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Agatha: The Real Life of Agatha Christie

Anne Martinetti, Guillaume LeBeau, and Alexandre Franc. SelfMadeHero, $19.95 (128p) ISBN 978-1-910593 11-0

Uncovering some of the hard truths in fiction, authors Martinetti and Lebeau and artist Franc (all prolific creators in France, where this was originally published) render a stirring tribute to one of the 20th century’s most popular writers. The story of Agatha Christie’s life is well-researched; the book even contains a timeline in the back. However, the authors are unafraid to take creative license, most noticeably and effectively with Christie’s relationship with her characters, with whom she regularly has conversations. Her interactions with her most famous protagonist, Hercule Poirot, feel tense, comedic, and tragic all at the same time, demonstrating the friction between authors and the stories they’re trying to tell. The emotions are gracefully expressed with just one or two lines of ink. Any admirer of Christie’s fiction will benefit from reading this take on her actual life. (May)

Reviewed on 05/06/2016 | Details & Permalink

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Secretimes

Keith Jones. Drawn & Quarterly, $19.95 trade paper (88p) ISBN 978-1-77046-2380

Cartoon violence electrifies every page of this madcap journey through societal imbalance. Two forest-dwelling hobos—a nattily dressed pigeon and elephant—are scapegoated when the obnoxious Mr. Mouse Mouser is accidentally slain. Sixty pages of hallucinatory bloodshed ensue, ensnaring celebrities, civilians, and officials of justice within a Technicolor tangle of good and evil. Every page is a study in contrasts: the rounded, funnies-page characters are spattered with gore, surrounded by crude sexuality, and sunk deep into the corruption lurking in every corner of their world. Their enthusiastic, monosyllabic dialogue circumscribes a story in which the powerful are unassailable and the powerless subject to their whims. Canadian artist Jones, who gained notice as an experimental cartoonist with his previous Catland Empire, supplies delirious art and fancifully grotesque twists and turns. While the shock of it all grows dull in the last few pages, a gruesome little jewel of a tale remains. (May)

Reviewed on 05/06/2016 | Details & Permalink

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Super Pro K.O.: Gold for Glory

Jarrett Williams. Oni, $14.99 trade paper (288p) ISBN 978-1-934964 97-2

Williams’s third Super Pro K.O. volume is a love letter to wrestling’s entertaining extremes, as an extremely large cast brawls (mostly) in the ring and (mostly) within the panels. Williams doesn’t even try for realism, coming up with moves that should kill anyone involved but just leave the characters coming back for more, launching themselves at both opponents and the reader’s eyes. There’s a loose plot about the champion, noted “heel” King Crown, Jr., fighting against a challenger he once mocked early in his career, but the real draw here is seeing the wrestlers whaling away at one another. The art takes Bryan Lee O’Malley’s Scott Pilgrim style of dialogue box asides and text as physical objects and pushes it to 11, with lots of intricate illustrations, thick ink lines, and just a touch of anime inspiration. Readers whose taste aligns with the subject and artistry will be in for a treat. (July)

Reviewed on 05/06/2016 | Details & Permalink

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Cousin Joseph

Jules Feiffer. Norton/Liveright, $27.95 (136p) ISBN 978-1-63149-065-1

Master cartoonist Feiffer has crafted a worthy noir thriller prequel to the critically acclaimed Kill My Mother. The year is 1931. Det. Sam Hannigan is a proud American and a member of fictional Bay City’s finest. When he and his partner aren’t fighting crime or getting their “Red Squad” to suppress the local trade unions, he’s off to do the bidding of the mysterious Cousin Joseph, an unidentified bigwig who wants to rid Hollywood of what he considers anti-American propaganda films. Soon, Sam finds himself in over his head and on both sides of the law as he tries to keep track of the various forces at work against him. Feiffer’s strength as a graphic novelist is in creating a range of fascinating characters, from Sam’s partner, Neil Hammond, who’s planning to retire from the force and become a PI, to Valerie Knox, the daughter of the local factory owner, who has a pathological interest in young men. This complex series of character studies forms a densely woven narrative that is deftly written and expertly illustrated. (July)

Reviewed on 05/06/2016 | Details & Permalink

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