Graphic Novels from Chisholm, Faust & Others, and Lyon & Co. | Xpress Reviews

Week ending August 25, 2017

Chisholm, Dave. Instrumental. Z2 Comics. May 2017. 222p. ISBN 9781940878157. pap. $24.99. MUSIC/BIOG
In this inventive graphic novel, jazz performer and artist Chisholm (Let’s Go to Utah!) offers a twist on the story of the musician who sells his soul for success. After a year of steady work but no stardom, trumpeter Tom feels his career has plateaued. Following one lackluster gig, he is handed an old trumpet by a mysterious stranger. As expected, his career magically takes off, but Tom grows distant from his bandmates and seems unconcerned with the puzzling deaths happening around him. Pursued by cultists and thrust into bizarre conversations with long-dead musicians, our protagonist finds himself in an apocalyptic spiral. Reflective of jazz itself, Chisholm’s panels of art and text move with feeling and tempo, in places unafraid to riff. The depiction of Tom’s gradual wasting away is particularly well illustrated, as are some “face melting” music sessions. This book also has a companion sound track available through the author’s website, which adds an additional, if optional, dimension.
Verdict Chisholm’s haunting fable is both lovingly detailed and eerily dreamlike. Recommended for music fans and readers looking for something experimental.—Terry Bosky, Madison, WI

Faust, Christa & Gary Phillips (text) & Andrea Camerini (illus.). Peepland. Hard Case Crime/Titan Comics. Jun. 2017. 128p. ISBN 9781785851193. pap. $19.99. CRIME FICTION
Reminiscent of 1970s hard-boiled detective and pulp novels, this gritty graphic novel by American crime fiction writers Faust (Money Shot) and Phillips (editor, Orange County Noir) and artist Camerini (Vernacoliere) centers on a videotape that contains compromising information landing in the hands of peepshow worker Roxy Bell. Trying to make ends meet in 1986 New York City, Roxy must elude criminals, corrupt cops, and politicians who will do anything to get the material back in their possession. As the pages move along, people get hurt and die, and there’s no guarantee the bad guys will pay for what they’ve done.
Verdict With no heroes and a story line that has the feel of being beaten down into the gutters, that one ray of sunlight turning out to be a policeman’s flashlight, this is a great read for fans of Mickey Spillane, Elmore Leonard, and the films Mean Streets and Drugstore Cowboy.—Ryan Claringbole, Wisconsin Dept. of Pub. Instruction, Madison

starred review starLyon, Gabrielle & others. No Small Plans. Chicago Architecture Fdn. Jul. 2017. 140p. ISBN 9780997361513. pap. $19.95. ARCH
No Small Plans represents the colossal undertaking of presenting history, social and political commentary, and gripping storytelling with the goal of understanding how the concepts of community and urban development coalesce and intertwine. Commissioned by the Chicago Architectural Foundation (CAF), with contributions from Lyon (CAF, VP of education) and educator/artists Devin Mawdsley, Kayce Bayer, Chris Lin, and Deon Reed, it sets out to do what the Wacker’s Manual (1911) did for more than a century: introduce young people in the Windy City to the “1909 Plans of Chicago,” which helped shape and build the metropolis as it is today. The stories take place in three time periods and revolve around teenagers from various parts of society whose lives are connected by the area’s geography in different yet similar ways. In “The Past 1928,” a group of ethnically disparate immigrant children seek to answer who the city is for. In “The Present, 2017,” teenagers from the Englewood and Pilsen communities wrestle with issues of gentrification as one of them faces eviction in the name of “development.” “The Future, 2211” features youth who are selected to take part in civic planning for city sections in which they do not live, learning how to balance the challenges those areas face.
Verdict Visually beautiful yet also artfully written in a way that entertains, this graphic work encourages readers to consider important questions related to their own communities and building a better tomorrow.—Alger C. Newberry III, Genesee Dist. Lib., Flint, MI

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