The latest crop of graphic novels includes an adaptation of Octavia Butler’s classic time-travel novel Kindred, a witty reboot of The Flintstones, and two superhero stories, one that takes itself seriously and one that doesn’t. A couple of action and suspense stories and a comic-book Philosophy 101 course round out this season’s offerings, with plenty to read for every taste.
BUTLER, Octavia. Kindred. adapt. by Damian Duffy. illus. by John Jennings. Abrams. Jan. 2017. ISBN 9781419709470
Gr 7 Up—Jennings and Duffy bring a new immediacy to Butler’s classic time-travel novel. Dana, a black woman, and her husband Kevin, who is white, live in the 1970s, but suddenly Dana is yanked back to 19th-century Maryland, a time and place where, as a black woman, she has no agency at all. In order to survive, she must quickly learn to adapt to this strange world, including living as a slave. The violence is wrenching at times, but never over the top; what’s more disturbing, ultimately, is seeing this story through the eyes of someone who has been rendered powerless by the society around her.
GUDSNUK, Kristen. Henchgirl. Dark Horse. Mar. 2017. ISBN 9781506701448
Gr 9 Up—Mary Posa is a member of a butterfly-themed criminal gang, but she’s too soft to be a real baddie—until her boss injects her with a special serum to make her extra evil. Henchgirl is a lighthearted send-up of superhero comics, featuring a group of 20-somethings, some of whom have superpowers (one grows carrots out of her arm) and others who don’t. This 320-page graphic novel collects the first 11 issues of the comic, which was originally published by Scout Comics.
MASTERS, Ollie. Snow Blind. illus. by Tyler Jenkins. BOOM! Studios. Jan. 2017. ISBN 9781608869251
Gr 9 Up—After he posts a goofy photo of his father on the Internet, a teenager learns that his family is in the witness protection program—and a figure from the past shows up to settle an old score. Violent but not gory, Snow Blind is a suspense tale that at its heart is really about identity and family. Set in Alaska, this graphic novel has a strong sense of atmosphere, heightened by Jenkins’s beautiful—and surprisingly colorful—watercolor art.
NADLER, Steven. Heretics! illus. by Ben Nadler. Princeton University Pr. Jun. 2017. ISBN 9780691168692
Gr 9 Up—Nadler, a professor of philosophy at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, provides a quick introduction to the basic figures and concepts of modern philosophy as it was developed in the 17th century. René Descartes, Francis Bacon, Baruch Spinoza, and other philosophers pop up to discuss, and sometimes argue, about the nature of matter, the existence of God, mind-body dualism, the structure of society, and even the existence of knowledge itself. The authors use quotes from the philosophers themselves and quickly place them in historical context, and the lively illustrations keep the narrative from getting bogged down.
RUSSELL, Mark. The Flintstones, Vol. 1. illus. by Steve Pugh. DC. Mar 2017. ISBN 9781401268374
Gr 7 Up—Last year, DC started making comics based on old Hanna-Barbera cartoons, but in darker, more mature versions. The rebooted Flintstones is a sharp, funny political satire that refers back to the old cartoons while sending up politics, religion, and culture in a very modern way. The animals still serve as household appliances, but now they have feelings and emotions; Fred and Barney still work at the quarry, but Mr. Slate is trying to exploit the Neanderthals (who are exasperated at constantly being referred to as Cro-Magnons); and down at the Science Cave, a prehistoric Carl Sagan is predicting the end of the world. Russell gave us Prez last year, and he is clearly on his game with this comic as well. This volume compiles six issues of the monthly comic.
SHINN, Sharon. Shattered Warrior. illus. by Molly Ostertag. First Second. May 2017. ISBN 9781626720893
Gr 6 Up—Aliens called Derichets have taken over the earth and treat humans as second class citizens. Colleen, a young woman from a wealthy family, lives alone in her decaying mansion; most of her family was killed in the war, and she works in a factory for companionship and money. Things start to get better when she becomes friends with Jann, a member of a violent group of outlaws, and she takes in her orphaned niece. The stakes get higher for everyone when she joins a guerilla group bent on overthrowing the Derichets. There’s a familiar feel to this tale of revolution against an oppressive society, but it’s well done despite some implausible turns.
WESTERFELD, Scott. Spill Zone, Vol 1. illus. by Alex Puvilland. First Second. May 2017. ISBN 9781596439368
Gr 10 Up—Addison lives on the outskirts of a truly weird contaminated zone: Strangely deformed animals wander the multicolored landscape, bowling pins float in a figure eight, and zombie-like humans hang suspended in space, their eyes blank, occasionally moaning something that’s almost like words. Addison’s parents, doctors at the local hospital, disappeared on the night of the catastrophe that caused all this, and her sister Lexa was left unable to talk. Addison photographs the spill zone and sells her photos to a wealthy collector, but when the North Koreans get involved, things start getting even weirder. And then there’s Lexa’s doll, which seems to have a mind of its own. This story is creepy, suspenseful, and visually arresting, but be warned that this is just the first volume, so there’s no resolution yet.
YANG, Gene Luen. New Super-Man, Vol. 1: Made in China. illus. by Victor Bogdanovic. DC. June 2017. ISBN 978-1401270933
Gr 7 Up—After his attack on a supervillain goes viral, Chinese teenager Kong Kenan is recruited by a shadowy group who are planning to start their own superhero team, the Justice League of China. But Kong’s heroic actions weren’t quite what they seemed, and neither is anything else. New Super-Man has the elements of a traditional superhero comic, complete with villain-punching and snarky dialogue of the originals, but with a new setting and a few unexpected twists. This volume collects the first six issues.
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