Graphic Novels, April 19, 2019 | Xpress Reviews

Meet the new standard for sequential art adaptations of literature—in no way a replacement for Atwood’s singular work but an ideal introduction and gateway text; for comprehensive horror collections; transforms rock horror imagery into a superhero escapade

Week ending April 19, 2019

redstarAtwood, Margaret (text) & Renée Nault (text & illus.). The Handmaids Tale: The Graphic Novel. Nan A. Talese: Doubleday. Mar. 2019. 240p. ISBN 9780385539241. $22.95; ebk. ISBN 9780385544856. Rated: Mature. F
In this version of the lauded titular prose novel by Atwood ( Angel Catbird), Canadian illustrator Nault (Witchling) excels as both artist and adapter: the ascetic horror of the Republic of Gilead is conveyed not with cheaply grotesque imagery but with the color drained from almost everything that doesn’t conform to the limited palette described in the original story. There are bursts of color in black-and-white drawings for particular sequences, with events and artifacts from an earlier time depicted with the softer hues and slight haziness often associated with memory, making for a dramatic shift from the former to the latter during handmaid Offred’s attempted escape from Gilead. The oft-strident content is obviously not for everyone, but no reader will deny the power of its horrifying, humorless satire. Those familiar with the source material—love or hate it—will be amazed at how thoroughly its essence, message, motifs, and atmosphere of stultification and oppression are captured.
VERDICT Meet the new standard for sequential art adaptations of literature—in no way a replacement for Atwood’s singular work but an ideal introduction and gateway text. Highly recommended if not essential for all mature readers of graphic novels and contemporary literature. Violent, profane, sexual, and disturbing content. For older teens and up. [See “Spring Awakenings,” LJ 2/19, p. 19.]—J. Osicki, Saint John Free P.L., NB

Chapman, Clay McLeod (text) & Jey Levang & Aditya Bidikar (illus.). Lazaretto. Vol. 1. BOOM! Studios. Jan. 2019. 128p. ISBN 9781684152773. pap. $16.99. Rated: Mature. HORROR
College should be the start of the best days of one’s life, not the end of days. But a student, appropriately named Mary, exposes the Yersin University campus to the latest pandemic, “canine flu.” Mary’s roommate Tamara, a blonde-haired, devoutly religious introvert, isn’t sure she even wants the college experience. And there’s young African American Charles, who is afraid to tell his parents his career choice let alone his sexual preference. Tamara and Charles gravitate toward each other as their only sanity in a world where the government has stepped in and quarantined their dorm while providing little to no help to those trapped inside. When one of the RAs gets sicker and decides the dorm is his own private domain, the real bloodbath begins. Playwright Chapman (American Vampire) hits most college stereotypes with his characters (religious virgin, closeted gay, dope-dealing roomie, power-tripping RA) but still delivers a harsh indictment of the political/medical system that turns the ill into lab rats trapped at the mercy of faceless saviors in hazmat gear. The cover art from Ignacio Valicenti (Rayne) is gorgeous, while interior illustrations by Levang (Rebels and Other Stories) are chaotic, rough, and bloody.
VERDICT Recommended only for libraries with comprehensive horror collections or where patrons request.—Melanie C. Duncan, Washington Memorial Lib., Macon, GA

Lazar, Emily & others (text) & Marc Silvestri & others (illus.). September Mourning: The Complete Collection.Vol. 1. Top Cow: Image. Apr. 2019. 128p. ISBN 9781534310308. pap. $16.99; ebk. ISBN 9781534314283. Rated: Mature. FANTASY/HORROR
Death’s natural process is perverted when the cosmic being Fate blocks the entrance to the world beyond the living so that the dead have nowhere to go. Instead of an afterlife, the deceased are absorbed by Fate to give him strength. Forever hungry, Fate sends out his army of Reapers to replenish his soul larder. One Reaper dares to stand against this status quo and offers part of his power to a human before being captured. Half-human, half-Reaper September Mourning has the ability to rebalance some of Fate’s cruelty by hiding a small lucky group of souls in her own safe space as well as give those unjustly killed a second chance at life. Fate watches September’s noble efforts, which leads to a confrontation between the insidious creature’s grim Reaper army and September’s ragtag band of companions. Collects single issues 1–4. This tie-in novel for the gothic rock band September Mourning, cocreated by September’s onstage alter ego musician/creator Lazar and artist Silvestri (X-Men), joined by writers Mariah McCourt and David Hine and illustrator Tina Valentino, centers on a dense concept that only occasionally overcomes confused plotting.
VERDICT The resulting gothic adventure ultimately transforms rock horror imagery into a superhero escapade worthy of the dark denizens of late-night clubs.—Douglas Rednour, Georgia State Univ. Libs., Atlanta

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