Graphic Novels: Dead Boy Detectives, Twelve Gems, Protectors, & Peter Panzerfaust | Xpress Reviews

Week ending July 4, 2014

Litt, Toby (text) & Mark Buckingham & others (illus.). Dead Boy Detectives. Vol. 1: Schoolboy Terrors. Vertigo. 2014. 160p. ISBN 9781401248895. pap. $9.99. Rated: M. F
Dead Boy Detectives is the Hardy Boys meets Neil Gaiman’s Sandman. It stars Edwin Paine and Charles Rowland, boys who were killed in their youth long ago in London, now floating around solving crimes. It starts off as Edwin and Charles get in over their heads (normally they do stuff like find a missing cat) and get dragged back to St. Hilarion’s, the boarding school both boys attended and the site of their murder. Joined by Crystal Palace, a girl among the living, the trio investigate what is really going on at St. Hilarion’s. Litt’s writing is a joy to read. He juggles three different narratives throughout the story, with each main character having an individual voice and style. The art by Buckingham, Gary Erskine, Russ Braun, Victor Santos, and Andrew Pepoy matches the text and setting perfectly. The surreal and macabre backdrops bring the readers in, and Litt’s prose is like reading a Victorian novel.
Verdict Highly recommended; this is a delightful book and a pleasure to follow the strange travels of these three characters. For those who enjoy supernatural mysteries and Vertigo comic titles such as Sandman and Hellblazer.—Ryan Claringbole, Coll. Lib. at the Univ. of Wisconsin-Madison

Milburn, Lane (text & illus.). Twelve Gems. Fantagraphics. Aug. 2014. 220p. ISBN 9781606997512. pap. $19.99. SF
Depicting a contemporary cosmic odyssey, Twelve Gems features three disparate characters hired to locate mystic gems scattered across the galaxy. This ragtag group includes a superintelligent winged dog named Dogstar; a gorgeous space Amazon, Venus; and a pig-nosed bounty hunter behemoth named Furz. Each brings an invaluable skill set to the mission, and writer Milburn puts them all to the test as the trio traverse space in a desperate search for the elusive stones. The entirety of the story is depicted in black-and-white ink drawings of a similar style to Harvey Pekar or Robert Crumb. The tone, the farcical nature of the plot developments, and the over-the-top depiction of alien societies also liken it to Heavy Metal magazine and the stories found there.
Verdict A valuable gem to add to any collection focusing on independent comics and alternative storytelling with its avant-garde narrative voice, classical art style, and brilliantly paced sense of adventure.—Alger C. Newberry III, Genesee Dist. Lib., Flint, MI

Straczynski, J. Michael (text) & Gordon Purcell & others (illus.). Protectors Inc. Vol. 1. Image. 2014. 160p. ISBN 9781632150493. pap. $12.99. Rated: M. SUPERHERO
Corporations and superheroes. This combination does not bode well. In Straczynski’s Protectors Inc., the calm world in which superheroes fight one another in spectacle like a professional wrestling match takes a dark turn when one of them shows up murdered. The corporation doesn’t want to harm the image of its product, and the only one willing to pursue the truth is a detective who isn’t impressed by the beings with supernatural powers. Straczynski’s writing is solid as usual. Those who have read the author’s Ultimate Spider-Man run know he’s great at blending real-life issues with superheroes, making them seem like they belong in reality. The artwork by Purcell, Andrew Pepoy, and Michael Atiyeh is serviceable but nothing stellar; it doesn’t seem gritty enough for the story. Even so, it is a graphic novel that is enjoyable to read.
Verdict As a murder mystery, Protectors Inc. draws the reader in and sets the scene for further issues. The main character isn’t that compelling, but he’s just the eyes and ears for the reader. It’s the universe of superheroes being corporately owned that’s so intriguing. For readers who enjoy murder mysteries and superheroes.—Ryan Claringbole, Coll. Lib. at the Univ. of Wisconsin-Madison

starred review starWiebe, Kurtis J. (text) & Tyler Jenkins (illus.). Peter Panzerfaust: Deluxe Edition. Vol. 1. Image. 2014. 364p. ISBN 9781607069683. $39.99. ADVENTURE
panzerfaust070414The beloved icon of eternal childhood created by J.M. Barrie is masterfully adapted by author Wiebe and artist Jenkins into the thrilling and heartfelt adventure graphic novel that is Peter Panzerfaust. Wiebe (Rat Queens) takes Barrie’s favorite characters and familiar story and thrusts them into France in the middle of World War II, in effect making their conflicts, losses, and grappling with adulthood much graver but also much more impactful. Wiebe’s writing employs a narrative style that offers the reader multiple character perspectives, which in turn enrich the characters telling the story. The result is a wholly distinct tale with echoes of familiarity. The stylized and dynamic art by Jenkins propels readers to continue devouring each issue; the hardcover deluxe edition includes multiple variant covers as well as larger panels better to appreciate Jenkins’s work.
Verdict Readers who enjoy graphic novel adaptations as well as action and war genres will be blown away with the originality of this title. Fans of the ongoing series and collectors will appreciate the larger images and extras of the deluxe edition.—Laura Gallardo, St. Louis