Graphic Novels from Jodorowsky & Fructus, Kot & Co., Liew, and Trudeau | Xpress Reviews

Week ending December 18, 2015

Jodorowsky, Alejandro (text) & Nicolas Fructus (illus.). Showman Killer. Vol. 1: Heartless Hero. Titan. Dec. 2015. 232p. tr. from French by Ivanka Hahnenberger. ISBN 9781782761396. $15.99. SF
If a story about a mad scientist named Dr. Courcolian collecting the genetic material of a condemned prisoner in order to breed an unstoppable, emotionless killing machine with the ability to change shape when he screams the word “show,” who then betrays his creator and goes on to become one of the most feared forces in the universe, eventually getting pulled into the complicated political machinations of an evil empire, appeals to you, then this is the title for you. Author/filmmaker Jodorowsky (The Incal) more than lives up to his reputation for far-out sex, violence, and psychedelic sf, and while illustrator Fructus doesn’t quite nail smaller moments of drama, he more than makes up for that with his knack for epic carnage and bombastic battles.
Verdict Fans of Jodorowsky’s cult films (e.g., El Topo) and other comic work will be thrilled to see a new title from him; enthusiasts of sf and European translations will be delighted by this fantastical story, which isn’t like much else out there.—Thomas L. Batten, Grafton, VA

Kot, Ales (text) & Langdon Foss & others (illus.). The Surface. Image. 2015. 128p. ISBN 9781632153227. pap. $14.99. Rated: M. SF
Robert Doublehead (or is it Kot?) is on a quest. Perhaps it’s the introspective journey of a schizophrenic. Regardless of the starting point or hopeful destination, the invitation to join this sojourn is open but not necessarily welcoming. Doublehead attempts a magic realism safari into the unseen supportive world that lies just below the visible realm, intending to unravel a kind of mythological truth if only for himself. Reading like an esoteric confession, this title lets Doublehead exorcise his genetic and emotional demons systematically in full view.
Verdict Multimedia published writer Kot enjoys an indulgent romp through his own imagination, wonderfully rendered by a great team of new and qualified artists. Some may find this tale a tad murky with ethereal logic, but others will rejoice in its fresh approach to both story and storytelling techniques.—Russell Miller, Prescott P.L., AZ

starred review star Liew, Sonny. The Art of Charlie Chan Hock Chye. Pantheon. Mar. 2016. 320p. notes. ISBN 9781101870693. $30; ebk. ISBN 9781101870709. GRAPHIC NOVELS
sonnyliew121815Prepublication controversy, in the form of a government grant being revoked owing to “sensitive content,” served only to increase the buzz around this title and led to sold-out print runs on its release in Singapore this past May. In it, the life and works of “Charlie Chan Hock Chye” are showcased in a deluxe style that effectively blinds the reader (this reviewer included) to the realization that the man himself doesn’t exist. Liew (The Shadow Hero; Malinky Robot) incorporates a dizzying range of styles and influences, from midcentury manga to Mad magazine, to trace the career of the fictional cartoonist. In the process, he also explores the myths and realities of postwar Singapore, casting a critical eye on policies that place adherence to the established order above personal expression. The combination of a powerful message, artistic virtuosity, and a fascinating framing device make for an un-put-downable read.
Verdict This relentlessly engaging work stretches the boundaries of the graphic novel medium and is highly recommended for fans of political satire, Chris Ware, or Art Spiegelman.—Neil Derksen, Pierce Cty. Lib. Syst., Tacoma

starred review starTrudeau, G.B. (text & illus.). The Weed Whisperer: A Doonesbury Book. Andrews McMeel. 2015. 176p. ISBN 9781449472245. $29.99; ebk. ISBN 9781449475093. COMICS
Trudeau is one of the masters of modern American satire, and his Doonesbury strip has been at the forefront of many hot-button issues throughout the past three decades. The Weed Whisperer is no exception. There are many meandering stories in this volume, but the story line that lends itself to the title follows an uncle and nephew, Zonker and Zipper Harris, who decide to move to Colorado to grow marijuana in the newly legalized state. Through these two very different characters we see how both the older generation and the Millennials emerging from college are getting creative in order to make ends meet and live the American Dream. Around this central story Trudeau also throws out a lot of other “pot shots” at parenting, underage smoking, Fox News, Congress, and a bevy of other ripe targets.
Verdict This edition brings to light with great humor topics of our day while raising a lot of provocative questions. An essential volume for library patrons who enjoy witty cartoons and are politically conscious.—Alger C. Newberry III, Genesee Dist. Lib., Flint, MI