Log In

Subscriber-Only Content; You must be a PW subscriber to access the Table-of-Contents Database.

Get a digital subscription to Publishers Weekly for only $19.95/month.

Your subscription gives you instant access exclusive feature articles on notable figures in the publishing industry, he latest industry news, interviews of up and coming authors and bestselling authors, and access over 200,000 book reviews.

PW "All Access" site license members have access to PW's subscriber-only website content. To find out more about PW's site license subscription options please email: pw@pubservice.com or call 1-800-278-2991 (U.S.) or 1-818-487-2069 (all other countries), Monday-Friday between 5am and 5pm Pacific time.

Olivia Twist: Honor Among Thieves

Darin Strauss, Adam Dalva, and Emma Vieceli. Berger, $19.99 trade paper (136p) ISBN 978-1-5067-0948-2

Strauss (Half a Life) and Dalva ambitiously adapt Dickens’s classic serial with a diverse, futurist aesthetic that lacks novelty and depth. London of 2050 is controlled by Provis, a robotics corporation which relies on the slave labor of human children to fuel its growth. After Olivia, an orphan styled rather like Rosie the Riveter as a teen girl in jaunty overalls, rebels against her overlords to protect a newcomer named Pip, she escapes and, with the help of the felonious Artful Dodger, joins a female-centered revolutionary cell called the Esthers. Vieceli (the Jem and the Holograms series) refreshingly attempts to update the original cast with more diverse characters (referencing several of Dickens’s other well-known protagonists), but Strauss and Dalva’s fleshing out of the crew is sketchy and uneven, including a token nonbinary character whose backstory consists only of nondescript abuse “by everyone.” Much of the plot is a standard MacGuffin hunt in which various players attempt to secure a locket which can only be opened with Olivia’s blood, confusingly paced with help from some extraordinarily plot-convenient seizures. For all its laudable themes of empowerment for the disenfranchised, Strauss and Dalva’s text is too by-the-numbers to make a lasting impression. (May)

Reviewed on 03/03/2019 | Details & Permalink

show more
Tonta

Jaime Hernandez. Fantagraphics, $19.99 (104p) ISBN 978-1-68396-205-2

When the reckless and exuberant Tonta, star of this antics-filled graphic novel, opens her roller-coaster tale, her biggest worry in life is her ongoing crush on Eric Lopez, lead singer of Ooot. Her attempts to gets Eric’s attention are interrupted by complications spinning out of a rich country club owner’s pursuit of Tonta’s beautiful half-sister, Vivian. Dark clouds are ushered in by a crew of lowlifes, a gun, and a shooting—and hints of far more disturbing family secrets. As usual, Hernandez (the Love and Rockets series) effortlessly sketches a rich supporting cast: “The Gorgon,” an ugly girl who befriends Tonta and watches the goings-on from her forest hangout; and Gomez, a classmate who timidly participates in Tonta’s mission to uncover their PE teacher’s suspected secret pastime as a lucha libre wrestler. These lighthearted shenanigans come to a screeching halt when Tonta’s mother is accused of arranging her husband’s murder—and maybe the deaths of several previous husbands. Hernandez revisits many of his favorite themes in a story that seamlessly shifts from Archie-like teen adventures to the burdens of a dysfunctional family. This rambunctious ride may be more minor in the Hernandez catalog, but it’s still a master class in cartooning. (July)

Reviewed on 03/03/2019 | Details & Permalink

show more
Shanghai Dream

Philippe Thirault, trans. from the French by Mark Bence. Humanoids, $17.95 (112p) ISBN 978-1-643378-51-0

With equal parts pluck and schmaltz, this graphic novel follows the filmmaking dreams of an enterprising young Jewish couple, Illo and Bernhard. In 1930s Berlin, the encroachment of Nazi thugs—held temporarily at bay by the war hero status of Illo’s aging father—forces the couple to attempt to relocate to a refugee community in Japanese-occupied Shanghai. An opportunity to leave early presents itself, but would require Illo to leave her father behind. Guilt-ridden, Illo disembarks as the ship leaves port, abandoning Bernhard. Thirault’s art echoes the characters’ cinematic aspirations in sumptuous layouts of soaring urban architecture and claustrophobic ghettos. Illo’s melodramatic screenplay-in-progress is cleverly imagined as if a real movie, which shifts with the first draft set in Berlin, then the New York of their imagination, and finally to Shanghai and the Chinese countryside. But the graphic novel suffers from the same syrupy tendencies as the film script, embodied by the cliché of too-good-to-be-true Lin Lin, who cleans Bernhardt’s room and conveniently has connections to the fledgling Shanghai film industry. The writing veers between genres, introducing then hurrying away from more violent scenes, as though to insulate the characters from the full scope of their horror. This curious project brings attention to a lesser-known Jewish refugee community via a tale about art as therapy and homage; though an uneven effort, it’s packed with details for historical fiction buffs. (July)

