Dawn Land
Joseph Bruchac and Will Davis, Roaring Book/First Second, $19.99 trade paper (320p) ISBN 978-1-59643-143-0
Adapted from Bruchac's 1993 prose novel, this lengthy fable, set in ancient times and apparently inspired by Abenaki folklore, concerns a young Native American hunter (called Young Hunter) who goes out to seek vengeance after his village is attacked by man-eating giants. Eventually, he's given the secret of using a bow and arrow, saves the day, and gets the girl (she's from another tribe, so her speech is represented as abstract squiggles). There's something curiously off about the tone of Bruchac's story: it's too deliberately paced to work as a folk tale, too otherworldly to work as straightforward narration, and his characters are saddled with leaden direct-to-video dialogue like "The twisting inside of him is strong. I see something coming from this that will make our people weep." Davis's rugged, heavily stylized artwork is much more effective; his painterly landscapes carry a lot of the book's scene-setting, and he gives its many long silent passages a lush and meditative tone. He also pulls off a few remarkable set-pieces, especially one where Young Hunter discovers a cave painting. Still, the story suffers from muddled storytelling. Illus. (Oct. 12)

Noche Roja
Simon Oliver and Jason Latour, DC/Vertigo Crime, $19.99 (184p) ISBN 978-1-4012-1535-4
This detective noir takes for its setting and situation the violence of a nameless Mexican border city, where an increasing number of young women who work in the local factories keep turning up dead. If that sounds familiar, well, it looks a lot like Juarez, where such deaths really have been taking place in recent years. The story is well told, with numerous twists and turns that lead us eventually to a killer. Yet the current-day setting actually requires the reality of the border violence to be lightened up in order to fit the frame of a detective story. In tales of undercover investigations, corrupt politicians, and sexual perversion, part of the detective-story thrill is in the revelation of an underworld much darker than we'd previously imagined. Though Jack Cohen, the hard-living detective hired to look into the deaths of several young women, has a dark past and determinedly uncovers the secret lives of those around him, it still seems quaint that he's actually able to solve these murders, unlike the real world of Juarez. Even so, Oliver tells a gripping tale, and rising star Latour's drawing style is appropriately dark and brooding, his lines hard-edged enough to convey the brutality of the world he illustrates. (Feb.)

Vietnamerica: A Family's Journey
GB Tran, Villard, $20 (288p) ISBN 978-0-345-50872-0
Like Art Spiegelman's Maus, this personal memoir tries to make sense of a shattered family history. Tran was born in America shortly after his family fled Vietnam during the fall of Saigon. However, he sees how deeply his parents still feel connected to their homeland, even as they can't fully admit their dismay at being cut off from it. They have been forced to keep many secrets from others, and learned to keep many secrets from themselves, too. By visiting Vietnam and exploring memories, Tran learns how his grandfather, a lifelong Vietminh supporter, was horrified at the brutal results of the Communist victory and how his father became a glum autocrat after his career as an artist was destroyed. He watches how his parents interact uneasily with the swarm of relatives and friends they left behind. Now Tran tries to make sense of it all. The comic utilizes a dizzying barrage of effects to depict the characters' confusing experience: different lettering styles, realistic action set against full-page government posters, sound effects swirling from panel to panel, action-packed panoramas breaking apart as South Vietnam collapses. The result is disturbing but also uplifting. (Jan.)

Incredible Hercules: The New Prince of Power
Greg Pak, Fred Van Lente, Reilly Brown, and Ariel Olivetti, Marvel, $19.99 trade paper (160p) ISBN 978-0-7851-4370-3
There's a new heroic age, and its champion is 17-year-old Amadeus Cho, a wunderkind living in Arizona who once had Hercules as a friend. This graphic novel goes full out in terms of superpowers and superheroes, though its references to mythology play fast and loose. For instance, ambrosia is described as something that's drunk, when it's a food in the source material. A brief "What Thou Needst Know" page at the beginning consists of some character descriptions and a three-line poem about Hercules's death. More references to past happenings are brought up as the story continues, sometimes with starred notes from the editors. Early on, Amadeus is fighting a griffin in a mall, though why he's doing such a thing isn't quite clear. After Hercules dies, Amadeus learns of a new way people can become gods. They must collect ambrosia, the apples of Idunn, spells from the Book of Thoth, and the moon-cup of Dhanvantari. In the wrong hands, this method could do much harm. The full-color pages have a slick look, with attractive characters and well-paced action. For those with a background in mythology of the Marvel kind, this should be an entertaining outing. (Dec.)

Acme Novelty Library #20: Lint
Chris Ware, Drawn and Quarterly, $23.95 (72p) ISBN 978-1-77046-020-1
In previous books Ware has diagrammed intergenerational relationships and dissected the events of a single day. This stunningly realized issue of Ware's Acme Novelty Library--both the latest chapter of his in-progress Rusty Brown graphic novel, and a self-contained narrative--chronicles the entire life of Jordan Wellington Lint, who ages one year for nearly each of this book's 72 pages. Ware's project is not to objectively chart the course of a life, but to investigate the development of subjective consciousness. Lint, a secondary character in earlier chapters of Rusty Brown, takes center stage, from his origins as a blastocyte until the moment of his death. Just as cells conglomerate to form an organism, Lint's early perceptions cluster to form associations that echo throughout. Similarly, Lint has constructed a self-narrative that allows him to remain the hero of his own story until he is periodically undermined by the invasions of reality. In the book's extraordinary climax, Lint himself is confronted by the subjective experiences of another who regards Lint as the monster in a different story. As the book's final moment clarifies, our struggle for self-definition is the converse of our need to connect with others. (Nov.)