February 18, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

Graphic Novels Xpress Reviews | October 2016

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For more of this month’s
Xpress Reviews:

Leth, Kate. Power Up. illus. by Matt Cummings. 160p. Boom! Studios. Jun. 2016. pap. $19.99. ISBN 9781608868377.

Gr 7 Up –What do a pet shop employee, a busy mom, a manly construction worker, and a goldfish all have in common? They are the four warriors who were long ago prophesied to lead the universe into a new age. Together they explore their new superpowers and, in some cases, new looks. Amie learns that she can heal rapidly and has super strength; Sandy discovers her powers of flight; Kevin has the ability to morph into a Sailor Moon–style character, complete with pink costume and staff; and Silas turns from a simple goldfish into an ultrapowerful magical whale. Not only do these characters battle the forces of evil, they also explore issues such as friendship, gender norms, sexuality, acceptance, and love. For example, when burly Kevin transforms, his body remains the same but he wears a pink dress with a heart-shaped bow. The others don’t make a big deal about it, and the only time the wardrobe change is addressed is when Amie asks, “Um…what’s with the outfit?”—to which Kevin replies, “It’s my armor.” This title is among the ever-growing new generation of graphic novels that are extremely entertaining and cover important topics. The vibrant illustrations add humor to this creative story. VERDICT For fans of “Lumberjanes,” “Miss Marvel,” and Nimona.–Annalise Ammer, Henrietta Public Library, NY

Lieberman, Zack. Max & Charlie. illus. by Louis Neubert. 136p. Exit Strategy New Media. Sept. 2016. Tr $34.95. ISBN 9780996929806; pap. $19.95. ISBN 9780996929813.

Gr 4-8 –A long, beautifully illustrated chase scene through a dreamscape of New York City. Charlie is a wildly imaginative young boy who falls asleep in a park with his beagle pup, Max. In the dream, Max takes off and Charlie pursues him through some very unusual interpretations of a few of Manhattan’s most famous landmarks. The artwork is spectacular, but the dialogue is odd: everywhere Charlie goes, strange people accost him with weird, long rambling lectures, mostly about making decisions and taking actions that can change the world, when all the poor kid wants to do is find his dog. As a result, it’s not clear who this book is for. Thankfully, the visuals tell most of the story. Vibrantly colored, expressive, and often surreal, the illustrations will keep readers turning pages because each and every spread is a new delight. VERDICT An unusual graphic novel that may confuse some. However, the artwork will charm most graphic novel fans, even adults.–Kelley Gile, Cheshire Public Library, CT

Tabata, Yuki. Black Clover: Vol. 1. illus. by Yuki Tabata. 192p. Viz Media. Jun. 2016. pap. $7.66. ISBN 9781421587189.

Gr 8 Up –Asta is a boy who dreams of becoming the most powerful magic user in his kingdom. After training his mind and body extensively, he discovers that he possesses absolutely no magical ability at all. Rather than giving up, Asta perseveres and acquires a power called “anti-magic,” which may turn out to be the most effective ability of all in a world where “magic is everything.” This title is the work of a relatively inexperienced author—and it shows. Tabata has clearly taken his inspiration from popular shonen manga, and elements from series such as “Bleach,” “Naruto,” “Fairy Tail,” and “One Piece” will be instantly recognizable to veteran manga readers. The art is solid: the characters are well-defined and expressive, the panels flow well together and are easy to follow, and the depictions of magic are whimsical. Though Tabata relies heavily on ideas from other series, there is potential here. If the series improves, it could well become the “Naruto” replacement die-hard fans have been longing for. VERDICT Though experienced readers won’t find anything new here, this volume is a good introduction to shonen for manga neophytes.–Kelley Gile, Cheshire Public Library, CT

This article was published in School Library Journal's October 2016 issue. Subscribe today and save up to 35% off the regular subscription rate.

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