Camus/Ferrandez, Higashimura, Jacobson, Mann & Co., Moen/Nolan, Truong | Graphic Novels Reviews, November 15, 2016

Ferrandez's expressive and attractive version of Camus’s challenging parable; Carry This Book would make good inspiration for workshops; Huck the character is a treasurable creation, the book, less so

NYCC 2016: Fandom Changes Lives At this year’s New York Comic Con (NYCC), which took place October 6–9 at Manhattan’s Jacob Javits Convention Center, speaker/activist Jackson Bird showed off the politically jocular T-shirt “Granger/Lovegood 2016” (for Harry Potter characters Hermione Granger and Luna Lovegood). The panel was “Fandom for Humankind: Fans Doing Social Good,” during which Bird discussed the Harry ­Potter Alliance (HPA). With its own booth at the American Library Association (ALA) Annual and other conferences, the HPA enlists fans of J.K. Rowling’s stories to work for equality, human rights, and literacy, doing voter registration and pairing with devotees of Suzanne Collins’s “The Hunger Games” novels for the Odds in Our Favor project addressing real-life economic inequalities. The HPA’s Fandom Forward effort provides toolkits for bringing community activism to fans of other stories with a strong “good vs. evil” vibe.

Another speaker on the panel represented Random Acts, engaging fans of the TV series Supernatural in social projects. Wayward Daughters, a project affiliated with Random Acts, brings together Supernatural fans to push for a spin-off focusing on the strong female characters in the series. “We will give our lives for our stories, the fictions we create,” said Christopher Gebhardt, of Stir Strategy and Story. Any of these groups could supply ideas for compelling library-based programming. Additional panels also addressed how comics drive social change: “Comics and Politics,” “Comics Uniting Nations,” and “Comics with a Message.”

Like last year, over 30 well-attended sessions discussed comics for/by/about diverse people: 12 sessions relating to race, 12 to gender, six to LGBTQ interests, and three to disability. A takeaway: disabled people want to write and act their own stories, instead of having stories involving disability created primarily by the nondisabled.

ALA ran four panels for librarians, covering body diversity in comics, reluctant readers, working with comic shops, and holding a library comic con.

As for the industry, millions of dollars have transformed into billions as if by Harry Potter wizardry. At ICv2’s insider conference on the market, Milton Griepp proclaimed that sales in 2015 (comic books, graphic novels, digital comics) grossed over $1 billion for the first time. And speaker Rob Salkowitz estimated that the total yearly economic impact of North American pop culture fan conventions exceeds $4 billion: ticket costs, con-centered transactions, and income to local businesses. For more NYCC coverage, see “Top Library Panels” (ow.ly/vGYb305w3Ig) and “Picturing History, Comics Creators in Conversation” (ow.ly/3vXL305w4C7).—MC

Camus, Albert (text) & Jacques Ferrandez (text & illus.). The Stranger. Pegasus. Jun. 2016. 144p. tr. from French by Sandra Smith. ISBN 9781681771359. $25.95. LIT

Meursault is sentenced to death for murder because he does not show culturally prescribed emotions, particularly at his mother’s funeral. A dispassionate fellow driven mostly by sensations and detached curiosity, he savors sex with the charming Marie as well as the sights, sounds, and smells of his city, Algiers. But in befriending Raymond Sintès, a bully obsessed with petty revenge, his detachment leads him to kill unintentionally Sintès’s enemy in his stead. Camus’s classic novel elaborates on the nature of meaning and absurdity, and how religion, social expectations, love, and sensations influence us. Himself born in Algiers, Ferrandez (The Guest) excels with the pale vistas and brilliant light of Algeria, almost a character in the story. For many pages, the narrative panels float on larger watercolor landscapes or cityscapes that seem to shimmer. The figures appear somewhat static by contrast, embodying Meursault’s disconnected viewpoint. No commentary is provided, leaving readers to interpret events for themselves. VERDICT This expressive and attractive version of Camus’s challenging parable makes a fine introduction to the work for older teens through adults.—MC

