Xpress Reviews: Graphic Novels | First Look at New Books, January 31, 2014

Week ending January 31, 2014

starred review starMizuki, Shigeru (text & illus.). Showa 1926–1939: A History of Japan. Drawn & Quarterly. 2013. 560p. tr. from Japanese by Zack Davisson. ISBN 9781770461352. pap. $24.95. MANGA
showa013114This massive manga history earned Mizuki (NonNonBa; Onward Toward Our Noble Death; Kitaro) the Kodansha Award in 1989. Here, he presents two parallel story lines: a meticulously researched chronology of the events leading up to Japan’s entry into the World War II and the memories of his youth during the era. As the focus of the narrative shifts, so, too, does the art, from highly realistic scenes of political and military events to an expressive, cartoony style when looking at the lives of ordinary people. As if these shifts in tone weren’t enough, Mizuki’s iconic Kitaro character Nezumi Otoko steps in periodically to expand on the background and impact of certain major events. This approach may sound disjointed, but the end result is much, much more than the sum of its parts. By turns poignant, hilarious, harrowing, cynical, and inspiring, this work perfectly balances personal and universal elements to deliver a powerful message. Originally published in eight volumes, the first two are collected here.
Verdict A remarkable work that will make a lasting impression on readers; essential for most manga collections and highly recommended for readers of World War II–era histories and memoirs.—Neil Derksen, Pierce Cty. Lib. Syst., Tacoma

Moore, Alan & Peter Hogan (text) & Yanick Paquette & Karl Story (illus.). Terra Obscura. Vols. 1 & 2: S.M.A.S.H. of Two Worlds. Vertigo. 2014. 336p. ISBN 9781401242800. pap. $24.99; ebk. ISBN 9781401249915. SUPERHERO/FANTASY
Written by Hogan (2000 AD) and Moore (Watchmen) and illustrated by Paquette (Swamp Thing) and Story (Ocean), this volume is pure fun. S.M.A.S.H. of Two Worlds continues the story of an alternate universe populated with “science heroes” and magical beings. Using characters that were created in the 1940s by ABC Comics and not protected by copyright, the creators add their own spin on things while maintaining the carefree, jovial attitude of the mid-20th century. The book contains two volumes, each with its own story line. While this collection will seem like a cleaner, more optimistic Watchmen to some readers, it won’t go down as a classic; instead, it is an ode to the golden age of comic books and its heroes. The artwork by Paquette complements the writing style with characters that resemble Buck Rogers and Tarzan but adds the bulky physiques that are popular in today’s heroes.
Verdict This is a great book for those new to the comic book world, or those who have fond memories of classic comic book tales. Lovers of sf, golden age comics, and Watchmen will enjoy.—Ryan Claringbole, Coll. Lib. at the Univ. of Wisconsin-Madison

Quinn, Jason (text) & Sachin Nagar (illus.). Gandhi: My Life Is My Message. Campfire. (Heroes). Mar. 2014. 212p. notes. ISBN 9789380741222. pap. $16.99. GRAPHIC NOVELS
Delhi-based Quinn (Steve Jobs: Genius by Design) chooses to pen this graphic tale in Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi’s own voice, creating a powerful narrative with a memoir feel. Told as Gandhi’s recollections of his own life on the evening before his assassination, the book’s final pages take place on that fateful day, January 30, 1948. Quinn covers the leader’s early life as thoroughly as the campaigns in India for which he is so well remembered. We read of Gandhi’s schooling in London and his extensive work in South Africa, where he first conceived of his satyagraha or nonviolent resistance strategy of opposition to injustice. Since Quinn is writing as Gandhi, he is free to include many of the great man’s memorable sayings as well as his thoughts, such as his own dislike for the honorific “Mahatma.” Quinn also includes family moments and foibles among the indignities, fasting, and campaigns for a free India and equality for the untouchables caste. Artist Nagar (Sundarkaand: The Triumph of Hanuman) describes the characters and backgrounds with fine pen lines, then finishes them with warm watercolor washes.
Verdict This would serve as a fine introduction to Gandhi’s life and work, with the graphic format making it more readily accessible to a wider audience.—Eric Norton, McMillan Memorial Lib. Wisconsin Rapids

Remender, Rick (text) & Andy Kuhn & Matteo Scalera (illus.). Secret Avengers. Vol. 3. Marvel. 2013. 112p. ISBN 9780785161233. pap. $19.99. SUPERHERO
This third volume of Secret Avengers offers a great example of continuing an ongoing story but is a nightmare for those jumping in with just this book and no context. The plot involves robots and other advanced AI that want to thrive in the world. They feel the best way to do this is to infect everyone living with nanobites. The heroes can stop it, but that will kill all of the machines, of which many are their friends. Writer Remender does his best to bring the reader up to speed through dialog, but there are too many moving pieces, and he doesn’t succeed in showing a group of heroes who don’t like but still respect one another. Illustrator Kuhn provides the art in the first issue in this volume and differs drastically from Scalera, who is responsible for the artwork in the rest of the books. Scalera is a better fit, having more detail and bringing a grittier vision to a dystopian environment.
Verdict This is a well-written and well-drawn book but too complicated for a new reader to pick up and understand without reading previous volumes. Recommended to those who enjoy dystopian environments, magic vs. science, and comic book team chemistry.—Ryan Claringbole, Coll. Lib. at the Univ. of Wisconsin-Madison