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Sex Fantasy

Sofia Foster-Dimino. Koyama, $18 ISBN 978-1-927668-46-7

Relationships emerge and deteriorate in this collection of ten Ignatz Award–winning self-published zines by illustrator Foster-Dimino. The character designs are elegantly simple, each composition beautifully contained, each line crisp and clean, every emotion naked. The collection opens with two chapters of diverse, nameless people declaring idealized, lovingly practical tasks—“I carry my best friend up a hill,” “I fix the wires,” “I water the plants.” But in subsequent stories, notes of doubt and uncertainty emerge. A girl in a patterned sweater is embraced from behind by someone who whispers a string of devastating observations—“You bore people, have you noticed that?” A fashionista tutors a frazzled acquaintance on the rules of dating and tricking people into believing she is normal. A couple go on a Hawaiian vacation that nearly ends their relationship. Potential adulterers confess their feelings in a cave. Each tale is intimate and mysterious, the fantasy of the title often a denial of the harmful effects of desire. With her deceptively simple line, Foster-Dimino has captured deep, dark places where the conscious mind rarely goes. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 09/22/2017 | Details & Permalink

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Hard Boiled

Frank Miller, Geof Darrow, and Dave Stewart. Dark Horse, $19.99 (136p) ISBN 978-1-50670-107-3

Miller and Darrow’s spectacular grim and gritty SF gorefest from 1991 has been released in a newly recolored edition. The plot is slim: average guy Nixon believes he’s just a simple tax collector, but he’s really Unit Four, a berserk cyborg assassin who routinely murders countless bystanders in pursuit of his targets. When Unit Four is confronted with the reality of his own robotic body, he goes on a rampage against his programming and the (literal) corporate fat cats who made him. Darrow’s insanely intricate penciling brings each violent act into sharp focus, as flesh is shredded in hundreds of increasingly creative ways—all brought to gruesome life by Stewart’s colors. The book’s best humor (besides the dark comedy of Unit Four’s stubborn naiveté) comes from Darrow’s never-ending supply of background gags: shoppers buying sausages the size of their bodies, absurd appliances like the “Lazy Goy.” Those jokes still hold up, which is more than can be said for Miller’s plot, consumed by the same problematic treatment of women that plagues his Sin City work; the result is a technical marvel with a dated flavor. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 09/22/2017 | Details & Permalink

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Naruto: Chibi Sasuke’s Sharingan Legend, Vol. 1

Kenji Taira, trans. from the Japanese by Amanda Haley. Viz, $9.99 trade paper (192p) ISBN 978-1-42159-710-2

This episodic comedy spin-off follows the misadventures of the most infamous member of the Naruto books. Sasuke and his villain team, juxtaposed onto the page as adorable chibi (cute) characters, deal with a myriad of two-page escapades involving dysfunctional ninja Christmases and problems with an overly warm kotatsu (heated table). While the art style and jokes are so intense that they can only be read a few at a time without bringing on a headache, the book offers a deep and playful knowledge of the characters that will readily amuse any fan of the original series. Taira, a former assistant of Naruto creator Masashi Kishimoto who also helmed the Naruto spin-off Rock Lee’s Springtime of Youth, once more delivers the franchise’s high artistic and storytelling standards with dexterity, helped along by a punchy translation. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 09/22/2017 | Details & Permalink

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Jane

Aline Brosh McKenna and Ramón K. Pérez. Archaia, $24.99 (224p) ISBN 978-1-608869-81-7

In this modern take on Jane Eyre written by the cocreator of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, Jane is an art student splitting a New York apartment with her sassy gay friend and working as a nanny in the penthouse apartment of aloof millionaire Edward Rochester. Jane pushes her tall, dark and boxy-shouldered employer into taking an interest in his daughter, coaxing him out of his shell and his three-piece suits. Naturally, that’s when Rochester’s past, and his supposedly dead first wife, come back to haunt them. McKenna is sure-footed in her first graphic novel, helped by artist Pérez (Tale of Sand), who fills the pages with pretty, lanky characters and vivid colors. This retelling smooths over the bumpy eccentricities of the novel: Charlotte Brontë’s characters certainly weren’t this good-looking, and her plot didn’t end in a blockbuster-movie–style action sequence. All the elements of the original are reworked into a more conventional romance plot, like a better-scripted, better-looking Fifty Shades of Grey. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 09/22/2017 | Details & Permalink

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The Retreat

Pierre Wazem and Tom Tirabosco, trans. from the French by Mark Bence. umanoids, $14.95 trade paper (112p) ISBN 978-1-59465-615-6

The narrative economy of this graphic novel underscores how deeply the story meditates on things that go unsaid. Two 20-somethings, Serge and Igor, leave the city to spend time at a cottage in the mountains owned by the family of their dead friend, Matt. Soon, their attention shifts to their memories of the last time they were together at the cabin. Try as they might, Serge and Igor have a difficult time coming to terms with the fact that Matt is gone and struggle with understanding the circumstances surrounding his death. Wazam, a prolific comics writer (Koma, Snow Day), relies on frequent collaborator Tirabosco’s visual canvas to tell the story, his gently rounded characters showing how small human beings are in relation to their environment and revealing the complex ways in which characters communicate without words. The resulting story will move thoughtful readers, especially those who have experienced loss and struggled with accepting it. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 09/22/2017 | Details & Permalink

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