Graphic Novels from Scioli & Barber, Young & Others, Stavans & Cohen, and Taylor | Xpress Reviews

Week ending March 9, 2018

starred review starScioli, Tom (text & illus.) & John Barber (text). Transformers vs. G.I. Joe: The Quintessential Collection. IDW. Jan. 2018. 420p. ISBN 9781631408601. $49.99. SF/FANTASY/ACTION/ADVENTURE
When the evil Decepticons begin scouting Earth in advance of an invasion, the elite G.I. Joe forces launch a counterattack against the robots’ home world of Cybertron. Soon sides are drawn and a clash across multiple theaters erupts, with the fates of numerous empires on the line. Creators Scioli (American Barbarian) and Barber (Back to the Future: Time Served) present a plot that moves with the velocity of a fighter jet, drawing just about every character ever associated with these two brands into the fray. Scioli’s illustration channels the great Jack Kirby pushed to his most psychedelic extremes and packs more epic action into a single page than most comic books manage in a year’s worth of stories. This volume collects the entire 13 single-issue series, as well as a one-shot, Transformers vs. G.I. Joe: The Movie Adaptation.
Verdict The manic glee with which Scioli and Barber build their story results in the rare series that will appeal to both fans nostalgic for characters they loved in their youth and enthusiasts of hipper indie comics. Not to be missed.—Tom Batten, Grafton, VA

Young, Skottie (text & illus.) & Jeffrey Cruz & others (illus.). I Hate Fairyland. Bk. 1. Image. 2017. 296p. ISBN 9781534303805. $29.99. FANTASY
Once upon a time, a little girl named Gertrude made a wish to visit Fairyland, a fantasy kingdom filled with magic and the promise of endless adventure. Queen Cloudia, ruler of Fairyland, granted Gertrude’s wish and charged her with a quest to retrieve a key that would allow her to return home. Twenty-seven years later, an ageless, immortal Gertrude has been driven mad by her ceaseless wanderings, which are less and less a mission and more of a bloody rampage across the kingdom. Tired of seeing her subjects disemboweled but bound by magical law against doing away with Gertrude herself, Queen Cloudia plots to throw a series of obstacles in her way. Collecting the first ten issues of an ongoing series, this volume opens with Gertrude killing an anthropomorphic moon via cannon and only gets more berserk from there. Creator Young (Rocket Raccoon) has a knack for brutally funny dialog and presents the action in a candy-colored, supercute style, making fountains of blood simultaneously horrifying and a little bit charming.
Verdict Gory, endlessly inventive, and often laugh-out-loud funny.—Tom Batten, Grafton, VA

Stavans, Ilan (text) & Santiago Cohen (illus.). Angelitos: A Graphic Novel. Mad Creek: Ohio State Univ. (Latinographix: Latinx Comics). Jan. 2018. 128p. ISBN 9780814254592. pap. $17.95. BIOGRAPHICAL F
This fictionalized tale of Catholic priest Alejandro García Durán de Lara (aka Padre Chinchachoma), who devoted his life (1935–99) to caring for the homeless children of Mexico City, portrays the struggles of youth living on the street, dealing with corrupt cops and experiencing day-to-day heartbreaking violence. The help Padre Chincha provides does not stop the misery, but it does offer some hope in their lives. Constantly harassed by police and ultimately imprisoned on false charges, Chincha befriends a young college student who assists in his work with the kids while Chincha is in jail. Then the tragic 1985 earthquake brings even more devastation to the area, including the death of Chincha. Although the story is well written and filled with drama, the layout is a bit disjointed and at times difficult to follow. The art is both simplistic and crude, not unlike some of the characters, which contrasts well with the serious subject matter.
Verdict Writer Stavans (A Critic’s Journey; Quixote) and artist Cohen (The Yiddish Fish; Before You Were Here, Mi Amor) deliver a tragic, moving story of a little-known and complicated figure in Mexican history. For teens and adults.—Lucy Roehrig, Ann Arbor Dist. Lib., MI

Taylor, Whit. Ghost Stories. Rosarium. Jan. 2018. 120p. ISBN 9780996769297. pap. $17.95. F
This new work from Glyph Award–winning writer/cartoonist Taylor (Watermelon) follows a young woman’s attempt at coming to terms with trauma and loss. Split into three parts, the collection opens with “Ghost,” in which the author meets Charles Darwin and Joseph Campbell and draws parallels to her own life using the former’s theory of evolution and the latter’s theory of the Hero with a Thousand Faces (including an encounter with a younger version of herself to drive home the point of her journey). “Wallpaper” juxtaposes close-up images of the decorative paper and other textures with diary-like narratives describing Taylor’s childhood and changes in her life and surroundings. Finally, “Makers” offers a straightforward tale of girlfriends growing apart over time.
Verdict With very personal touches throughout and a simple yet colorful visual style, this will appeal to YA as well as adult readers who appreciate semiautobiographical works.—Lucy Roehrig, Ann Arbor Dist. Lib., MI

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