Higashimura, Akiko. Princess Jellyfish. Vol. 2. Kodansha. Jun. 2016. 376p. notes. ISBN 9781632362292. pap. $19.99; ebk. ISBN 9781682332795. F

A reclusive nest of celibate fangirls crosses fates with a rich political family in this appealing josei (women’s) manga. Tsukimi adores jellyfish, while her housemates obsess over Ichimatsu dolls, trains, or Romance of the Three Kingdoms. Then two half brothers from the family fall for Tsukimi: the elder Shu, a rising star in politics yet a 30-year-old virgin, and the younger Kuranosuke, an eccentric with an unconventional wardrobe. Yet Shu seems easy prey for Shoko, a glamorous and manipulative real-estate agent who wishes to replace Tsukimi’s building with a high-rise hotel. Can loves and lodgings get sorted out? ­Higashimura’s series recalls Paradise Kiss in its Pygmalionesque theme of urchin-turned-princess by a besotted artist. The drawings integrate awkward as well as graceful depictions, and a gentle send-up of girlie clichés, roses, hearts, and romantic fantasies populate the pages. ­VERDICT With winsome charm ­characteristic of shojo manga but aimed at slightly older audiences, this cockeyed, award-winning soap opera about not fitting in is up to 16 volumes in Japan. There is also an anime and a live-action film. Note amusing, nonsexual gender switches.—MC

Jacobson, Abbi. Carry This Book. Viking. Oct. 2016. 144p. ISBN 9780735221598. pap. $25; ebk. ISBN 9780735223240. GRAPHIC NOVELS

carrythisbook-jpg111416What would Martha Stewart carry with her? Sigmund Freud? Homer Simpson? Ben Franklin? Jacobson (Color This Book; writer/actress, Broad City) conjures tongue-in-cheek take-alongs for over 50 people, both real and imaginary. Donald Trump’s gear includes a comb labeled “Make Your Hair Great Again” and a copy of Building Walls for Dummies. Barbie totes a key ring jingling with 11 keys: secret agent motorcycle, sparkle style salon, and more. Santa sports a jeweled watch showing six time zones and packs baggies for all the cookies left out for him. The whimsical drawings are all hand-colored with bright markers and captioned as if by the “owner.” Each object carries nuggets of story as Jacobson asks, in essence, what the things we carry say about us? The humor is more gentle than savage—a condom in Stewart’s purse because “you never know” is as edgy as it gets. VERDICT As an exercise in creativity or as a way of understanding history, this would make good inspiration for workshops for middle schoolers through adults. Fans of Roz Chast and Kate Beaton will breeze through it with great enjoyment.—MC

Jones, Sabrina. Our Lady of Birth Control: A Cartoonist’s Encounter with Margaret Sanger. Soft Skull. Jul. 2016. 160p. bibliog. ISBN 9781593766405. pap. $19.95. BIOG

Thanks to the Catholic Church and antisex crusader Anthony Comstock, “Tell Jake to sleep on the roof” was the state of contraception education when Margaret Sanger (1879–1966) worked as a nurse before World War I. But Sanger captivated and bullied both friends and foes to establish birth control as an acceptable practice for Americans, and supported ­development of “the Pill.” Clever, flirtatious, and obsessed with the tragedy of unwanted pregnancy, she loved physical passion herself and recruited her husbands and lovers to assist her. Jones (Race To Incarcerate) intercuts her own activism with Sanger’s story, bitterly noting Rush Limbaugh’s 2012 shaming of Sandra Fluke for testifying in Washington that college women need health-care plans covering contraception. Heavy, swirling black drawings convey the force behind both Sanger’s and the author’s concerns. ­VERDICT The feminist slogan “the personal is political” was never more apt as when considering contraception, and Jones’s account shows how one committed person can change the world. For teens and adults interested in activism and women’s issues. Includes some sexual depictions. See also Peter Bagge’s outstanding Woman Rebel.—MC

