Graphic Novels from Bates & Co., Brantz, Johnston, and Wagner & Others | Xpress Reviews

Week ending December 15, 2017

starred review starBates, Dustin & Peter David (text) & Mirko Colak & others (illus.). The Prox Transmissions. Vol. 1. Marvel. Sept. 2017. 88p. ISBN 9781302908102. pap. $19.99; ebk. ISBN 9781302500245. Rated: T Plus. SF
Dr. Stephen Browning has an unusual hobby. He listens in on space transmissions sent by NASA satellites much the way police fans monitor dispatches. One day, he receives a message sent from the future. Assuming it is a mistake, he begins inquiring about this phenomenon with his colleagues. To his peril, it is not a miscommunication, and powerful forces are prepared to discourage with violence anyone attempting to pursue the truth of this matter. Strangely, as his desperate journey unfurls, it becomes painfully apparent that Stephen is a critical component in the solution of this dire threat to the human race. Based on the novel by Bates, singer and founder of the rock band Starset, and adapted to sequential art by David (The Amazing Spider-Man) and artist Colak (Red Hood and the Outlaws), this lively, illustrative little epic tells a big story. Crisp line work, subdued coloring, and solid dialog move the complex plot at a comfortable pace.
Verdict Any theoretical physics geek, sf fan, or solid space yarn aficionado will enjoy this tightly rendered tale.—Russell Miller, Prescott P.L., AZ

Brantz, Loryn. Lady Stuff: Secrets to Being a Woman. Andrews McMeel. Sept. 2017. 128p. ISBN 9781449486778. pap. $14.99; ebk. ISBN 9781449488239. COMICS
BuzzFeed cartoonist and children’s book author/illustrator Brantz, whose works include Feminist Baby and the award-winning Harvey and the Child Mime, isn’t interested in keeping secrets. Here, she reveals a host of idiosyncratic habits and peculiarities in a way to which all women (and anyone of any gender) will relate. Brantz’s turn toward cartooning on body image and feminism showcases brief, single page–sized cartoons in a humorous “jellybean” style (i.e., while the characters have very realistic and honest emotions and situations, their bodies are colorfully illustrated and akin to the shape of a jellybean). For example, the section on self-care aptly articulates what it feels like when a pet jumps onto one’s lap (“I have been chosen”), or, in the “Life Ambitions” section, we see what a personified Life does to carefully constructed plans (fire is involved).
Verdict Perfect for readers who enjoy the work of Roz Chast and Allie Brosh, but for lovers of Gemma Correll’s Instagram feed more.—Cassidy Charles, Santa Barbara P.L., CA

starred review starJohnston, Lynn. For Better or for Worse: The Complete Library. Vol. 1: 1979–1982. IDW. Sept. 2017. 528p. ISBN 9781631409820. $39.99. COMICS
Elly Patterson is the young mother of Michael and Elizabeth, wife to successful dentist John, and owner of sheepdog Farley. Together, the family experiences all of the trials and tribulations life has to offer, from best friend and single mother Connie’s road to romance, which intersects the path of Elly’s musician brother Phil, to Michael coping with a missing Superteddy to a vacation in a remote cabin where everything seems to go wrong. Through it all, Elly deals with feelings of inadequacy and triumph, both resentful of and enjoying motherhood and married life. Including some specific strip-by-strip commentary, this exquisite tome collects three years’ worth of Johnston’s seminal newspaper strip, densely packing in the early beginnings of daily four-panel strips, full-page Sunday spreads, long-term story lines, realistic characters, and humorous humanity. The exacting artistic flare that develops in Johnston’s cartooning is gentle, thoughtful, and perpetually insightful to 20th-century life.
Verdict Fans of the highest virtuosity in cartooning will relish this deluxe introduction to the Patterson’s heartfelt and delightful story.—Douglas Rednour, Georgia State Univ. Libs., Atlanta

starred review starWagner, Doug (text) & Daniel Hillyard & Laura Martin (illus.). Plastic. Vol. 1. Image. Oct. 2017. 144p. ISBN 9781534303775. pap. $16.99; ebk. ISBN 9781534307162. Rated: Mature. CRIME FICTION/MYS/HORROR
Edwyn Stoffgruppen is a frighteningly unique individual. Maniacally driven to extreme responses directed toward those around him, whom he perceives as rude, vulgar, inconsiderate, or a threat—he has managed to carve a bloody, dysfunctional little niche for himself out of this cruel world. He’s also found love along the way in the form of an inflatable blonde named Virginia. They are good for each other. She likes sharing doughnuts with him, and he stops putting people’s heads in bags when she is around. It’s a marriage made in polymer hell. Eclectic and prolific creator Wagner (World of Warcraft; The Ride) teams with the stylishly grim illustration abilities of Hillyard (I.C.E.; Sherwood Texas) to produce an indelibly horrific graphic novel. Martin’s keen coloring sense perfectly welds this eye-searing love story into a cohesive continuity of twisted and depraved ghastliness.
Verdict Mature lovers of horror, grave tales, and quality artistic craftsmanship will read this book in one shivering sitting.—Russell Miller, Prescott P.L., AZ

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