Xpress Reviews: Graphic Novels | First Look at New Books, February 21, 2014

Week ending February 21, 2014

Ashby, Ruth (text) & Ernie Colón (illus.). The Great American Documents. Vol. 1: 1620–1830. Hill & Wang. Apr. 2014. 160p. ISBN 9780809094608. $40; pap. ISBN 9780374534530. $20. HIST
Uncle Sam leads the reader on a tour of the United States’ foundational documents in Ashby’s (Caedmon’s Song; Rocket Man: The Mercury Adventure of John Glenn) new graphic history primer. The 20 items presented here cover the time of the Pilgrims’ arrival in the New World to the tense period preceding the Civil War. Although some pages are wordy to the point of clutter, Colón’s (Che: A Graphic Biography; The 9/11 Report: The Graphic Adaptation) illustrations help greatly in clarifying concepts and adding dashes of drama and humor to the work. A helpful suggested reading list for students wishing to take the next step in their research is included.
Verdict An effective and engaging introduction to some of the key documents that shaped our nation. Highly recommended for middle and high school collections as well as readers looking for a quick-reading survey of American historical highlights.—Neil Derksen, Pierce Cty. Lib. Syst., Tacoma

Druckmann, Neil (text) & Faith Erin Hicks (text & illus.). The Last of Us. Vol 1: American Dreams. Dark Horse. 2013. 112p. ISBN 9781616552121. pap. $16.99; ebk. ISBN 9781621158134. SF
Druckmann (creative director, The Last of Us video game) and Hicks (webcomic Demonology 101) have penned a prequel to The Last of Us video game, which takes place in a postapocalyptic world inhabited by zombies known as the “infected,” victims of a parasitic fungal outbreak. The reader is introduced to a younger Ellie, a personality known from the video game, attending her first day at a military boarding school. Early on, Ellie befriends the adventurous Riley, who sneaks out of school on covert excursions into the city. During Ellie and Riley’s first foray outside the institution walls, they run into a rogue group known as the Fireflies roaming the city. Unexpectedly, Ellie discovers the Fireflies’ leader Marlene knows Ellie, knew Ellie’s mother, and reveals guardian-like responsibility for orchestrating events in Ellie’s life. Hicks also contributes the artwork, which emotes an unsettled edge, with dark tones and close-ups that show the characters’ emotion.
Verdict Familiarity with the video game is going to clarify some of the details of this prequel. Likewise, readers will find the abrupt ending frustrating unless they pick up the electronic game. Recommended to fans of this popular video game.—Scott Vieira, Sam Houston State Univ. Lib., Huntsville, TX

Spurrier, Simon (text) & Tan Eng Huat & Paul Davidson (illus.). X-Men Legacy. Vol. 2: Invasive Exotics. Marvel. (Now!). 2013. 136p. ISBN 9780785167181. pap. $15.99. SUPERHERO
invasiveexotics022114X-Men Legacy: Invasive Exotics is a mind trip, which is fitting considering main character Legion is a psychologically complex person. The son of Professor X and sometime X-Men villain, David Haller (aka Legion) is in love with Blindfold, who can see into the future. Haller sees a vision where he is the cause of the end of life on the planet. The only way to stop it is by suppressing his mutant genes. Also, a major Marvel villain might be manipulating the whole thing. Haller is best known for being the catalyst to the first Age of Apocalypse event during the 1990s X-Men books. The story does a great job of pacing the reader and bringing a newcomer up-to-date with convoluted history that follows most X-Men plotlines. Spurrier’s dialog, especially with Haller, contains humor mixed with anger and confusion. Huat and Davidson’s art is also good, capturing the surreal landscape that accompanies Haller’s trips into his head.
Verdict In this fun, exciting read, the characters can be funny; Haller plays the in-over-his-head and master planner very well, with the plot taking a couple of twists in the end. Recommended for those who love sf and stories of overcoming adversity and, of course, X-Men fans.—Ryan Claringbole, Coll. Lib. at the Univ. of Wisconsin-Madison

Symons, Kel (text) & Mark A. Robinson & Nathan Stockman (illus.). I Love Trouble. Image. 2014. 160p. ISBN 9781607068488. pap. $16.99. Rated: M. ACTION/THRILLER
This graphic novel is a riot—of imagery, emotion, and something approaching a story line. Antihero Felicia discovers while on a crashing plane that she has the ability to teleport, thereby saving herself from certain death. Her unlikely survival surprises her philandering boyfriend and allows her to steal famous paintings for kicks. She’s subsequently recruited by a shady multinational corporation to be a sassy assassin. Also, she has a monkey for a conscience. This collection walks just along the edge of all this puzzling action. We don’t understand Felicia’s work or motives, and we don’t really need to. Writer Symons’s narrative plays second fiddle to Robinson’s art, which is presented in full color, graffiti-like, rough, and visually dirty. It has much in common with, and arguably owes a debt to, Jamie Hewlett’s work for the band Gorillaz, all slouch and scowl and madness. From issue to issue, the artwork gets progressively less busy and more readable without losing its energetic edge.
Verdict A loosely sketched story set within a riot of colorful and angry art, I Love Trouble draws the reader in slowly but surely. For traditional comics fans looking for a visually challenging change of pace.—Emilia Packard, Austin, TX