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Loverboys

Gilbert Hernandez. Dark Horse, $19.99 (80p) ISBN 978-1-61655-478-1

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This is sort of “Gilbert Hernandez for Beginners”—a standalone graphic novel set in a small South American town where various familiar themes from his long-running Palomar stories play out in a more compact arena. In the town of Lágrimas (“tears”), varying degrees of love—both too much and not enough—drive the inhabitants bonkers. Charlie used to be in Mrs. Paz’s class grade school class but now he’s in her bedroom, while still carrying on a separate affair with his boss. Mrs. Paz, aging but still one of the prime beauties of this small town, is the center of much jealousy and intrigue, especially from Charlie’s sister, Daniella, who has a grudge against Mrs. Paz for reasons Hernandez slowly reveals as the story goes along. The story includes all kinds of colorful supporting characters, including Seymour, a pretty boy in an ascot who thinks he’s the greatest thing to happen to women; bizarrely small-eyed snooping male twins; and disconsolate loser Elmo, all of whom have some relationship to Mrs. Paz and complicate the brew. Some abrupt transitions make this a minor work from Hernandez, but the compact story is a pleasing diversion. (Oct.)

Reviewed on 11/14/2014 | Details & Permalink

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An Iranian Metamorphosis

Mana Neyestani. Uncivilized (Consortium, dist.), $19.99 trade paper (208p) ISBN 978-0-9889014-4-5

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In this riveting real-life tale, Iranian cartoonist Neyestani ignites political violence when a drawing of a cockroach in one of his cartoons is misinterpreted as a gross insult to the Azeri, an ethnic group within Iran. Neyestani, who uses Kafka as a reference point, is plunged into a nightmare as bizarre as Gregor Samsa’s; he and his editor are hauled in for questioning by the authoritarian government and subjected to five months of solitary confinement in a featureless cell. Neyestani’s days of incarceration turn the innocent cartoonist into a nervous wreck as he is repeatedly interrogated and asked for information on other cartoonists who pose a political threat. A temporary release reunites Neyestani to his loving wife, but with his return to prison looming, they prepare to flee to Canada. The cartoonist metamorphoses from a creative member of society to a gaunt fugitive. From the opening panel, Neyestani’s account of his personal ordeal masterfully conveys tension with a dense, cross-hatched style that powerfully evokes the claustrophobia of his imprisonment, and the lasting mental effects of his senseless persecution. Agent: Nicholas Grivel. (Oct.)

Reviewed on 11/14/2014 | Details & Permalink

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Kinski

Gabriel Hardman. Image, $14.99 trade paper (136p) ISBN 978-1-63215-179-7

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After his success with licensed comics, Hardman (Planet of the Apes) has created an original story—a fast-paced thriller about a man who falls in love with a little black Labrador puppy that he names Kinski. Joe, a traveling salesman, finds the puppy and decides to keep him, but soon the dogcatcher takes Kinski away. Joe is supposed to wait a few days for the owners to have a chance to reclaim their pet, but instead he shows up at the pound in disguise and pretends that the dog is his. When he finds out the true owner has already picked up Kinski, he gets the address and steals the dog from a child. In a tense race across the bleak western landscape, Joe chases the dog through trailer parks and battles violent men. He has to make interesting moral decisions, sacrificing much for his seemingly loony love of the animal. The ending is somewhat predictable but satisfying nonetheless. The art is standard action-comic fare, though more retro and expressive then usual, with great, nuanced character design. Kinski comes across vividly, with his floppy, heavy body and swinging tongue, making this a lightweight romp for comics-reading dog lovers. (Nov.)

Reviewed on 11/14/2014 | Details & Permalink

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