Graphic Novels from Collins, Nero & Dowling, and Remender & Co. | Xpress Reviews

Week ending August 22, 2014

Collins, Stephen (text & illus.). The Gigantic Beard That Was Evil. Picador. 2014. 240p. ISBN 9781250050397. $20; ebk. ISBN 9781250050403. F
giganticbeard082214The “gigantic beard that was evil” consumes both the front and back covers of Collins’s graphic novel. Consequently, the sense of dread and anticipation is palpable from the second you open the book. This is the mysterious and often wryly funny story of Dave, who lives on the Island of Here, a place of order, calm, and crushing boredom. There is a constant lurking threat of disorder coming from the outside world, from the dreaded There. One day, Dave unwittingly starts growing some major facial hair. He cuts it—but it grows back. It grows out of his window, through the yard, and threatens to consume the island. The solutions conceived to combat the beard are innovative, creative, and a bit out There. The effects of the beard, for Dave, for the people of Here, and for society are at odds—the book is more a tale of society’s viselike grip on its members than an examination of nonconformity. But it’s not as heavy as all that—it’s told in light, flowing verse, with precise yet soft illustrations reminiscent of Raymond Briggs.
Verdict A visually lyrical modern fable that manages to be both utterly unique and eerily recognizable.—Emilia Packard, Austin, TX

Nero, Monty (text) & Mike Dowling (illus.). Death Sentence. Vol. 1. Titan. 2014. 132p. ISBN 9781782760085. $22.99. GRAPHIC NOVELS
The G+ virus, an aggressive sexually transmitted agent, is affecting a huge range of people. Always fatal, this weird killer genetically transforms its host’s organs to the point that the victim gains superhuman traits the longer the virus lingers. Faced with death in six months, and miraculous abilities, those infected must make some critical choices with their time remaining. This tale traces the story arc of three separate individuals coming to grips with their stunning gifts and rapidly approaching mortality.
Verdict The adult themes, language, and graphics will keep this out of the hands of the young. However, video game concept artist Nero offers up a modern-day cautionary parable, confidently illustrated by Dowling, that will intrigue those interested in a dark, provocative yarn with a kick. Lots of colorful bonus art is included, as well as an alluring commentary about the book by its creators.—Russell Miller, Prescott P.L., AZ

starred review starRemender, Rick (text) & Wes Craig & Lee Loughridge (illus.). Deadly Class. Vol. 1: Reagan Youth. Image. 2014. 160p. ISBN 9781632150035. pap. $9.99. Rated: M. CRIME/ROMANCE
deadlyclass082214Creators Remender (Black Science), Craig (Batman), and Loughridge (Fear Agent) deliver an incredibly fun read about a secret school devoted to training only those with the potential to be world-class assassins. Set in 1987, the story features Marcus Lopez, a homeless teen who doesn’t know what to do or who to turn to until he’s offered a chance to attend Kings Dominion Atelier of the Deadly Arts. Once there and having difficulty mingling with the cliques, Marcus finds his true home in a group of others who are rejected and gathers these misfits. Misfit assassins-to-be. Remender’s writing is exceptional, especially among the company of students. He even winks to the reader when one of the characters talks about John Hughes movies, as he seems to be influenced by these films. The illustration by Craig and Loughridge terrifically bounces between shades of blue and gray to orange and yellow. The art also effectively shows the fluid motion of the characters.
Verdict Deadly Class is a solid read for those who want a combination of Mark Millar’s Wanted and Harry Potter with Garth Ennis’s (Preacher) style. For fans of stories of espionage, spies, assassins, and high school awkwardness.—Ryan Claringbole, Coll. Lib., Univ. of Wisconsin-Madison