Mann, George (text) & Emma Vieceli & others (illus.). Doctor Who. The Eighth Doctor. Vol. 1: A Matter of Life and Death. Titan. Jun. 2016. 128p. ISBN 9781782767534. $19.99; ebk. ISBN 9781785856112. SF

doctorwhoeight-jpg111416Only the first and last exploits of the Eighth Doctor have ever been filmed, but his adventures in between have been chronicled in a long series of novels, audio dramas, and comics. Mann, who has written “Doctor Who” stories in all three of those formats, introduces a new companion for him here. When the Doctor returns to his old house on Earth he finds a squatter there: artist Josie Day, whose paintings (of alien monsters she shouldn’t be familiar with) are somehow coming to life. Josie and the Doctor’s resourcefulness is tested on an exciting multipart quest that takes them first to a planet of cat people who have been hunted to near extinction, and then to 1860s England and much further afield. The Eighth Doctor’s romantic idealism is well captured, and Josie shows a brave spirit kindred to his own. The artwork often favors thick outlines and bright colors in an attractive, somewhat art nouveau–esque manner, appropriate to the Doctor’s 19th-century costume. VERDICT Titan is doing a great job with its ­“Doctor Who” line; fans will be more than ­satisfied.—SR

Millar, Mark (text) & Rafael Albuquerque & Dave McCaig (illus.). Huck. Vol. 1: All-American. Image. Jul. 2016. 160p. ISBN 9781632157294. pap. $14.99; ebk. ISBN 9781534300804. GRAPHIC NOVELS

Orphaned as a child and raised by small-town foster parents, hulking gas station attendant Huck is considered slow even by his friends, but he’s really just quiet, with a simple outlook on life that’s uncommonly kind and generous. He makes sure to do one good deed a day, and some of those deeds involve using his superstrength and a miraculous ability to find lost items. After watching the 2013 Superman film Man of Steel, Millar, concerned by the continued darkening of superhero stories—a trend he had perpetuated in books such as Kick-Ass, The Ultimates, and Civil War—laudably decided to create an antithesis here. The book’s early pages, recounting Huck’s many kindnesses and his encounter with a crass politician who wants to exploit him, are genuinely sweet. Unfortunately, the story eventually veers into more familiar territory for Millar, and gets tarted up with one particularly gratuitous trashy-looking female character. The artwork, likewise, progresses from quite nice to moments of inconsistency and inelegance. Though marked as Volume 1, no continuation has been forthcoming. VERDICT Huck the character is a treasurable creation; the book, less so.—SR

redstarMoen, Erika & Matthew Nolan. Oh Joy Sex Toy. Vol. 3. Limerence: Oni. Nov. 2016. 312p. ISBN 9781620103616. pap. $29.99. Rated: M. health

Married couple Moen and Nolan are enthusiastic sex geeks, and they want to make the horizontal mambo fun and safe for everybody. Equal parts Consumer Reports and Dan Savage’s “Savage Love” column, their here-collected webcomic reviews sex toys and includes much additional content about getting up close and cozy with self and others. Vibrators, penis-pleasers, contraception, erotic techniques, lifestyle choices such as polyamory, performance sex (e.g., porn and pole dancing), plus vaginismus and sexually transmitted infections are all elucidated through two-color brushwork that’s charming, informative, funny, and explicit. The illustrative, cheeky naked figures throughout embody a wide variety of physical types, ethnicities, disabilities, and sexual preferences. A special end section features guest strips from other web cartoonists. Moen and Nolan originally self-published the first two volumes in this series, with Limerence Press, Oni’s new imprint for erotic and sex education comics, recently reprinting those titles and releasing this third volume and a forthcoming coloring book. VERDICT Promoting sex education broadly for joy and intimacy rather than a particular sexual orientation or activity, this collection makes valuable but possibly scary information much easier to think about and discuss with others. Adults only, and especially recommended for libraries in urban and university ­locations.—MC

O’Sullivan, Ryan (text) & Plaid Klaus (illus.). Turncoat. TPub. Sept. 2016. 164p. ISBN 9780992752385. pap. $14.99. superhero

