Graphic Novels from Bendis, Dawson, DeForge, Edmondson, & Yanow | Xpress Reviews

Week ending May 23, 2014

Bendis, Brian Michael (text) & Chris Bachalo & Frazer Irving (illus.). Uncanny X-Men. Vol. 1: Revolution. Marvel. 2014. 136p. ISBN 9780785167020. pap. $19.99; ebk. ISBN 9781302013790. Rated: T+. SUPERHERO
Writer Bendis (Guardians of the Galaxy) makes an honest effort to take the wheel and steer the freshly formed group of X-Men into the hands of old and new fans alike. Illustrator Bachalo introduces the revamped character designs with a funky style and an attention to detail, while artist Irving picks up the end of the arc as the story travels to Limbo and takes readers to a whole never-before-seen level of edgy mythology. Unfortunately, the recent events before this reboot led to the demise of a significant portion of the mutant population. Scott Summers, also known as Cyclops, starts his own school, desperate to create a safe place for mysterious new mutants popping up around the world. Ultimately, the universe must come to terms with the existence of mutants, and Cyclops is determined to establish equal rights and abolish discrimination. While politics drive the story, the constant push/pull in all different directions among mutants, nonmutants, and the specially selected superheroes of the Avengers is fascinating.
Verdict Recommended for classic Marvel X-Men fanatics and enthusiasts. Background information is available throughout the comic, but for the newcomer, other details should be accessed elsewhere.—Teresa Potter-Reyes, Helen Hall Lib., League City, TX

Dawson, Mike (text & illus.). Angie Bongiolatti. Secret Acres. 2014. 240p. ISBN 9780988814943. pap. $20. GRAPHIC NOVELS
Dawson has moved beyond the adolescent age group featured in his earlier graphic novels (Trop 142; Freddie & Me) to explore the demographic of drifting college graduates. Angie Bongiolatti depicts a group of young people in post-9/11 New York. The characters are almost all artistic college graduates, many of whom work for an e-education start-up. The story is carried by relationships and feelings, as the various characters work, fall in love, navigate friendships, have sex, and participate in social movements. Several pages of roughly illustrated excerpts from a political science text emphasize the irony and hypocrisy of the characters’ political motivations. The illustrations are meticulously detailed black-and-white cartoons. The oversize faces are drawn distinctively, almost as caricatures, which makes it easy to follow the different members of the cast.
Verdict Angie Bongiolatti has a more narrow appeal than Dawson’s previous books. It will be appreciated by disillusioned members of counterculture movements like Occupy Wall Street and by college grads, particularly those with a liberal arts background. Librarians should note that the book contains several explicit sex scenes.—Katherine van der Linden, Metcalfe, Ont.

DeForge, Michael (text & illus.). A Body Beneath: Collecting Issues of the Comic Book Series “Lose.” Koyama. May 2014. 152p. ISBN 9781927668078. pap. $15. GRAPHIC NOVELS
Enjoyably grotesque, hauntingly violent, filled with disconcerting nakedness and uncomfortable sexuality, this work, collecting issues two through five of Lose (issue one was rejected by the author owing to its poor quality) will force readers to encounter the less seamy side of life. This meeting includes our unnamed protagonist, an unconfident man’s failed series of hires to have himself shot in an insane attempt to secure the affections of a woman (what woman could resist the opportunity to nurse back to health a comatose person she’s been dating a scant three weeks? The answer, any sane one, leads to an escalation of vain violence), the drug and sex escapades of teenagers caught in the angst of young love at the edge of adulthood, and, more surreal, a man who is infected by a parasite that will eventually turn him into a living gimp-suit. This collection also reveals DeForge’s progression as an artist; the book’s latter half is much stronger, both visually and textually.
Verdict Recommended for fans of the avant-garde, the semiunderground comix scene, and readers willing to return to the pages repeatedly to draw out all the nuance and complexity (after several reads some stories still don’t quite make sense to the reviewer yet remain oddly compelling).—Evan M. Anderson, Kirkendall P.L., Ankeny, IA

Edmondson, Nathan (text) & Alison Sampson & Jason Wordie (illus.). Genesis. Image. 2014. 56p. ISBN 9781607069959. pap. $6.99. Rated: T. SF
genesis052314In Genesis, writer Edmondson (Who Is Jake Ellis?) presents Adam, a pitiable minister at the end of his rope suddenly gifted with divine powers to create and destroy the environment around him. Adam’s parents always told him he would change the world for better or worse, and now he can do more beyond his work as a minister. Initially, Adam uses his gift to improve the lives of the desperate by helping wherever and however he can, but because Adam’s power responds to his every thought and impulse, it’s not long before he loses control of his gift during sex with his wife. Adam confronts his inner demons by arguing and rationalizing with a talking bear, the allegorical manifestation of Adam’s conscience. His reality and grip on life slip further and further from him, and he finally faces his own mortality. Sampson’s art is enchanting and a perfect fit for Edmondson’s graphic novella interpretation of the biblical Book of Genesis. Edmondson has a clear vision for his message, and Sampson expertly executes her fluid style to match his story.
Verdict Recommended for readers looking for insightful stories with equally moving art.—Teresa Potter-Reyes, Helen Hall Lib., League City, TX

Yanow, Sophie (text & illus.). War of Streets and Houses. Uncivilized. 2014. 70p. ISBN 9780984681488. pap. $10.95. MEMOIR
This collection of scenes centered on the 2012 student uprisings in Montreal presents broad themes in highly individualized terms; Yanow (In Situ) drops the reader into the middle of disjointed conversations and events with an almost perverse lack of context. This presentation can be effective in engaging readers intellectually, by forcing them to make their own connections using the information the author provides. However, the abrupt shifts in focus, from the effects of urban planning on civil disobedience to the author’s simultaneous ambivalence toward and need for city life, coupled with the work’s brevity, ensure that the information required to make those connections is in very short supply. Artistically, striking page layouts and the clear influence of cartoonist George Herriman on Yanow’s characters will keep visually minded readers engaged despite the lack of a narrative hook.
Verdict Yanow is a talent to watch, but this uncompromising title is not an ideal introduction to her work. Recommended only for socially conscious readers with a strong interest in the current events of Quebec and a high tolerance for grad student philosophizing.—Neil Derksen, Pierce Cty. Lib. Syst., Tacoma