Graphic Novels from Best American Comics, Goldfield & Short, and Hawkins & Others | Xpress Reviews

Week ending September 18, 2015

The Best American Comics 2015. Mariner: Houghton Harcourt. Oct. 2015. 400p. ed. by Jonathan Lethem & Bill Kartalopoulos. ISBN 9780544107700. $25. GRAPHIC NOVELS/ANTHOLOGY
For this tenth annual anthology, series editor Kartalopoulos (comics history, Sch. of Visual Arts, New York) and guest editor Lethem (Motherless Brooklyn) chose 37 comics created from September 2013 to August 2014. Lethem grouped them into ten themed chapters (including “Biopics and Historical Fictions,” “You Might Even Hang Them on Your Wall,” and “Raging Her-Moans”). Lethem’s selections were taken from a larger pool picked by Kartalopoulos, who, in turn, worked mainly with submitted works. Artists represented include cartoonist Roz Chast, journalist Joe Sacco, alternative icon Jim Woodring, and some, such as Raymond Pettibon, who push comics’ definition. With a foreword by Kartalopoulos, an intro by Lethem, “contributor notes,” and a “notable comics” list.
Verdict Admirable for its inclusiveness, Comics suffers for it, too. There’s little context for the choices—even those excerpted from larger works—nor any real discussion of the selections. While this saves space and minimizes jargon, it can make some of the entries unnecessarily bewildering. What could be a way to introduce the curious to the new is best for those immersed in the medium, for whom this volume is recommended.—Robert Mixner, Bartholomew Cty. P.L., Columbus, IN

Goldfield, Rebecca (text) & Mike Short (illus.). Captive of Friendly Cove: Based on the Secret Journals of John Jewitt. Fulcrum. 2015. 157p. ISBN 9781936218110. pap. $25.95. GRAPHIC NOVELS
captive091815The secret journals of John Rodgers Jewitt (1783–1821) detail the years he spent as a captive of the Mowachaht peoples near present-day Vancouver Island, BC. In adapting his tale, Goldfield (contributor, District Comics) largely allows Jewitt’s own words to drive the narrative, but she also uses her artistic license subtly and skillfully to incorporate Native perspectives as well. The attack on Jewitt’s ship, for example, is explained as the result of a long-running pattern of abuses by trading crews against the Nootka. She also presents their leader, Maquinna, as a more complex character than the protagonist, by turns acting as Jewitt’s oppressor, protector, patron, and friend. Short’s art serves the text well, with a palette that highlights the alternating beauty and dreariness of the Pacific Northwest coastal areas. The clear layouts make the action easy to follow for reluctant readers.
Verdict An entertaining and informative presentation of a true-life adventure that will be new to many. Recommended for fans of Gary Paulsen–esque survival stories and Pacific Northwest history.—Neil Derksen, Pierce Cty. Lib. Syst., Tacoma

Hawkins, Matt (text) & Rahsan Ekedal & others (illus.). The Tithe. Vol. 1. Image. 2015. 112p. ISBN 9781632153241. pap. $14.99. Rated: T+. CRIME/DRAMA
Megachurches around the United States are being targeted by a hacker group called Samaritan. They are robbing corrupt institutions and redistributing the money to other charitable organizations while exposing the fraudulent activity of the church leaders themselves. FBI agents Jimmy Miller and Dwayne Campbell, who have been investigating fraud in these types of churches, are now called in to investigate a radical entourage that appears to share their interests. Up until this point, Samaritan attacks have been relatively peaceful, but things quickly begin to unravel as drugs destroy most of the group’s members. After a heist goes bad and innocent bystanders are killed, Samaritan is permanently changed, and the leader must team up with the FBI in order to stay out of jail. This modern-day Robin Hood created by Hawkins and Ekedal (Think Tank) is a fast-paced first installment to this series that renders artwork and panels in classic comic styling.
Verdict This book reads like a TV evangelist crime series most likely to be aired on HBO. A fun read that also asks serious questions about life, religion, and corruption. Violence and drug use make this geared toward mature audiences.—Laura McKinley, Huntington P.L., NY