Graphic Novels by Perez and Boydell, Ridley & Others, and Voloj & Campi | Xpress Reviews

Week ending May 18, 2018

Perez, Michelle (text) & Remy Boydell (illus.). The Pervert. Image. Apr. 2018. 160p. ISBN 9781534307414. pap. $17.99. Rated: Mature. FICTIONAL BIOG
Fictionalizing her own experiences and those of people she’s known, writer Perez recounts episodes (some selections previously published in Island anthology) documenting the life of transgender sex worker Felina Love. This isn’t champagne-glamorous, high-class stuff but a sometimes bloody obstacle course undertaken at great risk to stay alive, solvent, and sane. For while Seattle offers Felina more permissive ambiance than did her childhood home in Michigan, threats and bullying plus physical and psychological danger lurk everywhere for a person perceived as neither fully male nor female. Her sometimes tormented customers don’t have an easy time of it either. Boydell’s (Emergency!; Recovery Blogger) anthropomorphic watercolor art provides a manageable distance between readers and characters while lending ironic poignancy. Felina’s sexual life, both professional and personal, is depicted candidly, yet in Boydell’s hands the effect is dispassionate, not titillating.
Verdict A challenging, intense, and empathic account of finding oneself despite heavy odds.—Martha Cornog, Philadelphia

Ridley, John (text) & Georges Jeanty & others (illus.). The American Way. Vol. 2: Those Above and Those Below. Vertigo. Apr. 2018. 144p. ISBN 9781401278359. pap. $16.99; ebk. ISBN 9781401284039. Rated: Mature. SUPERHEROES
Oscar-winning screenwriter Ridley (12 Years a Slave; American Crime) continues his alternate history of superheroes still reeling from years of manipulation by the U.S. government in this compelling story that began with The American Way, moving the time line ten years ahead into the tumultuous 1970s. Outside of a few fight scenes, superpowers take a backseat to struggles of loyalty and conscience, as Jason Fisher, Missy Devereaux, and Amber Eaton embark on conflicting paths of service to their communities and country. Joined by artist Jeanty (Buffy the Vampire Slayer; The American Way) and a large cast of contributing illustrators, Ridley uses his characters’ struggles to illuminate the complex racial, political, and cultural conflicts of the period. Because the narrative is split among several players, there is not enough time to explore their various motivations, which would benefit readers who missed the first volume. Still, overall, it does not impede the experience for newcomers, who will enjoy this riveting, nonromantic portrayal of life as a superhero. Collects single issues 1–6.
Verdict Evoking Alan Moore’s Watchmen and Garth Ennis and Darick Robertson’s The Boys, though less explicitly graphic in content, this series will resonate with fans of gritty superhero stories with provocative social commentary.—Tammy Ivins, Univ. of North Carolina at Wilmington

Voloj, Julian (text) & Thomas Campi (illus.). The Joe Shuster Story: The Artist Behind Superman. Super Genius: Papercutz. May 2018. 180p. notes. ISBN 9781629917771. $24.99; ebk. ISBN 9781545801932. GRAPHIC BIOG
Voloj (Ghetto Brother) and Campi (Magritte) offer a behind-the-scenes look at the creation of Superman, celebrating 80 years in comics this month. More than just a straight biography of the character, this is equal parts exploration of the superhero’s conception by writer Jerry Siegel and artist Joe Shuster (1914–92) in 1933 as well as the comics industry in mid-20th-century America. Reflecting the strained relationships between creators and publishers, it further delves into the prickly issue of censorship and the 1950s hysteria concerning the influence of comics on children, resulting in the formation of the Comics Code Authority. Voloj’s extensive research, supported by voluminous archival sources, creates an authoritative work on both Shuster and Superman. Campi’s soft and diffused midcentury illustrations bring readers easily into the 1930s Midwest, where Superman was first imagined.
Verdict Recommended for fans of the iconic Superman, those with an interest in the history of the comics industry, and pop culture enthusiasts.—Lewis Parsons, Sawyer Free Lib., Gloucester, MA

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