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Sacred Creatures, Vol. 1

Pablo Raimondi and Klaus Janson. Image, $22.99 trade paper (336p) ISBN 978-1-5343-0496-3

Raimondi (X-Factor) and Janson (Daredevil) team up to reimagine the seven deadly sins as bickering siblings in modern-day New York. The Sins are part of the Nephilim, an ancient race of superhumans who have been held in check by the angel Naviel for thousands of years. They form an uneasy alliance to free themselves from her control. But their murderous plans involve unlucky human Josh Miller, a young everyman and expectant father, ends up on the run from the law and the Sins. He’s accompanied by Father Adrian, a half-angel priest fighting to maintain the balance of good and evil in the world. Raimondi and Janson’s mythology revisits biblical stories such as Sodom and Gomorrah and the Tower of Babel in between present-day perils, all of which is vividly complemented by rich and arresting artwork that is by turns fantastical and authentically realistic. Familiar elements such as personifications of Judeo-Christian concepts, an absent God whose children are at odds, and Adrian’s resemblance to a humorless version of John Constantine will draw inevitable comparisons to genre classics such as Hellblazer or Sandman—and this effort may suffer for it—but the energy behind this ambitious saga will prove irresistible for lovers of gods and monsters. (May)

Reviewed on 05/25/2018 | Details & Permalink

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Void Trip

Ryan O’Sullivan and Plaid Klaus. Image, $16.99 trade paper (144p) ISBN 978-1-5343-0668-4

With a fast-paced script running alongside psychotropic artwork, this cosmic graphic novel brings the reader along for the ride with two drug-addled space hippies struggling to achieve the ultimate mellow. Ana and Gabe, grifters on an uninhibited adventure across outer space, are seeking the planet of Euphoria, where “froot,” their edible drug of choice, is shared along with good vibes and a sense of community. Their travels aren’t so full of peace and love, however; they’re pursued by a metal man claiming to be God, and their newest companion, Hitch—an alien elephant—might be double-crossing them. Plus, they discover their destination planet is now home to warring robots. The vivid colors and crisp cartoon art style carry the lackadaisical narrative forward. The creators’ dry humor punctuates this adventurous (but heady) tale of soul searching. Fully leaning into the flower child stereotype, filled with burned-out rambling and a warped version of reality, this comic boasts a surprising amount of heart as it begs readers for deeper (far-out, man) reflection. (June)

Reviewed on 05/25/2018 | Details & Permalink

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Kafkaesque: Fourteen Stories

Peter Kuper. Norton, $19.95 (160p) ISBN 978-0-393-63562-1

Eisner-winner Kuper (Ruins) brilliantly accentuates both the absurd and menacing qualities of Kafka’s short stories in this graphic collection. Using a scratchboard technique to mimic the woodcut style of German expressionism, Kuper emphasizes the ways Kafka addressed social injustices rather than simply his trademark existential paranoia. In “Give It Up,” he draws a policeman with a gun barrel instead of a nose, playing up the arbitrary whims of authority. “Coal Bucket Rider” and “The Trees” speak to the life-and-death struggle of poverty and to those who pretend that it doesn’t exist. He turns “Before The Law” into commentary about racism by drawing the supplicant character as a black man. Kuper shines in the farcical pieces, such as his drawing of a mouse voluntarily walking to its doom in “A Little Fable” and the bug-eyed philosopher desperate for certainty in “The Spinning Top.” The jewel of this collection is “The Burrow,” where Kuper draws Kafka’s paranoid character, who hid in his underground network of rooms, into a mole man. Kuper’s heavy use of chiaroscuro creates an atmosphere of dread, while his playful character design and innovative page layouts keenly evince Kafka’s dark sense of humor. Kafka’s timeless work has never hit so hard, nor more artfully. Agent: Judy Hansen, Hansen Literary Agency (Sept.)

Reviewed on 05/25/2018 | Details & Permalink

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Passing for Human: A Graphic Memoir

Liana Finck. Random House, $28 (240p) ISBN 978-0-525-50892-2

Alienation is both blessing and curse in this elegant graphic memoir of being the odd woman out. Leola’s family has always been strange—quiet, anxious, prone to dreaming. Though this propelled her parents into successful careers as an architect and a doctor, Leola wears her oddity like a ball and chain. She shies away from other children and finds herself exiled from classroom hierarchies. In metanarrative interludes, Leola even restarts the book itself, plagued with doubt over its quality. But as she discovers, being different doesn’t just drive you away from others—it can lead you to authenticity, as well. Finck intertwines her jittery, dense line work with fairy tale whimsy: sentient shadows climb in through windows, anxieties are literal rats that nibble at her as she works, God is a queen on a cloud who presides over an Edenic stage set. Though a lesser artist might have leaned on such magical realism as a crutch, Finck’s whimsy acts as a microscope to better understand family, romance, and isolation. This story is as tender as it is wry, depicting, for instance, despair with goofy drawings of robots and princesses. Becoming human is a lifelong task—but Finck illustrates it with humor and panache. Agent: Meredith Kaffel Simonoff, DeFiore and Co. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 05/25/2018 | Details & Permalink

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