4 Graphic Novels Explore Queer Love, Evolution & More | June 2018 Xpress Reviews

Tee Franklin's touching novella shows love in one's later years; a new sci-fi adventure for Jem and the Holograms; Shirai's dark adventure will enthrall fans of Death Note.

redstarFranklin, Tee. Bingo Love. illus. by Jenn St-Onge & Joy San. 88p. Image. Feb. 2018. pap. $9.99. ISBN 9781534307506.

Gr 7 Up –Franklin’s first full-length graphic novel follows a love story between two black women. Hazel and Mari meet as teenagers in 1963 and become fast friends. A kiss in front of a church turns their relationship into something more. Their romance blossoms until Mari’s grandmother catches the couple and her homophobia tears the two apart. As time passes, Hazel marries James and starts a family, and her sexuality becomes invisible to all but her. A serendipitous night out at the bingo hall reunites Hazel and Mari, who are now in their 60s and have a second shot at love. Equally heartwarming and heartbreaking, this roller-coaster romance is a powerful tribute to social change across generations—and a reminder to today’s teens about the long struggle for LGBTQ rights. When Hazel comes out to her family as bisexual, James starts to reveal his own hidden past. The text directs readers to online bonus content to find out his secret—an unnecessary distraction from the honesty of the moment and the otherwise sharp characterization. St-Onge’s art is cinematic and expressive, brought to vivid life by San’s rich colors, and seamlessly connected to Hazel’s emotional states. Scenes from the past have a rosy quality in comparison to the stark present. VERDICT This tender, beautifully rendered coming-out tale deserves a place in all graphic novel collections.–Alec Chunn, Eugene Public Library, OR

Locke, Daniel with David Blandy. Out of Nothing. illus. by Daniel Locke. 248p. Nobrow/Flying Eye. Feb. 2018. Tr $22.99. ISBN 9781910620281.

Gr 4-8 –Starting with the big bang and ending in an imagined future, this book explores 13.84 billion years of history, following a young girl known as “the emissary” as she wanders through time. The focus of this ambitious graphic novel is the development of art, science, and technology. Highlights include early hunter-gatherer societies, the invention of the printing press, and the development of the Internet. The themes of ideas and communication, human ingenuity, and universal passion for creativity emerge. The story is told through sequential illustrations with sections examining each new time period and the growth of humanity. Locke uses comic format and a colorful cartoon style, which helps the narrative progress tackle scenes of great importance and more prosaic moments such as a conversation between artists. A similar graphic novel is Jay Hosler and Kevin and Zander Cannon’s Evolution: The Story of Life on Earth. VERDICT An excellent gateway to science and history for reluctant readers. Individual sections can be used on their own for group discussion in history, science, and technology classes.–Meaghan Nichols, ASI Heritage, Ont.

redstarShirai, Kaiu. The Promised Neverland: Vol 1. tr. from Japanese by Satsuki Yamashita. illus. by Posuka Demizu. 192p. Viz Media. Dec. 2017. pap. $9.99. ISBN 9781421597126.

Gr 10 Up –Grace Field House is home to 38 children and a cheerful matron whom all the kids call “Mom.” The children must follow rules and take a test every morning in place of formal schooling, but overall, they’re a big happy family. Emma, Norman, and Ray are the best, brightest, and oldest at the orphanage, and they will be leaving soon—at age 12, every child is shipped out. But one day they break a rule and discover that their entire reality and existence are a horrifying lie. Now the children must use all their resources to fight back, try to save everyone, and escape their prison amid ever-increasing difficulties. This well-paced first volume sets up the series expertly, ramping up the action and balancing eerie suspense with necessary story details. The characters are sympathetic and believable, especially the children. They are easily distinguishable, and facial expressions are exquisitely drawn. The layouts are very effective, making this dialogue-rich series easy to follow through intelligently placed captions and speech balloons. The backgrounds are by turns intricate and extremely spare, highlighting important moments and enhancing the tense atmosphere. Readers will be enthralled—and anxious—as they follow along. VERDICT A brilliant battle of the minds reminiscent of Death Note, this is one of Viz’s best new shonen titles.–Kelley Gile, Cheshire Public Library, CT

Thompson, Kelly. Jem and the Holograms: Infinite. illus. by Stacey Lee, Jen Hickman, Jenn St-Onge, & others. 144p. IDW. Feb. 2018. pap. $19.99. ISBN 9781684051243.

Gr 7 Up –Jem and the Holograms recently had a fight with another all-girl band, The Misfits. The leader of The Misfits, Pizzazz, is especially intent on bringing down Jem for damaging their reputation. What seems at first to be a fairly simple band vs. band story takes on a new dimension when Jem is summoned by Techrat to help her father, who is dead. Techrat explains that he came from an alternate Earth where her father is still alive and that the hologram technology that their band uses on this Earth was the downfall of society on the other Earth. Both bands go through the portal to the other Earth, where all the girls must work together to repair the dystopian society before it’s too late. This volume follows several others in the series but contains enough backstory so that readers need not be familiar with earlier installments. The artwork has plenty of visual appeal and pops with color. VERDICT For Jem and the Holograms fans, as well as those looking for fast-paced science fiction.–Andrea Lipinski, New York Public Library

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