Xpress Reviews: Graphic Novels | First Look at New Books, February 28, 2014

Week ending February 28, 2014

Bemis, Max (text) & Jorge Coelho (illus.). Polarity. Vol. 1. Boom! Studios. 2013. 112p. ISBN 9781608863464. pap. $14.99. F
Writer Bemis, founder and lead singer/songwriter of the band Say Anything, is bipolar and a comics lover. In this three-way satire of hipsterdom, superheroes, and mental health medicine, Tim Woods is a bipolar artist being treated by Dr. Mays. Problem is, under treatment he makes boring art. But while manic, Tim feels that he has artistic superpowers. And, as he learns, he really does! Dr. Mays is not what he seems either and not in a good way. If the ending seems standard—Tim masters his problems, decks his therapist, and gets the girl—the trip is decidedly original. Artist Coelho delivers Tim’s adventures and altered states with just the right synthesis of arty psychedelia and goofy realism. Minipanels of text and art float over whirlpools of detritus, mirror images change color, and an enemy’s head explodes into a beautifully composed sunburst of tissue. However, Tim’s crush Lily seems underdeveloped as a character.
Verdict Similar to Joe the Barbarian, the Daniel Boom books, and Level Up, this lively adult sf tale makes an apparent problem into an advantage. Gen Y’s, especially fans of twisted superhero stories, should find it hilarious, if perhaps uncomfortably critical.—Martha Cornog, Philadelphia

starred review starBohemians: A Graphic Anthology. Verso. Apr. 2014. 207p. ed. by Paul Buhle & David Berger. ISBN 9781781682616. pap. $16.95; ebk. ISBN 9781781682623. HISTORICAL BIOG
bohemian022814Buhle (founder, Radical America; editor, Radical Jesus) and New York City–based Berger edit and contribute a few scripts to this broad collection of prominent and not-so-prominent Bohemian individuals. Buhle begins with an introduction that distinguishes the denizens of a particular Eastern European district from the colloquial use of Bohemian as a term for artistic, social, and political rebels. Although Bohemian enclaves existed in many European and American cities, the editors concentrate on the fertile metropolis of New York through the 1950s. Biographies cover such luminaries as Walt Whitman, Victoria Woodhull, Alfred Steiglitz, Gertrude Stein, Josephine Baker, and Woody Guthrie. Free love and homosexuality appear alongside anarchism, socialism, and communism, but it is the wide variety of creative forms from various artists including Hilary Allison, Mark Crilley, and Sabrina Jones, among others, that take center stage. Literature, poetry, photography, and painting feature prominently, as do jazz and dance, but journalism and even Yiddish puppet theater make an appearance. As befits an anthology, the imaginative styles of these black-and-white comics are also quite varied but each skillfully executed.
Verdict This collection is both a visual treat and an edifying look at alternative culture that should appeal both to comics fans and students of “bohemia.”—Eric Norton, McMillan Memorial Lib., Wisconsin Rapids

Goldman, Dan (text & illus.). Red Light Properties. Vol. 1: Previously-Haunted Real Estate. IDW. 2014. 204p. ISBN 9781613777411. pap. $19.99. F
Goldman (Shooting War) skillfully manipulates his digital art to demonstrate that experience is shaped by one’s single and unique perspective—never to be completely understood by any other person. Jude, certified phenomenologist, with Cecilia, licensed real estate broker, run the Miami-based paranormal exorcisms real estate business Red Light Properties and have come to an impasse rooted in misunderstanding and distrust; it could mean the end. Goldman’s transmedia style amplifies Jude’s special gift, and the presentation of Jude’s connection to the deceased is beyond psychedelic. Cecilia can’t connect to Jude and doesn’t understand his almost violent experiences with death and his viewpoint of the magic of life. With honesty built from their love and flaws, Jude and Cecilia can, one hopes, move forward, save their marriage and family, and develop their business to its fullest potential.
Verdict Goldman’s illustrations of the raw and beautiful partnership Jude willingly has with the departed and loitering is for mature readers. Still, Red Light Properties is different and special and a worthy addition to a well-developed collection. Recommended for adults seeking funky graphic novels about life, love, success, and ghosts.—Teresa J. Potter-Reyes, Helen Hall Lib., League City, TX