The Extraordinary Adventures of Adele Blanc-Sec, Vol. 1: Pterror over Paris and the Eiffel Tower Demon
Jacques Tardi, Fantagraphics, $24.99 (96p) ISBN 978-1-60699-382-8
Popular in Europe, these historical adventures of a fearless female journalist in belle epoque Paris begins a new reprint series with a fresh English translation. In 1911 Paris, a pterodactyl has hatched and is terrorizing the city. We first meet Adele impersonating a woman she has kidnapped, working on engineering a jailbreak to find stolen funds. Somehow, these plot lines intertwine, along with a gentleman hunter, changing alliances, and various double-crosses. After battling the beast and the events that result, Adele and her circle of adversaries chase a mysterious Assyrian statue of a demon. Tardi's art well deserves the praise that he's a grandmaster of comics. It's detailed, expressive, authentic, and distinctive. His world-building is thorough, the setting established through both background art and scene selection. Frequent recaps keep the reader up to speed, while emphasizing how amusingly convoluted everything quickly becomes. Tardi knows the conventions of this kind of rollicking, complicated adventure, and the story points out how ridiculous they are at the same time it's engaging in them. This oversized volume contains two adventures, with two more due next year. (Dec.)

The Lodger
Karl Stevens, KSA (, $19.95 trade paper (96p) ISBN 978-0-615-38084-1
A surprisingly charming slice-of-life nonfiction comic, The Lodger is part hyperrealistic sketching and part amusingly self-deprecating journal. Stevens is a 20-something artist using art as an excuse to see nude women, attempting to use art to make a little money, and trying not to let procrastination stave off making any actual art. Let go from his day job in an art museum, Karl moves to Jamaica Plain in Boston to lodge with his former teacher's family. Much to his embarrassment, he finds himself increasingly fond of domestic life--pancakes, beagles, and all--which he sheepishly tries to conceal from his bohemian friends. Experimenting with drugs and one-night stands in a halfhearted sort of way, Karl is actually happiest when he's in a committed relationship in a relatively wholesome environment. It simply doesn't fit his self-image. Stevens cites Wyeth as an influence, and you can see it in every line of the book, which looks more like a series of particularly lively painter's studies than anything you'll find in most graphic novels. Warm and heartfelt despite itself, The Lodger is an experimental comic about a less-than-experimental man. (Nov.)

Power Girl: Aliens and Apes
Justin Gray, Jimmy Palmiotti and Amanda Conner, DC, $17.99 trade paper (144p) ISBN 978-1-4012-2910-8
Endowed with the same Kryptonian abilities as her cousin-from-an-alternate-universe, Superman, Kara Zor-L, aka Power Girl, is essentially Superwoman with an attitude problem and a famously exaggerated cup size. Saddled with too-familiar powers, a hopelessly convoluted backstory, and a tiny costume that flirts with self-parody, the character is always perilously close to being a one-note bore. Luckily, Gray and Palmiotti mitigate these handicaps with a generous dose of humor and a knowing wink at the genre's excesses. Over the six issues collected in this volume, our heroine wards off the unwanted advances of Vartox the Hyper-Man, has her secret identity uncovered by a blackmailing 14-year-old, and faces off against old foes Satanna and the Ultra-Humanite. Vartox, a super-powered blowhard who refers to himself in the third person, is an especially entertaining addition--a comic foil in the tradition of testosterone-addled DC "heroes" like Lobo and Guy Gardner. Conner's crisp, cartoon-inspired illustrations are perfectly suited to the title's abundant humor and its wild menagerie of mutant pachyderms, superintelligent badgers, and self-replicating space monsters. Perhaps in spite of herself, Power Girl is a powerful reminder of just how much fun superhero comics can be. (Oct.)