Graphic Novels from Moon & Bá, Richardson & Sakai, and Roy | Xpress Reviews

Week ending June 6, 2014

starred review starMoon, Fábio & Gabriel Bá (text & illus.). Daytripper: The Deluxe Edition. Vertigo. 2014. 272p. ISBN 9781401245115. $34.99; ebk. ISBN 9781401252205. Rated: M. F
daytripper060614In this beautiful deluxe edition of Daytripper, renowned graphic novelist twin brothers Bá and Moon (Casanova) explore death by exploring life. Aspiring novelist Brás de Oliva Domingos is surrounded by death as an obituary writer describing the passing lives of strangers, while he struggles to define his own existence. Brás’s story is presented as pivotal events: childhood vacations, lackadaisical relationships, blindsided by true love, making a family, everlasting friendship, and facing old age, in which each memorable episode comes to completion in his death. The narrative’s tone is set by Brazil’s beauty and enchantment, perfectly illustrated and reflective of Bá and Moon’s love for their home country. The exotic setting plays into Brás’s tug of war between his experiences and his acceptance of his own inevitable end. Finally, Brás’s life culminates in understanding and acceptance that death based on life, in which the former is affected and dictated by all the uncertainties of the latter, is both heartbreaking and beautiful.
Verdict This sturdy hardcover edition is recommended for graphic novel enthusiasts who are ready to sit down for a nice long thoughtful read.—Teresa Potter-Reyes, Helen Hall Lib., League City, TX

starred review starRichardson, Mike (text) & Stan Sakai (illus.). 47 Ronin. Dark Horse. 2014. 144p. ISBN 9781595829542. $19.99; ebk. ISBN 9781621159001. ACTION/ADVENTURE
Richardson, founder of Dark Horse Comics, and Sakai, creator of the long-running and award-laden Usagi Yojimbo samurai series, combine talents to produce this terrific graphic interpretation of one of Japan’s most important sagas. After Lord Asano is goaded into an illegal attack upon Lord Kira and then sentenced to commit seppuku (stomach-cutting, a form of Japanese ritual suicide), 47 of Asano’s loyal samurai vow to restore his dignity. Each ronin feigns a fall from honor in order to convince Kira that he is safe from vengeance so that their final, deadly attack comes as a complete surprise. In Richardson’s notes, he quotes an old saying about the 47 ronin: “to know the 47 Ronin is to know Japan.” Both writer and illustrator show their respect for this legendary story in the depth of their preparatory research. Richardson consulted with Kazuo Koike, creator of Lone Wolf and Cub, while Sakai studied the woodblock prints of Meiji period (1868–1912) artist Ogata Gekko.
Verdict The level of talent, the research, and the attention to both narrative and artistic detail shine through in this volume, certain to be the definitive graphic version for some time to come.—Eric Norton, McMillan Memorial Lib., Wisconsin Rapids

starred review starRoy, Simon (text & illus.). Jan’s Atomic Heart and Other Stories. Image. 2014. 112p. ISBN 9781607069362. pap. $14.99. Rated: M. SF
Gloriously imaginative, this sf collection by Roy (Prophet) comprises several short tales set in a well-worn universe populated by truly alien aliens and robots. Most of the stories contain a paroxysm of violence that changes the course of the narrative. For instance, a man stranded on an island with a talking ape is knocked unconscious while drunk, and the ape, sacrificing his only company, gets the man off the island. A patrol agent’s sentient alien mount is killed on its last tour of duty before it can settle down and find a mate. And arms dealers are betrayed by the alien clients they themselves are plotting to betray. The titular piece is the strongest, featuring a future ravaged by war between Earth and lunar separatists. At the story’s heart is the relationship between Jan, who recently had to take on a full-body-robot prosthesis after an accident, and his longtime friend Anders. Jan is incredibly emotive and expressive, conveying significant humanity from within his robotic frame. The reader cannot help but empathize with Jan’s plight.
Verdict Highly recommended for fans of the format or the genre and as a vehicle to introduce graphic novels to sf readers or vice versa.—Evan M. Anderson, Kirkendall P.L., Ankeny, IA