Graphic Novels from Birmant & Oubrerie and Seaton & Palas | Xpress Reviews

Week ending June 26, 2015

Birmant, Julie (text) & Clément Oubrerie (illus.). Pablo. SelfMadeHero. (Art Masters). 2015. 344p. tr. from French by Edward Gauvin. ISBN 9781906838942. pap. $27.50. GRAPHIC NOVELS
Despite the surrealist-inspired cover, this sassy romp through the history of modern art captures Pablo Picasso (1881–1973) and his friends during the presurrealism years 1900–09. Birmant, a playwright, director, and producer, drew on memoirs of the artist’s then-mistress Fernande Olivier, who serves as narrator. Other luminaries depicted include Gertrude Stein, Henri Matisse, Henri Rousseau, Georges Braque, Max Jacob, and Guillaume Apollinaire. Their sometimes outlandish antics enlighten and entertain on how influences, rivalries, and mistresses circulated in the bohemian hothouse of fin de siècle Paris. Oubrerie’s (Aya of Yop City) loose drawing style aptly illustrates Montmartre’s passion and squalor.
Verdict Sardonic, informative, and sexy, this work will be appreciated most by older teens and adults acquainted with this artistic period already, since no background is provided. Other series titles include Vincent (van Gogh) and Rembrandt.—Martha Cornog, Philadelphia

Seaton, Eric Dean (text) & Brandon Palas (illus.). Legend of the Mantamaji. Bk. 3. And..Action! Entertainment. 2015. 216p. ISBN 9781930315563. pap. $14.99; ebk. ISBN 9781930315303. GRAPHIC NOVELS
mantamaji062615A legendary, multiracial heritage of mystical heroes underlies this trilogy about a strapping young lawyer who runs smack into a future he didn’t expect. Assistant district attorney Elijah just wants to run for mayor of New York City and impress his police detective girlfriend Sydney. But just before his mother is murdered by Sirach, a mystical hero-turned-villain, she tells Elijah that those bedtime tales she had read him as a child were true. Elijah, in fact, is the Mantamaji who must save the world from Sirach’s megalomania. By Volume 3, Elijah, despite his superpowered exoskeleton, has been tossed into the river, and his collaborator-hero Noah appears to be in league with Sirach. But Sydney finds sisterhood with the Sanctuants, the powerful women heroes of this heritage. TV director Seaton builds the page-turner plot nicely, incorporating twists and backstory while creating sympathy for the initially egocentric Elijah. Palas’s clean art excels particularly well with combat sequences involving armor, light-emitting weaponry, and capable women warriors.
Verdict This lively saga is solid entertainment for teens and adults who like urban superheroics with an occult fantasy vibe.—Martha Cornog, Philadelphia