Xpress Reviews: Graphic Novels | First Look at New Books, December 20, 2013

Week ending December 20, 2013

Surovec, Yasmine (text & illus.). Cat vs. Human: Another Dose of Catnip. Andrews McMeel. 2013. 176p. ISBN 9781449433314. pap. $12.99; ebk. ISBN 9781449446345. COMICS
Surovec’s (catversushuman.com) second collection of Cat vs. Human cartoons features brief cat-themed gags centered on expected topics: cat fur, begging cats, cats sleeping atop humans, cats both affectionate and grouchy, and the sometimes ridiculous lengths that one cat owner may go to for her darlings. The art is simple, with humans just a step or two above stick figures and a limited color palette. But, unfortunately, the numerous four-panel jokes about everything from cat fur on someone’s clothing to people being scratched by their cat are of little interest to this reviewer and can not make up for the work’s artistic limitations.
Verdict Readers who can while away the hours watching cat videos online and who find cat scratches and bodily functions funny may enjoy this medley. Dog lovers and others who are not amused by felines will need to look elsewhere for their dose of mirth.—Eric Norton, McMillan Memorial Lib. Wisconsin Rapids

Swift, Jonathan (text) & Martin Rowson (text & illus.). Gulliver’s Travels. Atlantic. 2013. 128p. ISBN 9781782390084. pap. $19.95. F
Written in the 18th century, Swift’s novel is a satirical look at life in that period through the adventures of Dr. Lemuel Gulliver. It has set the standard for biting, cynical, and crude literary irony, so it stands to reason that this modern retelling would follow suit. The contemporary Gulliver is a direct descendant of the original traveler and unwittingly shares his ancestor’s fate when he falls from a helicopter and awakens on the island of Lilliput. From there, British cartoonist Rowson’s pace is breathless: jokes, commentary, and wry observations are hurled at the reader one after another. It can be hard at times to absorb everything that is happening, and Rowson leans heavily on his readers having a firm grasp of the original story. The artwork is similarly frenetic. Strong composition and contrast anchor the pages and allow Rowson to pack his panels full of little details and subtle jokes.
Verdict A hectic sense of absurdity saves the book from becoming too desolate. Maybe not for the faint of heart, this book is a dark, dirty, and entirely suitable modern-day retelling of Swift’s classic tale.—E.W. Goodman, Art Inst. of Pittsburgh.

Wood, Brian (text) & Kristian Donaldson & others (illus.). The Massive. Vol. 1: Black Pacific. Dark Horse. 2013. 169p. ISBN 9781616551322. pap. $19.99; ebk. ISBN 9781621156857. SF/FANTASY
massive122013Extreme weather, tsunamis, earthquakes, and volcanic eruptions have suddenly conspired to upset human life globally, and the planet seems to be determined to self-destruct. Amid this social, economic, and biological upheaval sails the Kapital, a ship crewed by volunteers desperate to help restore an ecological and cultural balance in this horrific remodeling of civilization. The Massive, her sister ship, is lost. This dark tale, the first in a new series from Wood (DMZ; Northlanders; The New York Five), begins by telling some of the history of the sailors involved and the loss of contact between the two vessels, peopled by altruistic, dauntless, modern-day knights errant.
Verdict This is a starkly illustrated yarn that fits its subject matter well: suspenseful and provocative. Young adults will enjoy the action, intrigue, and angst. Older readers will respond to the philosophical issues and the complex storytelling.—Russell Miller, Prescott P.L., AZ