Graphic Novels: Christmas & Co., Lieberman & Co., Quintero & Peña, Rangel & Cadwell | Xpress Reviews

Week ending February 16, 2018

Christmas, Johnnie (text & illus.) & Tamra Bonvillain & Ariana Maher (illus.). Firebug. Vol. 1. Image. Mar. 2018. 136p. ISBN 9781534304949. pap. $16.99. Rated: Teen Plus. FANTASY/ACTION/ADVENTURE
First published in serialized form in Island magazine, this series launch from Christmas (Angel Catbird; Pisces), Bonvillain (Wayward; Doom Patrol), and Maher (From Under Mountains) creates a whole new world. After a short preamble explaining the creation myth, deities, and divergent cults, readers are introduced to Keegan and her boyfriend Griffin. Keegan is a new member of the Third Wave, a religious group that believes their Goddess is being held against her will and must be freed. In an attempt to earn the clan’s trust, Keegan offers to lead the Third Wave to the deity and participate in their mission to release her. When the rescue goes terribly wrong, the Goddess ends up dead and Keegan’s true identity as the 13th daughter of the fiery mountain is revealed. At times the narrative feels rushed and the action sequences confusing, but the breathless pacing serves the story line well. The artwork is spellbinding, with Christmas’s characters and settings richly detailed and Bonvillain’s coloring setting the tone and mood of each panel.
Verdict Firebug introduces an exciting and fresh world that will leave fans of the genre wanting more.—E.W. Genovese, Andrew Bayne Memorial Lib., Pittsburgh

Lieberman, A.J. (text) & Riley Rossmo & Clayton Cowles (illus.). Cowboy Ninja Viking: Deluxe Edition. Image. Jan. 2018. 304p. ISBN 9781534306448. pap. $19.99. Rated: Mature. MYS
What is worse than unleashing an individual with three distinct and psychopathic personalities into the citizenry? Intentionally creating multiples of the psychotic assassins (code named “the triplets”) and allowing them to get loose. Like most foster monsters—after the carnage, they (all of the personalities) start seeking answers about themselves and their creators. Hunting down, collecting, and containing this plethora of misfits—the job of Cowboy Ninja Viking—is daunting and convoluted, to say the least. Lieberman (Harley Quinn; Martian Manhunter) has envisioned an edgy and complex realm seasoned with staccato-like dialog and machine-gun pacing. Canadian artist Rossmo (Drumheller; Company of Men), with letterer Cowles, beautifully executes a chaotic ink style that illustrates the characters’ relentlessly ongoing internal conversations. The bold, creative use of color and printing varnishes reflects this as well. Collects all ten single issues of the series, plus an original story.
Verdict Mature fans of the Guy Ritchie and Quentin Tarantino film genres coupled with poster-art style illustration will enthusiastically embrace this.—Russell Miller, formerly with Prescott P.L., AZ

Quintero, Isabel (text) & Zeke Peña (illus.). Photographic: The Life of Graciela Iturbide. Getty. Mar. 2018. 96p. ISBN 9781947440005. $19.95. PHOTOG
YA author Quintero (Gabi: A Girl in Pieces) and cartoonist Peña tell the story of renowned Mexican photographer Graciela Iturbide (b. 1942) through a mixture of illustrations that portray important events in her life and her own famous photographs. This unusual blend of media draws us deeper into the story, making it come to life. From pieces such as Our Lady of the Iguanas, Juchitán, Oaxaca (1979) to Rosario and Boo Boo in Their Home, East L.A. (1986), we see Iturbide become one with her subjects, somehow transcending her role as photographer and entering into a relationship with everything her camera captures. The artwork of Penã, which depicts these interactions, seems to do the same, joining audiences to Iturbide’s experiences.
Verdict Recommended to anyone interested in fine art photography, particularly of Mexican and Southwestern American subjects, and for library collections with a focus on this area.—Sonnet Ireland, St. Tammany Parish P.L., Mandeville, LA

Rangel, Fabian, Jr. (text) & Warwick Johnson Cadwell (illus.). Helena Crash. Vol. 1: Fueled by Coffee. IDW. 2017. 112p. ISBN 9781684050109. pap. $15.99. SF
Black coffee, black market, blackguards: Helena knows them all. This race car driver–turned–courier supplies contraband coffee to javaphiles willing to pay. Why coffee? Because climate change has made the plant nearly extinct, so now her customers include even Rojo, top honcho of a powerful gang, and his more powerful rival, the alien White Demon and her posse. But, unfortunately, Helena’s skill and cleverness inspire both mobsters to solicit her services for assassinating their opposite number. Still, Helena has friends to help, so it’s a wild ride for everyone and doom to the opposition. Rangel’s (Samurai Jack) clever, entertaining script comes out heavy in Spanish slang, as befits the characters. What especially distinguishes the story is Cadwell’s (Samurai Jack; Mr. Higgins Comes Home) striking art, all jagged lines bounding off one another, with Helena as a tattooed babe with zebra hair.
Verdict With touches of lucha libre (Mexican wrestling) and ronin (Japanese drifter) pop culture, this vibrant story displays engaging mayhem and a rebel-for-the-good spirit that will appeal to fans of comics’ Modesty Blaise and Tank Girl.—Martha Cornog, Philadelphia

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