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One Week in the Library

W. Maxwell Prince and John Amor. Image, $9.99 trade paper (96p) ISBN 978-1-5343-0022-4

In a new story from the creators of Judas: The Last Days, Allen, the narrator, is both librarian and prisoner in a library variously described as “the sum total of its innumerable stories” and as housing “all narratives, in all their possible shapes.” When the books seem to be rebelling, Allen lives through a week of stories including one with familiar storybook characters, a brief sojourn in a literally colorless office, and a final tête-à-tête with the author. Amor, with colorist Kathryn Layno, produces kaleidoscopic and hallucinogenic images that pair perfectly with Prince’s experimental tale, with looming book stacks giving way to bizarre creatures and handy infographics as needed. In the final fourth wall–breaking scene, Prince confesses to his character that he hopes that this work “will give the reader the impression that I’m a bright guy,” and it certainly does that. Amor’s art is filled with references to pop culture, and it may take a few readings to get all of them. (Dec.)

Reviewed on 12/02/2016 | Details & Permalink

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Tank Girl: Two Girls One Tank

Alan Martin and Brett Parson. Titan, $14.99 trade paper (128p) ISBN 978-1-78585-356-2

Don’t expect any narrative cohesion in a Tank Girl comic. But for its cult followers, that’s part of Tank Girl’s charm: a punk rock romp through postapocalyptic Australia as the title character shoots, kills, and farts her way from one inane set piece to the next. Subversive when it debuted in 1988, Tank Girl burst from the minds of two Brits, writer Martin and illustrator Jamie Hewlett. In this revival, Martin gives the story the familiar madcap energy of a caper, as Tank Girl hunts for her missing tank and the imposter who stole it. Even though the comic is still chaotic, the times have caught up. Stories of women fighting against the patriarchy aren’t as rare today as they once were. Parson’s art is clean but lacks the expected layer of snot and grit. Those looking for a bit of nostalgia may enjoy this, but new readers will probably be unimpressed. (Dec.)

Reviewed on 12/02/2016 | Details & Permalink

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Legend, Vol. 1: Defend the Grounds

Samuel Sattin and Chris Koehler. Z2 (dist. by Diamond), $14.99 (168p) ISBN 978-1-94087-813-3

After a bioterror agent wipes out most of humanity, tribes of animals are left behind, and factions of dogs and cats try to assert some semblance of control over their environment. When Ransom, the leader of the dog tribe, is murdered by a creature called the Endark, an English pointer named Legend takes command of the dogs. However, he’ll need the help of his feline foes for him and his tribe to make sense of the world they now inhabit. Superbly written by Sattin (The Silent End; League of Somebodies) and beautifully illustrated by Koehler, in his graphic novel debut, the tale follows through on the premise, exploring creatures trying to understand a world they didn’t make without becoming, in the process, just like those who did. Koehler’s monochromatic palette and crisp shadows capture the somber postapocalyptic world with both terror and sorrow. It’s not simply a great what-if story, but a close examination of how societies evolve. (Dec.)

Reviewed on 12/02/2016 | Details & Permalink

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The Best We Could Do

Thi Bui. Abrams Comicarts, $24.95 (336p) ISBN 978-1-4197-1877-9

Tracing her family’s journey to the United States and their sometimes-uneasy adaptation to American life, Bui’s magnificent memoir is not unique in its overall shape, but its details are: a bit of blood sausage in a time of famine, a chilly apartment, a father’s sandals contrasted with his son’s professional shoes. The story opens with the birth of Bui’s son in New York City, and then goes back to Vietnam to trace the many births and stillbirths of her parents, and their eventual boat journey to the U.S. In excavating her family’s trauma through these brief, luminous glimpses, Bui transmutes the base metal of war and struggle into gold. She does not spare her loved ones criticism or linger needlessly on their flaws. Likewise she refuses to flatten the twists and turns of their histories into neat, linear narratives. She embraces the whole of it: the misery of the Vietnam War, the alien land of America, and the liminal space she occupies, as the child with so much on her shoulders. In this mélange of comedy and tragedy, family love and brokenness, she finds beauty. (Mar.)

Reviewed on 12/02/2016 | Details & Permalink

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Platinum End, Vol. 1

Tsugumi Ohba and Takeshi Obata. Viz, $9.99 trade paper (192p) ISBN 978-1-42159-063-9

For the thematic successor to the infamous and bestselling Death Note, Ohba and Obata reunite for the first time since Bakuman. Mirai is a troubled teen who decides to die rather than pursue high school, for what turn out to be understandable reasons. But his suicide attempt goes awry when an angel saves him and then tells him he’s now in a battle with 12 others to become the next “God.” As in Death Note, the story asks what happens when humans are given divine power, and uncovers truths about human nature with great plot twists along the way; alas, like its predecessor, it also sees women as expendable objects. Obata’s art, some of the most admired in the manga world, leaves nothing to be desired—except, perhaps, some tact: however beautiful, the emotional moments are quite overdone, leading the horror into dark and campy territory at times. But it’s still an engaging story, one that anime and manga fans have been waiting for since Death Note’s end nearly a decade ago. (Oct.)

Reviewed on 12/02/2016 | Details & Permalink

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Black Dahlia

Rick Geary. NBM, $15.99 (80p) ISBN 978-1-68112-052-2

Geary’s made a career from his series of true crime graphic novels, all well-researched and sober, yet also capturing something of the eerie spark that attracts people to murder lore. Now he tackles a legendary unsolved case that hints at the underbelly of Hollywood, a topic he’s touched on before. Geary uses Elizabeth Short’s murder to exercise his major strength, weaving a complex narrative through the events of the era to create a whole picture of the world where the crime occurred. Short’s story is chronicled as a near-fable about the desperate grasp for the American dream of fame and fortune, and the way this dream can be overwhelmed by the tumult of other concerns that rampage through life. As usual, his black-and-white line art gives the stories a slightly retro, though never nostalgic, feel, with a tinge of weirdness to the chronicle of transgressions that reveal higher truths in their gruesomeness. (Nov.)

Reviewed on 12/02/2016 | Details & Permalink

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