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Huck

Mark Millar and Rafael Albuquerque. Image, $14.99 trade paper (160p) ISBN 978-1-63215-729-4

Even in this day and age, superheroes still tend to have lairs, fancy outfits, and all kinds of folderol. Not so Millar’s fantastically endearing new star. Huck is a thickly muscled but sweet-natured grown-up orphan who works at a gas station, wears nothing but overalls, and spends his days making lists of planned good deeds. These range from finding lost pets to rescuing hundreds of girls kidnapped by Boko Haram. Huck is something like a more functioning version of Steinbeck’s Lenny, albeit with superhuman strength and an ability to dash down roads at supersonic speeds. Needless to say, his idyll as the aw-shucks semi-lonely good guy is challenged when dark secrets from his past rear their head, and multiple parties try to take advantage of his good nature. Albuquerque’s (American Vampire) art is kinetically charged and lavishly colored. Millar (Kick-Ass, The Kingsman) delivers a punchy and propulsive story with heart while toning down his bent for ultraviolence. (July)

Reviewed on 07/29/2016 | Details & Permalink

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Trump: A Graphic Biography

Ted Rall. Seven Stories, $16.95 trade paper (192p) ISBN 978-1-60980-758-0

As the go-to quick-hit graphic biographer of the current political circus, Rall (Snowden, Bernie) has been a reliable source of simple narratives delivered with a heavy dose of progressive editorializing. With Trump, Rall takes a less aggressive approach for a simple reason. Donald J. Trump’s entire life story, from his privileged upbringing to being a military-school bully, real-estate huckster, reality show clown, and putative quasifascist leader of the free world, speaks for itself. Rall’s critique of Trump is clear from the beginning, but he doesn’t let his viewpoint get in the way of some sharp analysis of the Republican primary (“like any good businessman, Trump exploited an inefficiency in the marketplace, in this case, of ideas”) and Trump’s business personality. As usual, Rall’s blocky art is more functional than anything else, and pages using screen grabs from Web news reports make the book seem rushed. Overall, it’s a concise and decently footnoted pocket political biography that Clinton’s campaign should buy thousands of and distribute to voters for free. (July)

Reviewed on 07/29/2016 | Details & Permalink

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Marie Antoinette, Phantom Queen

Rodolphe and Annie Goetzinger. NBM, $17.99 (68p) ISBN 978-1-68112-029-4

This follow up to Goetzinger’s YALSA Award–winning Girl in Dior is written in collaboration with scripter Rodolphe (the Kenya and Namibia series). It’s as lavish in design as the predecessor, though the story, inspired by a true tale, is lightweight. In 1910, the ghost of Marie Antoinette contacts painter Maud, guiding and advising her in skillfully navigating the complicated social structure of the early 20th century. Goetzinger’s radiant art outshines the familiar territory of a celebrity ghost story. A quintessential model of modern-day French cartooning, her finely detailed couture, interior decoration, and landscapes complement but never overwhelm the foreground characters. The gorgeous coloring—muted, subtle pastels—add to the ethereal quality of the story (as during a séance depicted in shades of black and gray) or its social aspects (an opera scene contrasts gentlemen’s ubiquitous black-tie with brilliant emerald and scarlet gowns for the women). This is a clichéd and lightweight historical ghost story that’s elevated by the sublime artwork. (Aug.)

Reviewed on 07/29/2016 | Details & Permalink

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Toil & Trouble

Mairghread Scott, Kelly Matthews, and Nicole Matthews. Archaia, $29.99 (160p) ISBN 978-1-60886-878-0

Macbeth was about the bloody price paid for human folly and greed, but why did those witches care so much about what the Thane of Cawdor got up to? That’s the conceit behind Scott’s (Transformers: Distant Stars) action-packed Shakespearean spin-off, in which the Bard’s three “weird sisters” are given their own storyline. As King Duncan prepares to fight off a Norwegian army, witch Smertae, a moody redhead, returns from long exile to reunite with her sisters: combative, haughty Riata, and gentle Cait, the nature-minded peacemaker. Riata wants to raise up young Prince Malcolm and keep Macbeth from the throne. But a secret from Smertae’s past throws a spanner in the works. The bloodshed that follows is straight from the Greeks, with immortals letting mortals die to appease their whims, rivalries, and jealousies. Scott’s writing is sharply paced and redolent with mythological hubris. The angular, vivid art by the debuting Matthews sisters helps etch the pungent, occasionally tangled melodrama into sharper focus. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 07/29/2016 | Details & Permalink

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Tetris: The Games People Play

Box Brown. First Second, $19.99 trade paper (256p) ISBN 978-1-62672-315-3

Tetris is widely considered one of the best and most universal games of all time, but as Brown’s (Andre the Giant: Life and Legend) smart, well-paced history relates, there’s more to the story than just falling blocks. In 1984, Tetris is invented by Alexey Pajitnov, a Russian computer scientist, who shares the game with his friends and eventually sneaks it out from behind the Iron Curtain. When the head of a U.K.-based software company glimpses it at a Hungarian technology institute, he immediately recognizes its money-making potential. A series of misunderstandings and outright lies lead to the illegal licensing of the rights, and soon every major game company in the world wants a piece of it. The backroom deals, last-minute contract changes, and hectic trips to Moscow make for a quick and addictive tale that captures all the international drama. Brown’s drawings are simple but highly effective, using a black, white, and yellow color scheme to evoke the limited or nonexistent graphics available to Alexey. (Oct.)

Reviewed on 07/29/2016 | Details & Permalink

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