, Vol. 1) builds on the first, offering more lightning-fast samurai action and deep philosophy. The collection begins with the story of how the one-time executioner for the shogun, Ōgami Ittō, was framed by jealous rivals, his home attacked, and his wife killed. Koike’s stories follow Ōgami and his son, Daigoro, as they travel the roads of Tokugawa-era Japan in the guise of the assassin Lone Wolf and Cub, always maintaining their honor while seeking revenge against the Yagyū clan. While many of the panels are wordless, particularly scenes of duels or travel, there are also brief passages that explain various cultural aspects of the work. Kojima’s ink artwork is deft, whether he is depicting scenes of nature, character close-ups, or the chaos of combat.
Verdict Koike and Kojima’s epic manga has long been regarded as a masterwork of the format and samurai tale. This reasonably priced omnibus volume demonstrates why their story will be welcomed by any reader of this genre.—Eric Norton, McMillan Memorial Lib., Wisconsin Rapids

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"