Xpress Reviews: Graphic Novels | First Look at New Books, October 25, 2013

Week ending October 25, 2013

Martin, George R.R. & Daniel Abraham (text) & Tommy Patterson (illus.). A Game of Thrones: The Graphic Novel. Vol. 2. Bantam. 2013. 240p. ISBN 9780440423225. $25; ebk. ISBN 9780345535603. SF/FANTASY
A Hugo, Nebula, and World Fantasy Award nominee, writer Abraham is renowned for his own fantasy and horror writing as well as experience in adapting Martin’s work to sequential art (as in Fevre Dream; “Skin Trade”). Basing their effort on the first novel in Martin’s “A Song of Fire and Ice” series, Abraham and Patterson (Farscape) have created two volumes, with an anticipated third forthcoming, that contain half of Dynamite Entertainment’s 24-issue comic book series, plus an array of extras, including a too-generous foreword for Volume 1 by Martin, preliminary drawings, and a scene’s original-text-to-finished-artwork dissection in Volume 2. Unfortunately, each virtue reveals a vice. While the artwork is consistently handsome and vivid, it fails to convey the medieval grit of the books (and the TV series) when it should. The scripting respects the source text, and fans may enjoy comparing the similarities and differences of the adaptations to the originals. However, only readers already familiar with the material will understand the context of the larger work and the important developments to come, which is necessary to counter the frequent unpleasantness on display. Based on the first two volumes alone, casual readers will wonder what all the fuss is about rather than crave more; stick with the TV show or Martin’s original books.
Verdict Violence, gore, and sexual content; appropriate for older teens and up. Acceptable for curious fans of Martin and the TV series Game of Thrones and for collections looking to capitalize on their popularity or cross-promote their DVD/Blu-ray sets.—J. Osicki, Saint John Free P.L., NB

Okazaki, Kyoko (text & illus.). Helter Skelter: Fashion Unfriendly. Vertical. 2013. 320p. ISBN 9781935654834. pap. $16.95. MANGA
One of the most unique authors creating modern josei manga finally gets her English-language debut. Okazaki’s Osamu Tezuka Culture Prize–winning story explores the themes of youth, fame, and identity against the backdrop of a stifling celebrity environment. Top idol Liliko views the deterioration of her career mirrored in the breakdown of her surgically altered body and expresses her frustrations through self-destructive behavior and by sexually manipulating her assistant. Meanwhile, a pair of detectives identify Liliko as the key to their investigation of an exclusive underground beauty clinic offering treatments of questionable legality. In addition to the mature subject matter, Okazaki’s work features characterization that pushes the envelope. There are no wholly sympathetic characters here, only those who inspire a bit more pity than they do contempt.
Verdict An outstanding introduction to an important and influential author. Highly recommended for shoujo manga readers seeking an edgier take on the genre, fans of show business exposés, and most adult graphic novel collections.—Neil Derksen, Pierce Cty. Lib. Syst., Tacoma

Seth (text & illus.). Palookaville. Vol. 21. Drawn & Quarterly. 2013. 104p. ISBN 9781770460645. $22.95. LITERARY
Cartoonist Seth (Wimbledon Green) splits the latest volume of his semi-regular autobiographical periodical into three sections, beginning with an installment of his ongoing “Clyde Fans” story, about two brothers and the factory they own. The second section, “Rubber Stamp Diary,” relates events from the artist’s life, with a combination of hand drawing and rubber stamps. The final section is part one of “Nothing Lasts,” about Seth’s childhood. Seth has in the past used repetitive page layouts to good effect, but their overuse here makes his recollections of an unexceptional boyhood monotonous. As with “Nothing Lasts,” “Rubber Stamp Diary” combines repetitive illustration with bland subject matter and lacks the former’s polished, geometric drawings. Combined with the confessional tone of the near-constant narration, the section seems no more memoir than illustrated therapy session.
Verdict Memoir fans will be better served by Seth’s It’s a Good Life, If You Don’t Weaken or Nicole Georges’s visually inventive Calling Dr. Laura. “Clyde Fans” is the standout for which Seth’s lush black line work and subtle color tones create the perfect mood foretelling the hostile brothers’ encounter at their newly defunct factory. However, the middle of a series is nowhere to begin. For new readers, the earlier installments are collected in Clyde Fans, Vol. 1. This title is not recommended.—Robert Mixner, Bartholomew Cty. P.L., Columbus, IN

Twain, Mark (text) & Seymour Chwast (text & illus.). A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court. Bloomsbury USA. Feb. 2014. 144p. ISBN 9781608199617. $22. F
Graphic designer and novelist Chwast (Dante’s The Divine Comedy) has adapted Mark Twain’s 1889 novel and the result is on the one hand very competent, with the combination of charming illustration and Twain’s prose. But the two don’t consistently fit. During the book’s more comical episodes, the artwork is an almost perfect match to the text, but in places where the story’s tone has more weight, the art doesn’t align. This creates awkward moments when a punch line is expected owing to the fun and creative art style but for this reviewer did not fulfill the expectations created by the narrative. While classic literature readers may find the artwork unappealing, this book may be a good choice for YA readers beginning their exploration of authors like Twain.
Verdict Recommended for fans of Chwast, as lovers of Twain will be put off, especially during the more touching or particularly dramatic scenes. Overall, this enthusiastic take might draw new readers to classic works of fiction.—Matthew Gallagher, Victoria, BC

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"