Graphic Novels from Cloonan & Co., Lansdale and Glanzman, and Ledesma | Xpress Reviews

Week ending August 4, 2017

Cloonan, Becky (text & illus.) & Lee Loughridge & Rachel Deering (illus.). By Chance or Providence. Image. Jul. 2017. 128p. ISBN 9781534301863. pap. $16.99; ebk. ISBN 9781534305748. Rated: M/Mature. HISTORICAL FICTION/ROMANCE
Wicked curses are plentiful, as are werewolves, ghosts, and hauntings, in this romantic medieval offering collecting creator Cloonan’s trilogy of tales, including Wolves, The Mire, and Demeter. All three stories possess a kind of ancient Celtic feeling, reminiscent of the dark, edgy fairy tales of Ireland, and address the anguish of loss, self-sacrifice, love, and duty through magical and ceremonial ritual. While not necessarily “happy” endings, the pieces in this loosely connected set of legends are told with a quiet, dignified charm. At least one-third of this volume is dedicated to wonderfully rendered concept drawings and practice panels, with contributions by colorist Loughridge and letterer Deering.
Verdict Although this volume is marketed as Mature, young adult readers will enjoy the collection, as will anyone who appreciates whimsical melancholy and bright, energetic illustration. [Previewed in Douglas Rednour’s “Comics Cross Over,” LJ 6/15/17, p. 40–46.].—Russell Miller, Prescott P.L., AZ

Lansdale, Joe R. (text) & Sam Glanzman (illus.). Red Range: A Wild Western Adventure. It’s Alive: IDW. Jun. 2017. 111p. ISBN 9781631409943. $19.99. WESTERNS
The Red Mask, a black cowboy vigilante, takes on some grim and nasty KKK types in an attempt to rescue a little boy from a horrific raid. While fleeing a growing posse of rabid white supremacists and a phenomenally vicious storm, the entire cast is plunged into a literal underworld of subterranean tribes composed of conquistadors and cannibals. While battling to stay alive in this newly opened underearth, the hero encounters lively and vicious dinosaurs with a fondness for humans and horseflesh. Three-time Bram Stoker Award winner Lansdale (Nights of the Living Dead) teams with the recently deceased Golden Age cartoonist Glanzman (Hercules) to reproduce this grisly, surreal tale, originally published in 1999 and rendered here in color for the first time. This nicely bound volume contains some fine bonus material, including a bizarre six-page, pen-and-ink-drawn wordless tale and extensive background on the creators.
Mature readers and fans of Django-style Westerns will relish this elaborate short story. [Previewed in Douglas Rednour’s “Comics Cross Over,” LJ 6/15/17, p. 40–46.]—Russell Miller, Prescott P.L., AZ

Ledesma, Alberto. Diary of a Reluctant Dreamer: Undocumented Vignettes from a Pre-American Life. Mad Creek: Ohio State Univ. (Latinographix: Latinx Comics). Sept. 2017. 127p. ISBN 9780814254400. pap. $17.95. GRAPHIC MEMOIR
In this deeply personal, achingly thoughtful memoir, Ledesma reminds us that the fears of undocumented immigrants are nothing new. The author explicates his experience as an undocumented child in California and how the anxiety of being seen as a stereotype drove him to prove himself academically; he went on to earn a doctorate from the University of California, Berkeley, where he currently heads the arts and humanities department’s diversity office. His reflections here capture a tension between self and society—whatever he does in his personal, professional, and writerly life speaks to the immigrant experience, whether he intends it to or not. As such, he rallies for the right of his fellow dreamers to self-determination—to succeed or fail, to live big or simply peacefully—rights most Americans take for granted. The accompanying images are essentially editorial cartoons and don’t quite flow with the narrative, but they do serve an important purpose of reimagining prejudiced portrayals of immigrants.
Verdict Personal, political, and well articulated, with mostly stand-alone cartoons providing additional perspective, Dreamer is hard to pin down—not quite popular press but not quite academic, it’s a promising first foray in the “Latinographix: Latinx Comics” series.—Emilia Packard, Austin, TX

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