Graphic Novels from Helfand & Kumar, Muradov, and Sikoryak | Xpress Reviews

Week ending February 17, 2017

Helfand, Lewis (text) & Naresh Kumar & others (illus.). The Industrial Revolution. Campfire. (History). Jun. 2017. 92p. ISBN 9789381182284. pap. $14.99. HIST
Devising a time line of the innovations that contributed to the spurring of the 18th-century industrial revolution, author Helfand (Martin Luther King Jr.; They Changed the World: Bell-Edison-Tesla) creates brief histories of such major inventors as Johannes Gutenberg, Eli Whitney, Robert Fulton, Henry Bessemer, and Henry Ford, focusing on each of their contributions to society. The intent is to show that were it not for Gutenberg’s 15th-century printing press, the scale of industrialization as we know it today may not have progressed as it did. With the spread of information and access to books, people with curious minds had more resources at their disposal. The chronology finishes in the present, as great waves of change similar to that of the earlier revolution are now taking place in formerly underdeveloped nations. Kumar (Perseus: Destiny’s Call), along with colorists Ashwani Kashyap and Parveen Kumar Singh, provides the wonderful art that translates well the numerous breakthroughs and their impact. A similar series featuring graphic nonfiction is Capstone’s “Graphic Library” series.
Verdict Recommended as a tool for reluctant readers who may respond to graphic novels that teach facts and history-based narratives.—Teresa Potter-Reyes, Helen Hall Lib., League City, TX

Muradov, Roman. Jacob Bladders and the State of the Art. Uncivilized. Dec. 2016. 64p. notes. ISBN 9781941250105. $16.99. GRAPHIC NOVELS
Award-winning, 20th-century Russian artist Muradov ([In a Sense] Lost and Found) tells the story of Jacob Bladders, a fictional illustrator in 1940s New York. Owing to the intentionally smudged black-ink text, the surreal plot is difficult to grasp at times, but that should not deter anyone interested in creative expression to appreciate this book. The illustrations are composed of thin pen lines contrasting with bold, loose brushstrokes and airbrush-like splatter that give texture and tonality to the line work, evoking both editorial cartooning and elements of modernism (cubism in particular). The forms are geometric and highly stylized. Faces are rendered with a few simplistic lines, though such basic figures convey a wealth of emotion. Unlike most comic book art, the panels are borderless, which generates a sense of openness, yet all comprise a consistent size and shape, each a quarter of a page, which makes them feel constrained. The theme of self-contradiction is at the heart of this story, which is essentially about the contradictions of commercial art.
Verdict Patrons who appreciate the drawings of Al Hirschfeld, with the texture or Peter Kuper (The Metamorphosis), will appreciate Muradov’s “graphic novella,” despite its challenging story line.—Lucy Roehrig, Ann Arbor Dist. Lib., MI

Sikoryak, R. Terms and Conditions: The Graphic Novel. Drawn & Quarterly. Mar. 2017. 108p. index. ISBN 9781770462748. pap. $14.95. GRAPHIC NOVELS
terms021717With this work, cartoonist Sikoryak (Masterpiece Comics) executes an interesting experiment. He takes the latest Apple iTunes “Terms and Conditions” document and displays it in graphic form, offering samples from classic comic art styles throughout. There is no story, nor are there characters. Instead, the reader is able to process the agreement on the page instead of a screen. While Sikoryak didn’t write the material himself, he does break up each page with different versions of well-known art forms. Re-creating everything from Archie to Frank Miller’s Sin City to Scott McCloud, the author even inserts himself into the work, talking with other legendary figures such as Steve Jobs, but the speech remains the contract, word for word. The various takes on lauded graphic works reduce the monotony of the prose, and that subtle shift is enough to keep you reading. It may be assumed that very few people have deciphered the iTunes agreement in its entirety. The graphic format makes the information easier to interpret and even comprehend.
Verdict An example of how to use art to change how readers approach narrative content. Recommended for fans of experimental literature and McCloud’s Understanding Comics.—Ryan Claringbole, Wisconsin Dept. of Pub. Instruction, Madison