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The Ice Beneath Her

Camilla Grebe, trans. from the Swedish by Elizabeth Clark Wessel. Ballantine, $27 (368p) ISBN 978-0-425-28432-2

The decapitation of a young woman propels Grebe’s exceptional solo debut, which examines three lives broken by failures to take responsibility in a Stockholm where “even the sky is crying.” Peter Lindgren, the detective investigating the crime, is afraid of commitment and still hasn’t accepted the teenage son he never wanted; shop assistant Emma Bohman, whose now-missing wealthy lover appears to be the prime suspect in the murder, dwells on her painful dysfunctional childhood; and profiler Hanne Lagerlind-Schön, who’s trapped in a suffocating marriage, faces early-onset Alzheimer’s while helping the police with the case. The present-day crime resembles a 10-year-old cold case during which Peter and Hanne shared a short, tragic relationship. In alternating chapters, the three central figures regret what could have been, grieve for what’s been lost, and lament what seemingly can never be, until their bone-rattling self-revelations are redeemed at last by human love. Grebe has collaborated with her sister, Åsa Träff, on the crime series featuring psychologist Siri Bergman (More Bitter than Death, etc.). Agents: Astri Von Arbin Ahlander and Christine Edhäll, Ahlander Agency (Sweden). (Dec.)

Reviewed on 09/23/2016 | Details & Permalink

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Kuma Miko: Girl Meets Bear, Vol. 1

Masume Yoshimoto. One Peace, $11.95 trade paper (160p) ISBN 978-1-935548-53-9

Machi is a teenage shrine maiden in northern Japan who wants to leave the mountains behind to live life in the big city in this rural slice-of-life indie comic–style manga. However, it’s quickly revealed that, however plucky she may be, she’s a bumpkin who doesn’t even know what Uniqlo is. So it’s up to her keeper (a talking bear) and her older brother, Yoshio, to get her ready for the outside world—while simultaneously trying to keep her home. Yoshio is the most appealing character, and poor Machi is constantly dealing with sexual harassment problems that are not funny, though they’re treated lightheartedly. The story takes a while to find its identity, and the humor may be a bit too Japanese for some to understand (even with the explanations in the back), but overall it’s a promising start to the series that improves as it goes along. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 09/23/2016 | Details & Permalink

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The Battles of Bridget Lee: The Invasion of Farfall

Ethan Young. Dark Horse, $10.99 trade paper (96p) ISBN 978-1-50670-012-0

Bridget Lee has the same nightmare each night: a vivid replay of the moment she was caught between the murderous alien marauders who have humanity on the ropes and her dying husband. Bereaved and battle-scarred, she must carry on as the army medic her people so sorely need, but there is worse still to come. Despite Bridget’s potential as a character—an older woman on her own, with a dark past and a darker future—this is a thuddingly generic take on a sci-fi premise already worn thin. The aliens are bad. The humans are desperate. The children are huddled and vulnerable. Visually, it’s better—Young confidently balances action with human drama and bursts of color enliven both. Unlike his acclaimed first book, Nanjing: The Burning City, this war story is often buried in tropes of the genre. (Oct.)

Reviewed on 09/23/2016 | Details & Permalink

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Becoming Andy Warhol

Nick Bertozzi and Pierce Hargan. Abrams ComicArts, $24.95 (160p) ISBN 978-1-4197-1875-5

Soup cans and Marilyn Monroe prints appear prominently in this history of the iconic artist, but it’s Warhol himself who is portrayed as the work in progress. In a series of sharp, staccato chapters, the book packs substantial vigor into a swift narrative, following Warhol’s two-year journey from commercial illustrator to art-world icon. Bertozzi’s (Shackleton: Antarctic Odyssey) introduction admits that liberties have been taken with history, events, and timing, but his script and dialogue ring true to the Warhol we like to imagine: an artist comfortable with facts evolving into legend. Without slavishly aping Warhol’s style, newcomer Hargan creates bold visuals for movement, anxiety, and verve. Even pages filled with talking heads are energetic, the line art highlighted with shades of purple. A sleek, arresting front cover sporting Ben-Day dots and a shiny chrome finish (mirroring the color scheme of Warhol’s Factory) enhance this illuminating portrait of the grit and glamour of Warhol’s pill-fueled origin years. (Oct.)

Reviewed on 09/23/2016 | Details & Permalink

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The Bind

William Goldsmith. Jonathan Cape (dist. by Trafalgar Square), $39.95 (120p) ISBN 978-0-224-09702-4

Exquisitely designed and produced, Goldsmith’s second book (following the acclaimed Vignettes of Ystov) is not only an illustrated blueprint of the craft of rebinding rare books, but a dark-humored saga of the downfall of two bookbinder brothers who swindle and double-cross each other. Goldsmith’s art dances us through the bookbinding processes, while his script spins an enthralling saga of cunning plans and obsessive greed. There’s an impressive amount of technical research on the tools and techniques of the binders, but the charm is in the synthesis of story and picture. The narrative eschews kinetic action in favor of precisely paced panels: most pages contain six identically sized panels, with larger panels breaking into a hallucinatory dream, or in one case a 24-panel page laying out an elaborate swindle. The art is in light blacks and shades of burnt umber that recall antique leather binding. This is a beautiful book to savor and hold. (Nov.)

Reviewed on 09/23/2016 | Details & Permalink

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For the Love of God, Marie!

Jade Sarson. Myriad (dist. by Trafalgar Square), $26.95 trade paper (240p) ISBN 978-1-908434-77-7

As a teen Catholic schoolgirl in the 1960s, Marie takes the commandment to love thy neighbor literally, opening her heart and legs and discovering her own voracious sexuality in the process. She angrily brushes off the haters and slut shamers, falling headfirst into romantic adventures and befriending fellow social outliers such as William, a gay cross-dresser, and Agnes, a girl from an abusive home. But as Marie grows up and the ’60s sour into the ’70s, free love becomes less freeing. The story sometimes edges toward soapy melodrama but saves itself from becoming overserious with cheeky humor, cheerful eroticism, and characters who become more interesting and nuanced over time. And the lush, lively, manga-influenced art is to die for. If this were just a good-looking sex comic, that would be enough. But it delves into deeper issues of faith, family, aging, love, and loyalty with light, sure strokes. As this debut graphic novel shows, U.K. cartoonist Sarson is an up-and-coming talent to watch. (Dec.)

Reviewed on 09/23/2016 | Details & Permalink

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