Graphic Novels from Gallaher & Ellis, Medina & Co., and Oppenheimer & Klein | Xpress Reviews

Week ending November 3, 2017

starred review starGallaher, David (text) & Steve Ellis (illus.). High Moon. Vol. 1: Bullet Holes and Bite Marks. Super Genius: Papercutz. Oct. 2017. 132p. ISBN 9781629918174. $24.99; ebk. ISBN 9781545800683. HORROR
Former Pinkerton agent Matthew Macgregor is tracking Sullivan gang member Eddie Conroy through the wildest areas of the rugged West, a quest that eventually leads him to the little backwater town of Blest, TX. His quarry is indeed somewhere in town, but it appears that the elusive Conroy is involved in the kidnapping of a local rich man’s daughter in an attempt to leverage control of the family’s silver mine for his gang. Conroy is also revealed to be a werewolf, and making the trail more fraught with danger are other supernatural menaces lurking in town, including humanoid vampire bats with compound eyes and mean attitudes. Fortunately for Macgregor, who packs some special powers of his own and with a bit of luck and some unexpected aid, he may just make a difference in bringing law, order, and justice to Blest. Compelling plot twists deliver an unexpected poignancy about postslavery America and race relations that strengthens the already rousing classic psychological Western adventure.
Verdict Originally printed as an online comic through DC’s short-lived Zuda imprint, this first volume of a projected trilogy, from the co-creators of The Only Living Boy, combines Weird Western excitement with steampunk flourishes to create a work full of expected six-gun excitement and dime-novel thrills.—Douglas Rednour, Georgia State Univ. Libs., Atlanta

Medina, Tony (text) & John Jennings & Stacey Robinson (illus.). I Am Alfonso Jones. Tu: Lee & Low. Oct. 2017. 176p. ISBN 9781620142639. pap. $18.95. GRAPHIC NOVELS
The creative team of Medina (Love to Langston), Jennings (The Blacker the Ink; Kindred), and Robinson (graphic design, Univ. of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign; Black Kirby) tell the story of Alfonso Jones, a bright, energetic teen excitedly anticipating a starring role in his school’s performance of Hamlet and the homecoming of his wrongfully imprisoned, recently exonerated father. When Alfonso crosses paths with an off-duty police officer who mistakes a clothes hanger for a gun, the officer opens fire, taking Alfonso’s life. What follows is a powerful examination of grief, rage, and the responsibility that the living owe the dead, as Alfonso finds himself ferried through the afterlife on a ghostly train peopled with past victims of wrongful shooting deaths, and his friends, family, and community attempt to make sense of his tragic demise. A proclivity for crowding scenes with an overwhelming amount of dialog and narration that occasionally read as slightly more essayistic than as natural reactions to these terrible events robs some scenes of their power. But, overall, this groundbreaking and timely story should be read by all, especially those interested in the Black Lives Matter movement and the complicated relationship between the police and those they serve.
Verdict A deeply felt and absolutely necessary story that humanizes characters too often relegated to statistics and headlines; sure to spark strong responses and debate among readers.—Tom Batten, Grafton, VA

Oppenheimer, Danny (text) & Grady Klein (illus.). Psychology: The Comic Book Introduction. Norton. Dec. 2017. 256p. index. ISBN 9780393351958. $18.95; ebk. ISBN 9780393351965. PSYCH
Behold the marvelous mind, which helps us make sense of the world, ourselves, and others. Yet, interestingly, we can only hold about seven units of information in our working memory at one time, which leads to all sorts of mental shortcuts for understanding complicated perceptions quickly. Thus, while explaining how the mind works, Oppenheimer (marketing & psychology, Univ. of California Los Angeles) also describes how our minds do not work very well sometimes. Stress, mental habits, slapdash reasoning, emotions, language, and circumstances all jostle to throw our memories and judgments out of whack, although there are ways to compensate. Klein (The Lost Colony) illustrates these complexities with charming, funny drawings of psychologists in white coats doing experiments, frantic “brain workers” with lights on their headgear, and a variety of hapless everyday people caught in cognitive challenges. Unfortunately, the greyscale art in the review copy appears muddy. Darker colored edges would have made Klein’s visuals easier to grasp.
Verdict As the field of psychology has become more humane, the possibility of progress through understanding our thinking might inspire readers to delve more deeply into areas of interest and even galvanize students to major in the subject.—Martha Cornog, Philadelphia

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