Graphic Novels from Gabrielle Bell and Debuter Kaplan & Co. | Xpress Reviews

Week ending March 3, 2017

Bell, Gabrielle. Everything Is Flammable. Uncivilized. Apr. 2017. 160p. ISBN 9781941250181. $25.95. MEMOIR
flammable030317Much of Bell’s work lingers somewhere between confessional diary and emotionally distant philosophical discourse on self and society. Her latest (after The Voyeurs) comes close to tying the two together but, perhaps intentionally, frustrates our best efforts to connect fully. The book begins with the fiery demise of her mother’s home in rural California. Bell proceeds to make a logistically complicated trip from Brooklyn out west to help her mother regroup and rebuild. As they spend time together, the women’s similarities become increasingly clear: Bell’s mother an anxious, aging hippie hoping to reestablish her life in little more than a shack on cinder blocks, Gabrielle tied to her often hermetic day-to-day life in one of the busiest cities in the world. They’re both drawn with furrowed brows and unkempt hair, exchanging glimpses of a hard-shared history that simultaneously binds them and makes them feel painfully alone. The artist’s signature style of claustrophobic, heavily etched, six-panel pages deviates little from previous titles, but this time they’re in full color.
Verdict Bell’s first graphic memoir, while more realized than her earlier comics, still flows from the same source—being both a celebration and critique of women who don’t hew to social conventions and might not even know where to begin.—Emilia Packard, Austin, TX

Kaplan, Zack (text) & Giovanni Timpano & Chris Northrop (illus.). Eclipse. Vol. 1. Top Cow: Image. Feb. 2017. 128p. ISBN 9781534300385. pap. $9.99. Rated: T+. SF
[DEBUT] Kaplan’s postapocalyptic debut finds New York City transformed ten years after a massive solar flare kills most of the population. Now sunlight is a fatal force and humanity lives beneath the planet’s surface. At night, people can venture out into the derelict environment, but only maintenance workers in self-contained iceman suits can walk in daylight. Noirish protagonist David Baxter is one of those workers, and his proficiency puts him on a task force in search of a killer who’s using sunlight to murder the children of the elite. Kaplan’s unique dystopia is brought to life by Timpano’s (The Shadow; Lone Ranger) Moebius-inspired art. Movement sequences are fluid, and the panels are incredibly detailed. Colorist Northrop likewise does an excellent job playing with light and dark.
Verdict This first volume of a new doomsday series solidly balances worldbuilding with action. Baxter is somewhat muted as a character, but his motives are apparent, and the story is compelling. Great fun for sf fans and a refreshing take on a landscape typically crowded with zombies and mutants.—Terry Bosky, Madison, WI