Graphic Novels from Fernandez, Furmark, and Mardon | Xpress Reviews

Week ending February 23, 2018

Fernandez, Enrique. Tales from the Age of the Cobra. Vol. 1: The Lovers. EuroComics: IDW. Feb. 2018. 112p. tr. from French by Edward Gauvin. ISBN 9781684050635. pap. $24.99. FANTASY
This latest work from writer/illustrator Fernandez (The Wizard of Oz; Aurore) opens with the narrator introducing tales “woven from the threads of a hundred other tales.” What follows are interlocking stories—a pair of lovers separated by chance, a conqueror endlessly chasing his heart’s desire, a would-be magician, and a stranger from a distant land—that ultimately connect with the schemes of a pint-sized performer who envisions a better world. The daring visual styles take after those of Disney’s Aladdin and Hercules, with exaggerated elongations and curves that enhance the rich colors yet darken most of the action, making characters harder to distinguish and, consequently, the plot more difficult to follow. What stays with readers is a championing of love, mercy, and compassion and the stunning final line; if only it summarized one of life’s rules rather than its exceptions. Violent, sexual, and frightening content; suitable for older teens and up.
Verdict The surroundings may be similar, but Tales is more than just another trip through Arabian nights and days. Recommended for fans of mature fantasy that doesn’t involve elves or fairies; a strong optional choice for general graphic novel readers.—J. Osicki, Saint John Free P.L., NB

Furmark, Anneli. Red Winter. Drawn & Quarterly. Jan. 2018. 168p. ISBN 9781770463066. pap. $21.95. F
Siv, a married mother of three, is in love with another man, Ukrik. Complicating matters further, Ukrik is a young Maoist, while Siv is an older Social Democrat. Throughout this story from Swedish creator Furmark (The Mazes and Other Stories), readers learn about the lives of Ukrik, Siv, and her children and the consequences of their actions. The illustrations fit the theme well, with darker colors portraying the bleakness of the time as well as the winter months. Scenes of interactions among the characters simultaneously emphasize the isolation each feels. While many graphic novels have explored politics and life during the 1970s in the Middle East, Russia, or other Eastern European countries, very few have focused on Northern European and Nordic countries at that time. This book does a wonderful job of looking at life in Sweden through a compelling story line and engaging characters.
Verdict Recommended for anyone interested in late 20th-century European politics and life, particularly in Sweden. A solid addition to collections on communism in Europe.—Sonnet Ireland, St. Tammany Parish P.L., Mandeville, LA

Mardon, Gregory. Adrift. Humanoids. 2017. 116p. tr. from French by Mark Bence. ISBN 9781594658396. pap. $14.95. GRAPHIC NOVELS
In this English translation of French author/illustrator Mardon’s loving tribute to his grandfather Adolphe “Dodo” Hérault, Dodo tires of his small-town life and job as a butcher’s boy and enlists with the French navy, which proves a carefree way to see the world until France enters World War II. After France is defeated, and Winston Churchill orders the French fleet to be sunk instead of delivered to Germany (a terrifying sequence), Dodo finds himself displaced with other French sailors in North Africa. This turn of fortune doesn’t prevent him from finding love and starting a family. Taking on a series of jobs and eventually retiring in France, he emerges as a larger-than-life figure to his grandson—an endless source of off-color songs and adventurous sea stories.
Verdict Illustrated with vivid monochromatic artwork, this darkly humorous and melancholy account may not have a broad audience, but readers interested in France’s Greatest Generation or family narratives will appreciate it.—Terry Bosky, Madison, WI

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