Graphic Novels, December 21, 2018 | Xpress Reviews

This lively, compulsively readable rendition makes the irony, insight, and humor of the epic accessible and even fun; collecting works first published by Vess’s Green Man Press, this is an excellent introduction to folk ballads for anyone interested in fairy tales and folklore

Week ending December 21, 2018

Dixon, Kent H. (text) & Kevin H. Dixon (illus.). The Epic of Gilgamesh. Seven Stories. May 2018. 204p. tr. from Sumerian by Kent H. Dixon. ISBN 9781609807931. pap. $19.95; ebk. ISBN 9781609807948. Rated: Teen+. LIT
Uruk’s bully-king Gilgamesh gets a gift from the gods: a strongman buddy to keep the randy young monarch out of trouble. It’s bromance at first sight, and Gilgamesh and new sidekick Enkidu sally forth to kill an intestine-faced monster and chop down his forest. Each adventure leads to the next, but before long the goddess Ishtar sets a celestial bull on the lads since Gilgamesh has spurned her affections. The bull quickly succumbs to the warrior pals, yet soon Gilgamesh finds himself in the Underworld—and confronting mortality. Graphic narrative goes back to cave paintings, so it’s fitting that comics retell the world’s oldest surviving literary tale as adapted by scholar-translator Kent Dixon (contributor, The Graphic Canon), which spools out in cartoony, hyperhatched black-and-white drawings from son Kevin (... And Then There Was Rock), recalling Robert Crumb’s creations crossed with The Simpsons and a sly homage to classic characters.
VERDICT This lively, compulsively readable rendition makes the irony, insight, and humor of the epic accessible and even fun. Humans haven’t changed much in 5,000 years, a cautionary message for us all. For high school through adult readers who enjoy over-the-top quest stories.—Martha Cornog, Philadelphia

Vess, Charles (illus.) with Neil Gaiman & others (text). The Book of Ballads and Sagas. Titan. Dec. 2018. 240p. ISBN 9781782763321. pap. $29.99. Rated: Teen+. FANTASY
Gathering traditional English, Irish, and Scottish ballads, this volume features tales inspired by original fairy tales and folklore, retold by acclaimed fantasy writers such as Gaiman (Sandman;Stardust), Charles de Lint (“Newford” series; A Circle of Cats), Jeff Smith (Bone), Sharyn McCrumb ( The Ballad of Frankie Silver), Elaine Lee (Starstruck), and Jane Yolen (The Devil’s Arithmetic) and illustrated by Eisner Award winner Vess (Stardust; Tanglewood Forest). Although some stories may feel incomplete or abrupt, each entry stands alone and explores a facet of folklore. Combined with Vess’s intricate artwork, the exposition of fantasy themes, including the supernatural, romance, and terror, will draw readers to the genre. Vess’s black-and-white line art sets the mood, capturing a ballad’s sense of uncanniness, tragedy, or mystery that would be difficult to express through narrative alone.
VERDICT Collecting works first published by Vess’s Green Man Press, this is an excellent introduction to folk ballads for anyone interested in fairy tales and folklore. Recommended for teens and adults for language and explicit content.—Jackie Watkins, Kennesaw State Univ. Lib., GA

LJ Reviews

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