Reviewed on 03/03/2019 | Details & Permalink

show more
Amazing Decisions: The Illustrated Guide to Improving Business Deals and Family Meals

Dan Ariely and Matt R. Trower. Hill & Wang, $17.95 trade paper (224p) ISBN 978-0-374-53674-9

The fraught process of decision making is given a jaunty exploration in this perkily drawn graphic handbook. Behavioral economist Ariely (Predictably Irrational) presents his theories through the characters of energetic scientist Dana and befuddled Adam, who thinks he has to choose between two sets of norms. One is represented by the market fairy (who flits around in a suit and tosses off statements like “We thrive through competition and the free market”) and the other by the social fairy (“You completely missed the point of a social exchange!”). In basic drawings, Adam is walked through the balancing of social and market forces required to negotiate the tricky territories of friendship, families, and gift giving (hint: don’t offer to pay your mother for Thanksgiving dinner, no matter what the market fairy says). Thereafter, Dana overviews social science experiments, which have shown how people react to motivation in complicated and nonintuitive ways. For instance, subjects in one test worked less hard on a routine computer problem when offered money than those offered nothing. In another example, simple social reminders incentivized better than punishments. This easy-reading guide is a useful addition to the pop social-science canon, likely to get clipped for slideshow presentations from classrooms to boardrooms. Agent: James Levine, Levine Greenberg (July)

Reviewed on 03/03/2019 | Details & Permalink

show more
Grass

Keum Suk Gendry-Kim, trans. from the Korean by Janet Hong. Drawn & Quarterly, , (481p) $29.95 ISBN 978-1-77046-362-2

In telling the difficult, moving story of Korean former “comfort woman” Granny Lee Ok-sun, Gendry-Kim faces a philosophical question as well as an artistic one: what can be redeemed in a life defined largely by cruelty? In swift black brushstrokes that feel both contemporary and, in key wordless pauses, classical, Gendry-Kim follows Ok-sun’s narration of her life (based on interviews) with minimal editorializing. Ok-sun—depicted as a wrinkly old woman in the present day and a round-faced, triangle-nosed girl in her youth—is sold twice as a child into domestic work (though promised she was going to school) in poverty-stricken, occupied Korea before Japanese forces kidnap her. At the Chinese outpost where Japanese soldiers rape her regularly, there is no “comfort,” just a dirty work camp where her visitors, up to forty a day, are “all the same.” When Ok-sun describes her first rape, Gendry-Kim draws six black panels with Ok-sun’s terrified face bursting out of the frame. After the war, Ok-sun finds relative peace, but it’s clear that politicians lack the power and will to enact true healing. The best anyone can hope for, Gendry-Kim seems to conclude, is to say, collectively, “This happened.” Despite occasional moments of disjointed plotting, Gendry-Kim tells Ok-sun’s powerful story with grace, artfulness, and humility; it deserves witness. (June)

Reviewed on 04/26/2019 | Details & Permalink

show more
The Follies of Richard Wadsworth

Nick Mandaag. Drawn & Quarterly, $19.95 (152p) ISBN 978-1-770-46361-5

Mandaag (The Libertarian) showcases his excellent deadpan, cringe-inducing humor in this hilariously unsettling collection of three short stories. Using a spare line and a minimum of expressiveness, he repeatedly skewers the self-important, the self-righteous, and the self-absorbed. In the title story, Wadsworth is a buffoonish philosophy professor whose baser instincts lead to increasingly poor and absurd decisions (with some mistaken identity mishaps along the way). In “Night School,” an absurdly byzantine business class veers into madness when a visiting fire chief adds his own deranged input on leadership and discipline. A monastery is the site of “The Disciple,” wherein lust-crazed monks try to find loopholes for their desires while a monkey makes fools of them all. Mandaag’s iron-clad commitment to each story’s setup is essential to how uncomfortably funny they become as he layers on absurdist elements, and the occasional surprise visual gags are effective (such as when Wadsworth starts climbing a wall like Spider-Man). This painfully funny book will resonate with anyone coping with arbitrary, pompous authority figures. (June)

Reviewed on 04/26/2019 | Details & Permalink

show more
Love: A Discovery in Comics

Margreet de Heer. NBM, $18.99 (128p) ISBN 978-1-68112-210-6

The latest in de Heer’s series of simple, cheery graphic novel guides to big topics like science, philosophy, and religion finds the Dutch cartoonist tackling the meaning of love. Taking her own romantic history and current relationship with her husband (and colorist) Yiri Kohl as the opening story, she expands into such subjects as the history of marriage, the chemical components of desire, the seven kinds of love identified by the ancient Greeks, and the Kama Sutra and Song of Songs. Her gesticulating cartoon avatar shares her expertise on romance novels and attends a speed dating event. It’s an upbeat and good-natured sampling of issues related to partnership, lust, and romance, but the topic of love is far too vast to be covered satisfyingly in a 120-page comic. The broadly smiling, roly-poly cartoon characters and bright colors make the arguments accessible to a fault. Ultimately, the cartoon version of de Heer reaffirms her relationship with Kohl, but she doesn’t come to any conclusions that could be considered truly universal. While affable, this is an unchallenging ramble through a topic that could easily provide fodder for an entire separate series of graphic investigations. (June)

