Category: book review

Graphic Novel Review: Kairos by Ulysse Malassagne

Kairos by Ulysse Malassagne. English translation by Anne and Owen Smith. First Second, 2020. 9781250209610. 190pp. http://www.powells.com/book/-9781250209610?partnerid=34778&p_bt Nils and Anaelle are spending a few days at a remote cabin. On the first night, everything is peaceful until the fireplace erupts in a blue explosion. Armored and sword-wielding dragons appear from another world, and it quickly becomes clear they’re there for Anaelle. In the fight that soon follows, she’s much more of a badass than she seemed. But the dragons capture her and take her through the portal. Nils isn’t going to just let that happen, so he leaps through in pursuit. What follows is a fresh take on the rescue-the-princess fantasy subgenre. Anaelle’s parents want her to marry, to keep their power intact. (She’s to marry her father, which no one is excited about.) Nils has little but his recklessness and his anger to help him save the woman he loves. Turns out that, along with a few new friends, […]

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Graphic Novel Review: Familiar Face by Michael Deforge

Familiar Face by Michael Deforge. Drawn & Quarterly, 2020. 9781770463875. 176pp. The people and the city in Deforge’s latest graphic novel are continually optimized and updated, without warning and seemingly at random. It’s all supposed to be an improvement (but it’s clearly not); the new body you wake up in may not be intuitive, and the street you’re driving on may suddenly have no exit. The narrator is struggling because of her job in the complaints department. (The complaints are shown in triangular panels, in black and white, and some information is redacted.) She can’t discuss the complaints with the woman she’s in a relationship with, Jessica, who also can’t tell her about her own work in the city’s maps department. And then one day Jessica is gone from the apartment they share. This is a very lonely book. The anthropomorphic search engine is the friendliest thing about it, and the complaints are the most amusing. But they’re not amusing […]

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Graphic Novel Review: Arlo & Pips: King of the Birds by Elise Gravel

Arlo & Pips: King of the Birds by Elise Gravel. HarperAlley, 2020. 9780062982223. 64pp. Arlo (a crow) and Pips (a small, yellow bird) look for food and shiny things. As they chat, Arlo reveals (as he brags about and shows off) facts about crows. Basically Arlo thinks he’s the greatest, cleverest, most beautiful kind of bird in the world. Even though Pip tries to set him straight, Arlo won’t even admit that any aspect of being a crow is anything less than great. This includes his harsh singing voice (caw!), though it is amazing how Arlo and other crows can imitate sounds though, including voices and even car horns. This is different in format from Gravel’s nonfiction Disgusting Critters series, but equally enjoyable and a little more silly. In 2020 she also produced four new books in that series: The Bat, The Toad, The Cockroach, and The Mosquito. If I’d read these books as a kid, I’d probably have become […]

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Book Review: Deadbomb Bingo Ray by Jeff Johnson

Deadbomb Bingo Ray by Jeff Johnson. Turner, 2017. 9781683367246. 277pp. Deadbomb Bingo Ray is part of Philadelphia’s criminal underworld, a man with a reputation for creative problem solving and getting revenge on those who try to cross him. And yet someone is trying to take him out. There are folks on his tail, a woman who says she’s trying to hire him (he knows she has other motives), and a hit squad or two. Ray is clearly going to survive the adventure — he over prepares and over thinks every aspect of his safety as if it’s his superpower — but the question is will everyone else in his life make it through unscathed? Specifically the physicist he unexpectedly finds himself falling in love with, and his sweet little dog? Ray also has a hilarious secretary, and his buddy / partner Skuggy, a sometimes dapper dude who demands his favorite meal before he’ll get to work with Ray. This is […]

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Graphic Novel Review: Aspara Engine by Bishakh Som

Aspara Engine by Bishakh Som. The Feminist Press at CUNY, 2020. 9781936932818. 250pp. Oversized, full color. The eight stories in Bishakh Som’s oversized graphic novel have such subtle colors that, in some case, I wondered if I was imagining the tint of the ink wash. It’s a marvelous effect, and it goes hand in hand with conversations that feel both real and unreal, and with story elements both fantastic and futuristic. I can’t recommend this book enough, but it’s hard to talk about without spoiling things. Issues of gender, identity and queerness are addressed in many of the stories. There’s a mermaid, a “pet” that freaked me out, a humiliated “stalker” who I somehow felt a little bad for, and an unexpected, elegant bit of time travel It’s worth noting that I started reading Aspara Engine a few times before my brain clicked with its pace, and then I couldn’t put it down. I’m currently enjoying Som’s graphic memoir, Spellbound, […]

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Graphic Novel Reviews: Batman: Overdrive and Wonder Woman: Tempest Tossed.

