Graphic Novels Literary and Adventuresome from Kuper and Van Lente & Co. | Xpress Reviews

Week ending August 15, 2014

Kuper, Peter (text & illus.). The System. PM Pr. Oct. 2014. 104p. illus. ISBN 9781604868111. $19.95. LITERARY
system081514Following a huge cast of characters from every tier of urban life—including an oily stockbroker, a love-struck interracial couple, a disgraced detective seeking redemption by catching a serial killer, and an international saboteur—Kuper (World War 3 Illustrated) presents an absolutely epic tale, all the more impressive for being sans dialog or captions. Inhabiting New York City at the peak of a political scandal, Kuper’s characters navigate a city in which each brief meeting or missed connection serves as another link in a chain connecting every life, escalating in some cases to moments of grace and in others to catastrophe. Illustrating in a distinctive stencil and street art–influenced style, Kuper manages to pack an incredible amount of detail into every panel, so what at a glance looks like a breezy read is actually incredibly dense and absorbing.
Verdict Although told with a relative lack of text, The System has the heft of a literary novel and should be embraced by both comics fans and open-minded readers of literary fiction.—Thomas L. Batten, Grafton, VA

Van Lente, Fred (text) & R.B. Silva & others (illus.). Brain Boy. Vol. 1: Psy vs. Psy. Dark Horse. 2014. 112p. ISBN 9781616553173. pap. $14.99; ebk. ISBN 9781621159902. SF/ADVENTURE
Teenager Matt Price possesses a variety of mental abilities, ranging from telepathy to mind control to telekinesis, and as an agent of the mysterious tech firm Albright Industries on loan to the U.S. Secret Service, he gets plenty of opportunities to put his skills to use. While on assignment escorting a controversial South American leader to a UN General Assembly meeting, Matt is coerced by the CIA into investigating ties between his client and the North Korean missile program, which leads to twists, turns, superpowered showdowns, international intrigue, and maybe even clues as to the origins of our hero’s powers. Matt’s sardonic narration throughout nicely offsets the jam-packed plotting on display here, and the author includes plenty of quirky humor, especially when depicting Albright Industries’ weird innovations. The art is dynamic and pleasantly cartoony, selling intense action and more intimate character-driven moments equally, although it’s not always clear that Matt is supposed to be a teenager and not a full-grown man.
Verdict Great fun for fans of sf or espionage thrillers, with definite appeal to superhero lovers looking for something a little offbeat.—Thomas L. Batten, Grafton, VA