In a spit-in-the-eye against superhero archetypes, this quirky tale introduces a hit man who never hits his targets—who are superheroes. In fact, Duke is a not-so-lovable loser all around, even if we sympathize with him because a superhero ruined his childhood. His ex-wife and rival assassin (drawn with unglamorous, sturdy malevolence) steals his hits and runs off with another man, who fathered the kid Duke thinks is his. But the superheroes Duke is trying to get rid of are not so likable either, especially the one impersonating Duke’s ex-wife. In fact, nobody is quite what they seem in this snarky saga, which provides nonstop, entertaining plot twists. O’Sullivan (Twisted) manages a fitting ending that surprises readers as well as Duke. Klaus (The Glimmer Society) has fun overexaggerating an already exaggerated concept with unpretty illustrations and commedia dell’arte touches, using ­coloring that varies from atmospheric to realistic to sepia flashback. VERDICT This dark and dirty satire paints blood all over superhero clichés, supplying chuckles and snorts along the way. For older teens and adults who like a dollop of “anti” with their heroes.—MC

Schulz, Charles M. The Complete Peanuts: Comics and Stories 1950 to 2000. Fantagraphics. Oct. 2016. 330p. ISBN 9781606999578. $29.99. comics

This 26th and final volume of the “Complete Peanuts” series presents selected examples of Schulz’s Peanuts work outside of newspapers, some of it quite rare. Opening with a real treasure, the first-ever complete reprint of the 17 pre-Peanuts cartoons that Schulz (1922–2000) sold to the Saturday Evening Post, it continues with work from comic books, women’s magazines, and several long-out-of-print storybooks and gag cartoon collections, including two delightful tomes spotlighting Snoopy’s writing career. Also featured is some of Schulz’s advertising work, including his 1960s ads for the Ford Falcon showcasing genuine (and funny) four-panel Peanuts strips not available elsewhere. And while the gang’s gushing praise for the car can certainly be seen as uncomfortable commercialism, it’s too bad that the selection of these strips here is not complete. Schulz’s widow, Jean, provides a very personal afterword about their life together. VERDICT The dreary and uninviting covers of the hardcover “Complete Peanuts” books do not adequately reflect the fun within. But Fantagraphics deserves much thanks for publishing a complete collection of the world’s most popular comic strip. Libraries collecting the set shouldn’t miss this fine extra volume.—SR

Truong, Marcelino. Such a Lovely Little War: Saigon 1961–63. Arsenal Pulp. Nov. 2016. 280p. tr. from French by David Homel. ISBN 9781551526478. pap. $26.95. MEMOIR

suchalovelywar-jpg111416Truong (Give Peace a Chance) experienced part of the Vietnam War as a child, living in Saigon with his Vietnamese diplomat father and patrician French mother. The upper-class family weathers shortages, bombings, and troops everywhere, while the children play at war themselves, even—disturbingly—reenacting with toy figures a Buddhist monk’s self-immolation of protest. Despite encroaching chaos and widespread suffering, little Marco doesn’t understand how serious the war is or why their parents argue. Moreover, their mother has undiagnosed bipolar disorder. Voice-over narration beyond the family’s speech balloons supplies insights from the grown-up author, now wiser and more horrified about how death and disorder accelerate despite optimistic rhetoric and heavy investment of money and men. The art style is attractive, rather blocky simplified realism in two colors, with occasional full-color panoramas. VERDICT Revealing the past fruits of a mishandled American collaboration, the story highlights the complexity of international policies on both personal and political levels. A solid choice for adults and teens interested in history and politics, especially relating to Southeast Asia. See also GB Tran’s ­Vietnamerica.—MC

Martha Cornog is a longtime reviewer for LJ and, with Timothy Perper, edited Graphic Novels Beyond the Basics: Insights and Issues for Libraries (Libraries Unlimited, 2009). Steve Raiteri is Audiovisual Librarian at the Greene County Public Library in Xenia, OH, where he started the graphic novel collection in 1996

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