Graphic Novels from Boultwood, Diggle & Jock, Edginton & Trifogli, Leach, Xu Bing | Xpress Reviews

Week ending April 18, 2014

starred review starBoultwood, Dan (text & illus.). It Came! Titan. 2014. 88p. ISBN 9781782760054. $19.99. SF/COMICS
itcame041814England is being menaced by an enigmatic monster robot running amok, a marauding heavily armed flying saucer, and a ninnyhammer of a scientist named Dr. Boy Brett who is trying to sort it all out. Harkening back to the black-and-white drive-in B movies of the 1950s, writer/illustrator Boultwood (Hope Falls) has ingeniously devised a comic book that spoofs not only the sf trash-cinema genre and its stereotypical cast of characters but the actors, studios, and special effects that made these films possible. Irreverent and amusing advertising is also marvelously salted throughout.
Verdict This wonderfully written and beautifully rendered volume is a work of real innovation. Capturing the pseudoscientific, misogynistic, and pipe-chomping “intellectuals” portrayed in low-budget horror films, the dialog is rife with laughs and double entendre. This is a treat for all ages.—Russell Miller, Prescott P.L., AZ

starred review starDiggle, Andy (text) & Jock (illus.). Snapshot. Image. 2013. 104p. ISBN 9781607068426. pap. $12.99. Rated: T+/Teen Plus. THRILLER
Created by the writer/artist team of Diggle and Jock (The Losers; Green Arrow: Year One!), Snapshot is a gritty thriller centering on murder, cutthroat economics, and bloodstained politics. Protagonist Jake Dobson is an average twentysomething comic book nerd who finds a phone on the ground containing pictures of a grisly murder. As the story unfolds, Jake and those around him are thrust headfirst into the shadowy workings of our everyday world that make society tick. Any force or obstacle to the advancing of the status quo is dealt with severely. Considering the similarities Jake shares with those reading this comic, Diggle’s plot-points immediately place the reader in Jake’s shoes, asking what they would do if dropped into the situations he encounters.
Verdict Diggle writes a very honest, well-researched story line that is engaging, entertaining, and rooted firmly in the realm of possibility. Jock takes this very realistic script and renders it in harsh black and white with the rough lines characteristic of his work. Blunt and unapologetic, this book shows the depth and power of the modern comic medium.—Alger C. Newberry III, Genesee Dist. Lib., Flint, MI

Edginton, Ian (text) & Francesco Trifogli (illus.). Hinterkind. Vol. 1: The Waking World. Vertigo. 2014. 144p. ISBN 9781401245184. pap. $9.99; ebk. ISBN 9781401252045. SF/FANTASY
Multiple Eisner Award nominee Edginton (X-Force; Scarlet Traces) has composed a postapocalyptic world where humans are rapidly becoming the endangered species. Mother Nature, personified, is taking back the universe invented by humankind, ruthlessly crushing it and returning it to its original mineral and chemical tapestry. Meanwhile, the overlooked and long-forgotten “hinterkind,” or creatures of legend and myth, are staging a comeback with a vengeance. Prized for their uniqueness, and in some cases, taste, humans are actively hunted. The growing wilderness, forces of Nature, and a malevolent aggregation of nasty preternatural critters are all making survival very difficult for the few remaining people on Earth.
Verdict The story is ambitious and clever. The art style is hasty and sometimes a bit unclear, but the book has some nice stand-alone paintings sprinkled throughout. Adults may find this more compelling than young adults.—Russell Miller, Prescott P.L., AZ

Leach, Brendan (text & illus.). Iron Bound. Secret Acres. 2013. 252p. ISBN 9780988814929. pap. $21.95. GRAPHIC NOVEL
Leach (his Ignatz Award–winning Pterodactyl Hunters in the Gilded City was featured in Best American Comics 2011) brings into life through loose black-and-white sketches Newark, NJ, in 1961. The crime drama focuses on friends and greaser gang members Benny and Eddie, who work for Mr. Dores, a local crime boss. Benny comes off as a total punk with a violent streak, and in the book’s opening scene he murders a bus passenger just for asking Benny to be quieter. Eddie is the cool head taking on important errands for Mr. Dores. But Eddie has a dark secret that Leach reveals in a flashback providing backstory for what becomes a turf battle between the greaser gangs in Asbury Park and Newark. A crooked cop, more killings, and troubled girlfriends are thrown in for the ride.
Verdict Leach’s artwork has a quality of rawness to it, as if one is viewing images in a sketchbook. This style sometimes makes the story difficult to follow, e.g., lighter inking to indicate the flashbacks—a second reading helps. The narrative has some dramatic turns such as the breathtaking beating of the bus passenger and Eddie’s backstory. Recommended to readers interested in alternative graphic novels.—Scott Vieira, Sam Houston State Univ. Lib., Huntsville, TX

Xu Bing (text & illus.). Book from the Ground: From Point to Point. MIT. 2014. 112p. ISBN 9780262027083. $24.95. GRAPHIC NOVEL
Chinese artist Xu’s latest work (after Book from the Sky) seems like a lot of gibberish if you just flip through it—long lines of symbols with no text anywhere to be seen. Focus in, though, and you’ll discover that what Xu has done is present a single day in the life of an average man, depicted entirely in emoticons, street signs, corporate logos, and other easily recognizable symbols. It takes a moment to catch on, but once a reader falls into sync with Xu, it is immensely pleasurable to decipher the story, like cracking a code or understanding a foreign language for the first time. Xu’s intent seems to be to highlight the importance of nonverbal communication in 21st-century life, and he succeeds wildly. Even the inner lives of his characters, their hopes and dreams, their secret desires, are brought to life through simple symbols in sly combination and the use of repetition.
Verdict While this book might turn off readers looking to escape into a more conventional narrative, anyone interested in experimental fiction, modern art, or a little bit of challenge will be delighted.—Thomas L. Batten, Grafton, VA