Graphic Novels by Atkins/Finnegan, Kaye, Oum & Others, Semahn & Co., and a Las Vegas Tribute | Xpress Reviews

A stark recounting of an Atkins novel of the same name, featuring black-and-white artwork that is coarse and blunt; Kaye’s deeply personal account serves as a universal guide to perseverance and strength; newcomers will be lost, since there is the expectation that readers are already familiar with the main story lines; a great read for fans of modern thrillers; this wrenching and inspiring read deserves prominent display in all public and high school libraries
Week ending June 22, 2018 Atkins, Ace (text) & Marco Finnegan & Troy Peteri (illus.). Crossroad Blues: A Nick Travers Graphic Novel. Image. May 2018. 144p. ISBN 9781534306486. pap. $14.99. Rated: Mature. MYS/THRILLER Blues historian Nick Travers has been trying to raise funds for a documentary about famous bluesman Guitar Slim but is sidetracked by attempts to locate a particularly well-versed professor of music history who has gone missing. Little does Travers know that his path will take him into the dreaded shadows of dark blues legends such as the cryptic Robert Johnson and up against eccentric characters, including a mystical black albino and a goat-loving hit man who looks and sounds like Elvis Presley. Enveloped in an ominous, surreal world of greed, secrets, and ruthless men, Travers is soon in over his head and forced to take action when his kidnapped girlfriend is used as a negotiating chip by murderers. Verdict Best-selling author Atkins (“Quinn Colson” series) and artist Finnegan (Lost Fair Gone Down), with letterer Peteri (Witchblade), realize a stark recounting of an Atkins novel of the same name, featuring black-and-white artwork that is coarse and blunt and a script that at times is static and ambiguous. Blues and urban legend buffs may find this entertaining.—Russell Miller, formerly with Prescott P.L., AZ Kaye, Julia. Super Late Bloomer: My Early Days in Transition; An Up and Out Collection. Andrews McMeel. May 2018. 160p. ISBN 9781449489625. pap. $14.99. COMICS/MEMOIR After years of discomfort and doubt, Kaye (Disney TV Animation’s Big City Greens) found solace in documenting her journey of transitioning as a trans woman through creating art. Told in black-and-white comic strips that originally appeared in the webcomic Up and Out, her story begins four months into receiving hormone replacement therapy and covers most of the following year. In a simple yet engaging style, the illustrations provide a series of snapshots: moments as ordinary as shopping for new clothes and as profound as learning to recognize one’s own reflection. As with Sabrina Symington’s First Year Out: A Transition Story, readers get a look into the transition process, from hormone pills to face-laser appointments, yet it’s the emotional impact that comes through the strongest. An introduction describes the author’s life leading up to transition, while a letter to her younger self concludes the volume on a note of affirmation. Verdict Kaye’s deeply personal account serves as a universal guide to perseverance and strength. For those contemplating gender transition or currently transitioning as well as anyone seeking a greater understanding of the physical and emotional cost involved in the process.—Chris Kretz, Southampton Lib., Stony Brook Univ., NY Oum, Monty & others. RWBY: Official Manga Anthology. Vol. 1: Red Like Roses. Viz Media. May 2018. 184p. tr. from Japanese by Joe Yamazaki. ISBN 9781974701575. pap. $12.99. Rated: Teen. MANGA Team RWBY takes its name from leader Ruby and members Weiss, Blake, and Yang: four girls studying to become Huntresses on the world of Remnant to battle demonlike creatures called Grimm. Beginning as a viral anime hit by the late creator Oum and Internet company Rooster Teeth, the series’ manga adaptation is more recent, with this first anthology of short vignettes mainly featuring different slices of Ruby’s life, from her initial insecurity as a leader to her sudden decision to hunt for a boyfriend to her enrollment in Beacon Academy to train as a Huntress. The artwork maintains consistency throughout, helping to tie all the pieces together, with small distinctions among the various contributing artists denoting their individual strengths. Verdict Fans of the anime will enjoy this collection, which adds depth to the characters’ backgrounds, but newcomers will be lost, since there is the expectation that readers are already familiar with the main story lines. Recommended for libraries where the anime is popular.—Melanie C. Duncan, Washington Memorial Lib., Macon, GA Semahn, Jacob (text) & Jorge Corona & others (illus.). No. 1 with a Bullet. Vol. 1. Image. Jun. 2018. 184p. ISBN 9781534306714. pap. $17.99. Rated: Teen+. HORROR/SF Social media maven Nash Huang’s life is turned upside down when a secretly recorded sex tape goes viral. As she struggles to retain what’s left of her identity in the ensuing chaos, a superfan calling himself “Your No. 1” emerges from the digital world, taunting Nash online and inserting himself into her physical environment. The writer/illustrator team of Semahn and Corona (GONERS), joined by colorist Jen Hickman and letterer Steve Wands, use a striking combination of jarring and moody visuals and a suspenseful mystery to probe the potential ramifications of technological progress, addressing current concerns with cybersecurity, privacy, and the troubling double standards applied to women and their sexuality. Nash’s ability to see is filtered in Corona’s Eisner Award–nominated cover, which cautions us to be wary of truth and fiction on the Internet and how privacy is always disregarded if there’s something juicy to be gained. Collects single issues 1–6 of the ongoing series. Verdict A great read for fans of modern thrillers, this frightening story powerfully echoes real-world experiences of what happens when people lose control of their digital image. Explicit themes and language make this recommended for older teens and adults.—Jackie Watkins, Kennesaw State Univ. Lib., GA starred review starWhere We Live: A Benefit for the Survivors in Las Vegas. Image. May 2018. 256p. ed. by Will Dennis & others. ISBN 9781534308220. pap. $19.99. Rated: Teen+. ANTHOLOGIES The graphic anthology 9-11: Emergency Relief raised money for the Red Cross. The recent Love Is Love supported victims of the Pulse nightclub shooting, while Puerto Rico Strong assisted Hurricane Maria disaster relief. Now Las Vegas residents and curators J.H. Williams III (Batwoman; The Sandman: Overture) and wife Wendy Wright-Williams offer a collection of 75 short comics from creators around the world in response to the 2017 mass shooting, the worst in modern American history. Eyewitness accounts, quirky parables and allegories, commentaries from varied viewpoints, and fictional entries about violence, victims, and community comprise this devastating, kaleidoscopic work compiled by former DC/Vertigo editor Dennis, with assistant Michael Perlman. The more than 160 contributors, including numerous comics luminaries—Neil Gaiman, Mike Mignola, Gail Simone, and Fábio Moon as well as curator Williams—present various art styles that collectively exhibit beauty, thoughtfulness, and visceral punch in depicting tragedy and compassion: how “Everything matters. Everyone matters.” Proceeds will be donated to Route 91 Strong. Verdict This wrenching and inspiring read deserves prominent display in all public and high school libraries to encourage meditation, understanding, and discussion among everyone willing to look beyond the headlines.—Martha Cornog, Philadelphia

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