Xpress Reviews: Graphic Novels | First Look at New Books, December 6, 2013

Week ending December 6, 2013

Dillies, Renaud (text & illus.). Betty Blues. NBM/ComicsLit. 2013. 80p. tr. from French by Joe Johnson. ISBN 9781561637584. $18.99. F
After spending another night sitting alone at a seedy bar, Betty decides to follow the champagne and leave her trumpet playing boyfriend, Rice Duck, behind. When Rice discovers she is gone, he decides to leave the musician’s struggle behind and he tosses his trumpet in the river. However, it is not as easy to walk away as either would have hoped. Like his Eisner nominated Abelard, Dillies’s first published graphic novel (being released here for the first time in English), winner of Best Debut at the Angoulême Comics, features anthropomorphic animals as the main characters. At times, this feels awkward as species are hard to discern and the noir tone seems thrown off by their presence. Dillies is a skilled artist and storyteller though. The art features a limited palette, strong textures, and measured panel pacing. The story is poetic and delicately balanced; even though the mood turns despairing at times, there is an almost naïve belief in the power of love.
Verdict Fans of Dillies’s other works and similar lyrical authors will enjoy this one.—E.W. Goodman, Art Inst. of Pittsburgh

Petersen, David (text & illus.). Mouse Guard. Vol. 3: The Black Axe. Archaia. 2013. 192p. ISBN 9781936393060. $24.95. FANTASY
This third volume in Petersen’s Eisner Award-winning series takes place 40 years prior to Mouse Guard: Fall 1152 and Mouse Guard: Winter 1152 and traces the legend of the Black Axe: a fearsome weapon with a mysterious wielder. Guardmouse Celanawe’s lonely watch at Frostic on the North Sea is interrupted by the arrival of Em, a wise elder mouse. She reveals that the two of them are the last living descendants of the blacksmith Farrer, forger of the Black Axe. The axe has been missing for decades but Em has discovered a clue to its location and the Matriarch of the Guard Mice has assigned Celanawe to assist her. Now the two must cross the uncharted North Sea and face dangerous foes to recover the axe. Petersen’s primary panels feature bold black lines that are reminiscent of woodcuts while other artwork suggests illuminated manuscripts, tapestry, and stained glass windows. His detail work is exquisite and the muted pallet appropriate to the quasi-medieval setting.
Verdict Petersen’s tale of mice both doughty and wise will make a splendid addition to a graphic novel collection for any age.—Eric Norton, McMillan Memorial Lib., Wisconsin Rapids

Rookie Yearbook Two. Drawn & Quarterly. 2013. 352p. ed. by Tavi Gevinson. illus. photos. ISBN 9781770461482. pap. $29.95. NF
The concept of this book is definitely a unique one, a combination of personal essays, contributions from popular culture icons as varied as Judy Blume, Morrissey, and Mindy Kaling, and funky fashion spreads bathed in a hazy, bohemian light. All of this is lovingly framed with cute but slightly edgy decoupage and cartoon illustrations to set the cool but calm mood, capturing the best of the Rookie Web site from July 2012 to May 2013, organized around monthly themes like Play, Mystery, and Innocence, loosely interpreted for maximum introspection. Rookie, started by 16-year old blogger Tavi Gevinson, is an online magazine that attempts to speak to teen girls’ intelligence and lived experience rather than their imagined consumerist instincts and “boy-crazy” nature. As such, the topics in this Yearbook range from a kissing tutorial, to growing up atheist, to living with bipolar disorder. In this age of Twitter and Facebook, the work’s curated nature of is both refreshingly old-fashioned—most articles run at least two pages—and progressive—feminism, sex, GLBT issues and racism are spoken of openly and honestly.
Verdict Though it’s stated audience is teenage girls looking for both style and substance, Rookie Yearbook Two may also capture the hearts of adult women looking to reflect on their youth with clear eyes but nostalgic hearts.—Emilia Packard, Austin

Annalisa Pesek About Annalisa Pesek

Annalisa Pesek (apesek@mediasourceinc.com) is Assistant Managing Editor, LJ Book Review
[photograph by John Sarsgard]