Graphic Novels, April 26, 2019 | Xpress Reviews

Enjoyed best by dyed-in-the-wool comics fans, but the industry drama might also entice neophytes to the four-color world; an appealing entry point for middle schoolers through adults to Darwin’s larger story; a vibrant, no-holds-barred look at one of the most prominent artists of the 1980s

Week ending April 26, 2019

Chaykin, Howard (text & illus.) & Wil Quintana & others (illus.). Hey Kids! Comics! Vol. 1. Image. Feb. 2019. 152p. ISBN 9781534310384. pap. $16.99; ebk. ISBN 9781534313781. Rated: Mature. ROMANCE/HISTORICAL FICTION/CRIME FICTION
Three people ride the wheel of fortune in the cutthroat industry of comic book publishing. Ted Whitman is an artist of color in a time when racial stereotypes rule the creative world, and he has to battle constantly for work. Benita Heindel was able to attain a job drawing crime comics, but as male artists return home from World War II she may lose her spot on the roster. Ray Clarke is an artist who can mimic others without a style of his own, but his anger-management issues and lack of vision or substance may keep him from the greatness he thinks he deserves. The characters are chimeras based on real people in the business, and the time-hopping elements attempt to express the changing fortunes and emotions of those who invented the largely forgotten frameworks for today’s pop culture juggernaut: the classic American superhero. Created by long-term iconoclast Chaykin (The Divided States of Hysteria), with colors by Quintana, this downbeat but nevertheless compelling tale juggles the narrative through multiple time periods to highlight the often sordid history of the comics industry from its inception to the present day, based in part on things Chaykin witnessed firsthand as well as long-standing oral histories.
VERDICT Enjoyed best by dyed-in-the-wool comics fans, but the industry drama might also entice neophytes to the four-color world.—Douglas Rednour, Georgia State Univ. Libs., Atlanta

Grolleau, Fabien (text) & Jérémie Royer (illus.). Darwin: An Exceptional Voyage. Nobrow. Feb. 2019. 200p. tr. from French by Serafina Vick. ISBN 9781910620502. $22.95. Rated: Teen+. SCI
Turning their attention again to a notable naturalist (after Audubon: On the Wings of the World), French author Grolleau and illustrator Royer trace the first expedition of Charles Darwin (1809–82) in graphic format. Highly eye-pleasing, accessible artwork and engaging writing bring to life Darwin’s five-year journey aboard the HMS Beagle and the discoveries that would eventually drive his theory of evolution, focusing on the young man’s development as a naturalist. This retelling stays close to Darwin’s experience, with the narrative drawn from his journals; a notable thread throughout is his horror of slavery, shown without glossing over his Victorian dismay at the lives of “savages.” Grolleau and Royer take full advantage of all the storytelling techniques in their graphic toolbox, letting readers share Darwin’s wonder and delight through a skillfully cinematic treatment: wide pans of lush land- and seascapes occupy spreads with close-ups of birds and butterflies; flashbacks and shifts in viewpoint via inventive layouts give this chapter in Darwin’s history a particularly novelistic feel.
VERDICT Not a comprehensive account, but an appealing entry point for middle schoolers through adults to Darwin’s larger story, and a delightful visual treatment for those already familiar with it.—Lisa Peet, Library Journal

redstarParisi, Paolo. Basquiat: A Graphic Novel. Laurence King. May 2019. 128p. tr. from Italian by Edward Fortes. ISBN 9781786274151. $19.99. Rated: Teen+. BIOG
Colored in a palate of pulsing reds, blues, and greens and interspersed with re-creations of journals and other textual pieces by American artist Jean-Michel Basquiat (1960–88), this work unfolds with a punk to hip-hop vibe that mirrors its subject’s life and the period and setting in which he created. Here the New York art world is itself a character, epitomized by the likes of singer/songwriter Debbie Harry and artists Keith Haring and Andy Warhol, as well as the high-powered gallery dealers who played a role in Basquiat’s rise. Author/illustrator Parisi, who has done previous graphic biographies of jazz greats (e.g., Blues for Lady Day: The Story of Billie Holiday), sees a kindred spirit at work in Basquiat, whose drive and discipline took him from graffiti provocateur to gallery star in less than a decade. The translation makes extensive use of the historical record, as the bibliography attests, while weaving in a number of voices of Basquiat’s contemporaries to paint a personal and layered portrait of the artist.
VERDICT A vibrant, no-holds-barred look at one of the most prominent artists of the 1980s. Of interest to Basquiat fans as well as those curious about the arts and cultural scene of the time.—Chris Kretz, Southampton Lib., Stony Brook Univ., NY

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