Batman: Overdrive by Shea Fontana, illustrated by Marcelo Di Chiara. DC Comics, 2020. 9781401283568. 336pp. Part of the DC Graphic Novels for Kids line. Fifteen-year-old Bruce Wayne is learning martial arts, sneaking out of his house to try his hand as a hoodied vigilante, and trying to solve his parents’ murder. Out to find parts to restore a muscle car that belonged to his father, he meets Mateo Diaz, and the pair end up chasing a familiar cat burglar stealing from Diaz’s uncle’s scrapyard. It’s not too long before Diaz and Selena Kyle are helping Bruce work on the car, and then helping him go up against Gotham City’s Falcone crime family. There’s a bit of romance, and a lot more teen angst than I’ve seen in most books “for kids” but this is enjoyable. (Maybe DC needs a branded line of tween graphic novels?)     Wonder Woman: Tempest Tossed by Laurie Halse Anderson, Illustrated by Leila Del Duca. […]

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Graphic Novel Review: Water Memory by Valérie Vernay and Mathieu Reynès

Water Memory by Valérie Vernay (artist and colorist) and Mathieu Reynès (writer). Roar, 2017. 9781941302439. 96pp. plus some drawings and reference photos in a graphic journal at the end. Marion and her mom, Caroline, move to Caroline’s childhood house in a small seaside town. Her marriage recently ended, her mother has just passed away, and no one has lived in the house for thirty years. It has a great view that includes a lighthouse, kind neighbors, and a bit of mystery — what’s the meaning of the strange rocks around town, and the carvings on them? Do they have anything to do with the cranky old loner who lives in the lighthouse? Marion is not a brilliant teen detective, but she’s just enough of a snoop to keep the plot rolling along. She asks her mom’s new boss about her grandfather, who went out in his boat one day and didn’t come back. Gradually she finds out more and more […]

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Book Review: IQ by Joe Ide

IQ by Joe Ide. Mulholland Books, 2016. 9780316267731. 321pp. plus an excerpt from the next book in the series. IQ is the nickname of Isaiah Quintabe, a brilliant young man from a poor Los Angeles suburb who was raised by his elder brother. Isaiah helps people out, solving small mysteries, often for free, and generally trying to do the right thing. But now he needs cash, and his former roommate, Dodson, has brought him a plum job: someone tried to kill rapper Black the Knife, aka Calvin Wright. If they can solve the crime (Dodson insists they’re partners), they’ll share a $50,000 bonus. Chapters alternate past with present, showing the story of IQ’s relationship with the irritating and amusing Dodson as he tries to solve the crime. IQ once used his intellect to help them commit amazing robberies, back when he was first trying to figure out how to survive without his brother, and that has had a huge impact […]

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Graphic Novel Review: Katie the Catsitter written by Colleen AF Venable, illustrated by Stephanie Yu, colors by Braden Lamb

Katie the Catsitter written by Colleen AF Venable, illustrated by Stephanie Yu, colors by Braden Lamb. Random House Children’s Books, 2021. 9781984895639. 206pp of story plus amazing introductions to Venable and Yu at the end of the book. Katie is looking for ways to earn money so that she can attend an expensive summer camp with her friends. She advertises that she’s available to do jobs in her building, but nothing works out until her neighbor, Ms. Lang, asks her to start cat sitting. It’s a great gig, but there are 217 super smart cats with amazing skills (hacker, seamstress, artist, etc.) in her apartment, and cats aren’t allowed in the building. (On the upside none of them uses a litter box, and though they’re messy they do take care of their messes.) Katie begins to suspect that Ms. Lang is secretly the masked villain (or is she a hero?) known as The Mousetress, who seems to be targeting people […]

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Graphic Novel Review: Poems To See By: A Comic Artist Interprets Great Poetry by Julian Peters

Poems To See By: A Comic Artist Interprets Great Poetry by Julian Peters. Plough Publishing House, 2020. 9780874863185. 168pp. (24 poems) I was an English major. I slogged through most of the poetry I had to read, and it’s always hard to find poems that I love (though I do love a few). I recognized most of the poets in Peters’ book, and even a few of the individual poems (though I hadn’t read most of them). An image of the table of contents is included with the review if you want to see what’s in the book. I tell you all of that because I wasn’t super excited about this book before reading it, but it absolutely wowed me. The images Peters uses vary from abstract and colorful to realistic and black and white. One poem is drawn in manga style, while others looks like they belong in an American newspaper or the best of indie graphic novels that […]

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