Xpress Reviews: Graphic Novels | First Look at New Books, November 1, 2013

 Week ending November 1, 2013

Dres, Jérémie (text & illus.). We Won’t See Auschwitz. SelfMadeHero. 2013. 199p. tr. from French by Edward Gauvin. ISBN 9781906838638. $22.95. MEMOIR
This is not a Holocaust memoir. Auschwitz—though a constant, underlying presence—does not make an appearance. With simple pen-and-ink drawings and a straightforward journalistic voice, debut graphic novelist Dres illustrates his quest to learn about his recently deceased grandmother’s life as a young Jew living in Poland during the first half of the 20th century, before World War II destroyed so much of the country’s cultural memory. Dres and his brother make their way around Poland during the hottest days of summer, eating traditional Jewish food, retracing their ancestor’s steps, visiting synagogues, and interviewing a series of genealogists and Jewish community leaders, all while resolutely avoiding the elephant in the room: the nearby concentration camps where so many Jews perished. By not seeing Auschwitz, Dres discovers family secrets and an understanding of where he came from, but, more important, he discovers the vibrant Jewish identity that existed before and during the Nazi occupation and that continues in modern-day Poland.
VerdictFor readers who think a serious story can’t be told with pictures, Dres offers a wonderful introduction to the graphic novel. Recommended for graphic novels fans who want to read more nonfiction.—Ingrid Bohnenkamp, Springfield-Greene Cty. Lib. Dist., Springfield, MO

Katz, Jack (text & illus.). The First Kingdom. Vol 1: The Birth of Tundran. Titan. 2013. 208p. ISBN 9781782760108. $24.99. SF/FANTASY
Katz, who worked in mainstream comics for decades, ventured into underground comics in the 1970s to produce his monstrous vision for a graphic novel that took 12 years to complete. His goal was to build a complex world with gods, demigods, and humans in exploration of life’s ultimate questions. This is the first volume of a projected six in a new series of rereleases from Titan. The saga begins by introducing Darkenmoor and Nedlaya, young, mortal lovers, trying to survive in a violent world. Unbeknownst to Darkenmoor, he captures the eye of demigod Selowan, who breaks the rules against human interaction (at great cost to herself) to protect Darkenmoor from his ambitions. Darkenmoor and Nedlaya struggle to survive as their lives become entwined with the manipulations of the demigods, only to be murdered moments following the birth of their son, Tundran.
Verdict Katz’s story is engaging, but it is the artwork that grabs the reader, a style that matures throughout the series. The detailed panels show the artist’s influences and his love of the human body. Highly recommended to fans interested in underground comics and the history of the graphic novel.—Scott Vieira, Sam Houston State Univ. Lib., Huntsville, TX

starred review starWillingham, Bill (text) & Adam Hughes & others (illus.). Fairest: In All the Land. Vertigo. Nov. 2013. 160p. ISBN 9781401239008. $22.99; ebk. ISBN 9781401248215. SF/FANTASY
Spending a week in the life of a magic, talking mirror can be quite an eye-opening experience, especially when a crazed, fairy tale serial murderer is bent on slashing all the celebrity Fabletown babes. Cinderella (Cindy) finds herself as a reluctant ally to the all-seeing mirror/narrator and an enchanted yet enslaved Corvette to track down the ruthless and wicked killer of the “Fairest(s) in all the Land.” Does Cindy have the chops for this? Or is she being set up to become just one more horrifically minced victim?
Verdict Incorporating the skills of 22 masters of illustration, each contributing a snippet to the overall tale, makes this a unique graphic novel. The art is bright, the pace lively, and the writing clever. As a caution, some of the language is R rated. Still, a great adventure that is definitely pretty to view.—Russell Miller, Prescott P.L., AZ

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"