Reviewed on 04/26/2019 | Details & Permalink

show more
Bad Gateway

Simon Hanselmann. Fantagraphics, $29.99 (176p) ISBN 978-1-68396-207-6

Hanselmann’s fifth Megg, Mogg & Owl collection, set after the events of the Eisner-winning Megg & Mogg in Amsterdam, finds its depressed, drug-addicted ensemble cast tumbling out of their arrested development and into a free fall of self-reflection. Whereas most previous volumes have existed in a realm outside of time and continuity, Owl’s abrupt departure from the trio’s shared home starts a ticking clock for red-headed witch Megg and her black cat partner Mogg, who have been tricking Owl (an owl) into paying their rent. As their desperation to escape their problems, and one another, skyrockets, so too does their drug and alcohol abuse. Megg’s armor begins to crack as she uncovers the roots of her trauma in long-avoided childhood memories. In a surprising turn, Hanselmann’s trademark raunchy dark humor is only rarely on display in this collection, making room instead for a stark, unblinking gaze into the heart of self-harm, mental illness, and addiction—a reminder that, despite their goofy, cartoonish aesthetic, each character is a monster in their own horror story. The grotesque stoner art style and sickly coloring remains consistent, with little evolution over the course of the series. But Hanselmann’s storytelling sensibilities have matured here, with meditations on the makeup of a “bad person” that are tense, uncomfortable, and, appropriately enough, sobering. (July)

Reviewed on 04/26/2019 | Details & Permalink

show more
Quantum Age: From the World of Black Hammer

Jeff Lemire and Wilfredo Torres. Dark Horse, $19.99 trade paper (176p) ISBN 978-1-5067-0841-6

The Eisner Award–winning Black Hammer series by Lemire (Essex County) returns with a new cast of retro-futuristic characters. The once-teenage heroes of the Quantum League series have become a ragtag band of rebels, striving to save the universe from a galactic dystopia brought by the betrayal of one of their own. As Martian exile Barbali-Teen gathers retired and hidden ex-Leaguers, Lemire fits together plot puzzle pieces (which will make better sense to those familiar with the already extensive line of comics). The arc also cleverly pays homage to DC’s Legion of Super-Heroes, with appearances by Martian Manhunter and Swamp Thing. The crisp art by Torres (Black Panther) is vibrant even during quiet pauses, and his panel sequences flow smoothly, with more nuanced coloring than typical genre fare. Boasting a diverse cast of characters (and inter-species romance), sly moments of humor, and smart scripting, this fast-paced saga chock-full of heroes puts a fresh spin on familiar themes of rebellion. It’s a welcome tour through an entertaining sci-fi universe in the vein of Mike Mignola’s Hellboy comics. Agent: Charlie Olson, InkWell (May)

Reviewed on 04/19/2019 | Details & Permalink

show more
Red Ultramarine

Manuele Fior, trans. from the Italian by A. S. Kline. Fantagraphics, $19.99 (144p) ISBN 978-1-68396-188-8

Fior weaves myth and modernity together to examine the destructive extremes of artists in this vibrant tale. Fausto, a young architect, has immersed himself to the point of isolation in his quest for perfection. Silvia, his doting girlfriend, consults a devilish doctor—and ends up thrown into the legends of ancient Greece, to observe Daedalus and Icarus before their fateful flight and carry back what she’s learned to her obsessive beau. Fior’s limited use of brushy red and black on white makes the transition between worlds seamlessly dreamy, in addition to highlighting the disturbed nature of his characters’ actions. Daedalus’s face is a crimson smear as he searches for his fallen son; Fausto, consumed by work, is a blank white space offset with huge, opaque glasses; and Silvia is marked by a port wine stain that places her eternally in-between worlds. Fior unites artists and muses across time, managing to blend their greatest successes with their most devastating failures in what amounts to a hallucinatory story of single-minded pursuits. Beyond a fable, this slim graphic novel enacts a passion play about the costs of creativity. (May)

Reviewed on 04/19/2019 | Details & Permalink

show more
X
Stay ahead with
Tip Sheet!
Free newsletter: the hottest new books, features and more
X
X
Email Address

Password

Log In Lost Password

Parts of this site are only available to paying PW subscribers. Subscribers: to set up your digital access click here.

To subscribe, click here.

PW “All Access” site license members have access to PW’s subscriber-only website content. Simply close and relaunch your preferred browser to log-in. To find out more about PW’s site license subscription options please email: pw@pubservice.com.

If you have questions or need assistance setting up your account please email pw@pubservice.com or call 1-800-278-2991 (U.S.) or 1-818-487-2069 (all other countries), Monday-Friday between 5am and 5pm Pacific time for assistance.

Not Registered? Click here.