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Lion of Rora

Christos Gage, Ruth Gage, and Jackie Lewis. Oni, $24.99 trade paper (184p) ISBN SBN 978-1-62010-248-0

This historical adventure by married comics veteran writers Christos and Ruth Gage pulls from the real-life struggle of the Waldensians, a pre-Protestant religious sect in France that was often in conflict with the Catholic Church. Depicting events from the early 17th Century, the story follows farmer Joshua Janavel, who through circumstances out of his control becomes the leader of his people in rebellion, as the French government bears down on them with the intent of ripping their religion apart and slaughtering as many of them as they can while doing so. Well-researched and realized, the struggle of folk hero Janavel to save his people takes on the flavor of a Robin Hood adventure, without becoming too fantastical or unbelievable. Some dramatic action and dialogue falls into adventure-story clichés, but that doesn’t take away too much from the larger story’s impact, and such attention given to an off-the-beaten path moment from history is certainly welcome. Lewis’s art has historical detail with a clear storytelling style. A further-reading section offers plenty of areas for investigation. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 08/14/2015 | Details & Permalink

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Democracy

Alecos Papadatos, Abraham Kawa, and Annie Di Donna. Bloomsbury USA, $27 (240p) ISBN 978-1-60819-719-4

Papadatos and Di Donna, artists of the acclaimed and bestselling Logicomix, team with writer and academic Kawa for an incisive and entertaining visual history of the roots of democracy. This journey is a saga comparable to epics such as Frank Miller’s 300 and Eric Shanower’s Age of Bronze, with a touch of Jack Kirby’s wondrous mythological civilizations. Greek hero Leander functions as the entry point, giving the book striking immediacy and personality as it traces the historical transition from his society’s utter faith in the Greek gods to the beginnings of modern politics. Papadatos’s lively and energetic art illuminates battles, alliances, political machinations, and vivid personalities, and Di Donna’s intense coloring is gloriously rich without a touch of gaudiness. For those interested in further background, the extensive back matter features useful commentary on both legendary and historical figures and concepts. Like Logicomix, this is a brilliantly realized stealth education. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 08/14/2015 | Details & Permalink

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Weak Messages Create Bad Situations

David Shrigley. Canongate, $35 (384p) ISBN 978-1-78211-403-1

A grubby yet high-minded and extremely satirical “manifesto” that undermines and critiques itself before the readers can do it themselves, this collection of one-page declarations and misgivings from Shrigley (Ants Have Sex in Your Beer) is scrawled with off-handed casualness but backed by a sly intelligence. Acclaimed as a fine artist in his native England, Shrigley also contributes weekly cartoons to the Guardian. Although divided into eight themed chapters—“Commandments,” “The Arts,” “Bugs and Insects”—each drawing is slapped down with thick black lines in a naive, juvenile style, with heavy blocks of letters twisting around the brutish illustrations. Severed heads are a constant, as are urination, pain, humiliation, and resentment. There are no setups or follow-throughs, simply hits of pain (the bloody hands accompanied by this nudging plea: “Now that you have torn out my heart you must wash your hands”) or commentary (a “Wheel of Fortune” where every choice is Poverty except for Death). Reading Shrigley’s weighty, partially tongue-in-cheek declarations all in one go is like finding a disturbed but thoughtful teenager’s notebook by accident, with all the surprise and worry that would entail. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 08/14/2015 | Details & Permalink

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The Story of My Tits

Jennifer Hayden. IDW/Top Shelf, $29.99 trade paper (352p) ISBN 978-1-60309-054-4

Hayden (Underwire) celebrates love, laughter, and life’s many ups and downs in this affecting memoir. From prepubescent anxiety to a climactic battle with cancer, her relationship to her breasts serves as a prism through which she chronicles her life. Her honesty is blistering: every panel is a densely inked peek into the gory details of womanhood, from breastfeeding to breast cancer. Post-surgery fluid draining, bathing without ripping one’s stitches, cesarean sections—no detail is spared. Her knack for dreamlike imagery is a delightful counterpoint to this frankness: her husband grows fangs when he is angry, a sentient songbird dispenses advice for dealing with life crises, lightning crackles around her mother-in-law as she reveals her own cancer diagnoses. It is this combination of surrealism and an unflinching commitment to candor that elevates this memoir beyond simple confessional into something truly moving. Hayden has created a heartfelt and often hilarious tribute to her life—and to the resilience of women everywhere. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 08/14/2015 | Details & Permalink

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