Graphic Novels from Belliveau, Maroh, Puryear & Alexander, Roy & Wordie, and More | Xpress Reviews

Week ending December 12, 2014

Belliveau, Elisabeth (text & illus.). One Year in America. Conundrum. 2014. 112p. ISBN 9781894994873. pap. $17. GRAPHIC NOVELS/LITERARY
One Year in America comprises a series of graphic vignettes, many of which are simply sketches of places, people, and well-stickered car bumpers. Evocative pen-and-ink drawings are interspersed with casual Internet conversations about crises both existential and mundane. It’s a snapshot of one woman’s year, complete with love, loss, and, contrary to the title, some pleasant international travel. Debut graphic novelist Belliveau is great at capturing quiet emotions in the smallest moments, but her sense of storytelling leaves much to be desired. A major thread guiding the book is a literally obscured breakup—the man’s face is pixelated so as not to disclose his identity. It’s unclear though narratively important that this man was Belliveau’s husband and not simply a lover or boyfriend. With elements like this downplayed when they would do well to be emphasized, the heart of Belliveau’s tale and the experience of her year hold less power and interest than they could.
Verdict Well drawn and atmospheric, but the loose sense of storytelling that may be appreciated by fans of personal sketch journals might not appeal to a larger graphic novel reading audience.—Emilia Packard, Austin, TX

Maroh, Julie (text & illus.). Skandalon. Arsenal Pulp. 2014. 157p. tr. from French by David Homel. ISBN 9781551525525. pap. $21.95; ebk. ISBN 9781551525532. GRAPHIC NOVELS
In her latest graphic offering, Maroh (Blue Is the Warmest Color) explores more social and cultural constructs. Tazane, a world-renowned singer-songwriter, pushes the limits of his fans and the people around the world as he tests the reaches of divine success. Tazane is a wild and promiscuous musician at the peak of his fame; everywhere he turns, his fans follow and mimic his every move. Continually disgusted by how much his admirers worship him and his performing art, Tazane becomes a walking scandal, pushing others to accept him or deny him in all his violence and disregard. With her evocative art, Maroh really pulls the reader through the protagonist’s internal struggles. The illustrations demonstrate that from one moment to the next Tazane is an awful person who becomes a vulnerable and worried soul by the end of his story.
Verdict As a rare English-language translation of Maroh’s work, this is a must-read for graphic novel enthusiasts; however, the content may be considered too scandalous for some readers.—Teresa Potter-Reyes, Helen Hall Lib., League City, TX

Puryear, Tony & Erika Alexander (text & illus.). Concrete Park. Vol. 1: You Send Me. Dark Horse. 2014. 64p. ISBN 9781616555306. $12.99; ebk. ISBN 9781630080624. GRAPHIC NOVELS/ACTION ADVENTURE/SF
concretepark121214In the near future, the New Earth Council exiles the young and poor to a secret off-world colony to toil away in ice mines. The lucky ones escape to Scare City, an outpost divided among 100 gangs. The first volume of Concrete Park, by Puryear (Eraser) and Alexander (Living Single), follows Isaac, a new arrival from Los Angeles, and Luca, who is an established player in Scare City’s underworld. While Isaac gives the reader insight into the conditions on Earth, Luca shows what it takes to survive in Scare City—a vivacious and violent existence. The final page leaves readers wondering what happens next, and the bonus material indicates a strong sense of worldbuilding.
Verdict Brutal, sexy, and visually engaging, Concrete Park takes a unique and mature twist on the “prison planet” trope.—Terry Bosky, Madison, WI

Roy, Simon & Jason Wordie (text & illus.). Tiger Lung. Dark Horse. Dec. 2014. 74p. notes. ISBN 9781616555436. $15.99; ebk. ISBN 9781630081539. GRAPHIC NOVELS
The titular Tiger Lung lives in the prehistoric, inhospitable world of the Eastern Alps, some 30,000 years ago. His is a life of tribal security, hunting, spiritual dread, and subsistence. Palpable reality is linked tightly to the Shamanistic reality of another plane of existence that supports the tangible universe. Tiger is an initiate of this Shaman culture and visionary society. Contained in this compact little hardbound volume are three of our protagonist’s dream-fueled stories.
Verdict Well-known illustrator Roy, joined by historian, writer, and artist Wordie, has produced a truly enjoyable and primal anthology. The art is visually intriguing, the palette thoughtful, and the narratives have the urgent feel of dark and necessary magic needed to keep the demons at bay. A nifty bonus of sketch pages and artists’ notes conclude this offering.—Russell Miller, Prescott P.L., AZ

Snyder, Scott (text) & Sean Murphy (illus.). The Wake. Vertigo. 2014. 256p. ISBN 9781401245238. $24.99; ebk. ISBN 9781401255992. Rated: M. SF
Ambitious comic-book creators who eschew convention and clichés and summon the courage to give readers an epic deserve proper credit…and honest blame should the results fall flat. So it is, with this Eisner Award–winning yet indigestible goulash of borrowings from the aquatic adventure movies of the late 1980s and early 1990s. The plot concerns the discovery of a mysterious race of sea monsters and the resultant ecological devastation, with half of the action set during the former and the rest occurring 200 years afterward, with flashbacks to the distant past. Think The Abyss meets Leviathan, but readers will get nostalgic for Waterworld as author Snyder keeps bogus dramatics and leaden folklore references coming while failing to develop any characters worth caring about. Murphy’s art resembles a grittier, chaotic variant of Kevin O’Neill’s work (The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen).
Verdict The Wake might make for a passable movie someday. Violence, profanity, and grisly imagery; suitable for teens and up. Optional for au courant graphic novel collections but not if volumes of the back-in-print Miracleman (LJ 9/15/14) are available.—J. Osicki, Saint John Free P.L., NB