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Recommendations for Friday, July 19, 2013

Super Dinosaur Volume 1 by Robert Kirkman, Jason Howard

Link to this review in the form of a comic strip by billba tagged graphic novelhumorsuperhero

Unshelved strip for 7/19/2013

Kid Beowulf and the Song of Roland by Alexis E. Fajardo

Link to this review by theo tagged classicfantasygraphic novel

Beowulf and his brother Grendel are traveling to see their uncle Ogier, one of King Charlemagne's Peers (his elite corps of soldier bodyguards). They are attacked by bandits and saved by their uncle. He reveals that Ganelon, stepfather of the King's nephew Roland, has poisoned the King and staged a coup.

Beowulf and Grendel must help restore the King to his throne.

Why I picked it up: I'm a sucker for comics with swords.

Why I finished it: This series’ visual humor always makes me laugh. When Grendel is aiming a rock he’s about to throw, his pet pig, Hama, is standing on the rock (about to throw a smaller rock) and aiming in the opposite direction. Then, when Ogier gets a drunk Peer angry enough to come at him with a bottle, Ogier smacks the bottle out of the Peer's hand, trips him, and puts a pillow under his (now unconscious) head and asks, "Who else wants a nightcap?"

I'd give it to: Jacob will like the really cool drawings of weapons, like bows, axes, spears, and will love Beowulf's talking sword, Nagling.

Avatar: The Last Airbender: The Search Part 2 by Gene Luen Yang, Michael Dante DiMartino, Bryan Konietzko, & Gurihiru

In search of their long-lost mother, Fire Lord Zuko and his deadly and insane sister Azula have brought Avatar Aang and his friends into a mysterious forest, but what they discover within may be more than they can face. Will they too be lost in these woods forever?

  • Perfect companion to Legend of Korra!
  • The official continuation of Airbender from its creators.

“A fantastic glimpse into the post-series universe . . . “ --Bleeding Cool

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War Brothers: The Graphic Novel by Sharon E. McKay, Daniel Lafrance

Link to this review by craigseasholes tagged graphic novelnonfiction

A group of Ugandan boys sent to a Catholic boarding school are kidnapped in a bloody nighttime attack by the Lord's Resistance Army. They endure beatings, starvation, and threats during a forced march into the jungle where they also witness atrocities committed against those who resisted the LRA. Some boys capitulate and participate in brutal attacks. Others resist and are kept as half-starved porters/hostages instead. Eventually they all manage to escape the LRA and return to Ugandan-controlled territory. After a brief stay in rehabilitation camps they try to reintegrate into society.

McKay's original 2008 novel, on which this is based, was written for grades five through nine. The graphic presentation recommends it to middle and high school students as the images can grab readers' attention and challenge them to wrestle with the difficult issues presented.  

Why I picked it up: The weary boy soldier on the cover, a Kalishnikov at his side. Behind him are other armed boys silhouetted against a roiling, blood red background. Then I read on the back that it is based on the accounts of real child soldiers.

Why I finished it: The story begins with white pages as the boys, full of hope, meet each other at the start of a new school year. But after the abduction, the pages are black as the boys are forced to agree to fight or face starvation on their forced march into the jungles towards Sudan. This was a wonderful, dramatic way to show the tone of the story visually.

And the tension was incredible after the escape. The boys are stalked by both a lion and the vengeful LRA commander.

I'd give it to: David, who teaches high school English and doesn't flinch from tough subjects that can capture and hold students' attention. He might lead with War Brothers as a vivid and accessible, attention-grabbing introduction and follow it up with Ishmael Beah's memoir of being a child soldier in Sierra Leone in the 1990's, A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier. Taken together the books make for an unforgettable glimpse into child soldiers’ vivid and painful experiences.

Dalen & Gole: Scandal in Port Angus by Mike Deas

Link to this review by craigseasholes tagged graphic novelscience fiction

After losing the Junior Jet Race to a mysteriously supercharged rival, Dalen and Gole follow a slippery trail from their rival’s garage on Budap to a strangely idle fishing community on the west coast of British Columbia. These two young aliens and a plucky earthling they befriend foil a plot to turn all the fish in the sea into fuel for a selfish villain back on Budap.

Why I picked it up: The cover sports two startled aliens, their eyes on slug-like antenna, facing a glaring spotlight. It’s obvious something fishy is going on.

Why I finished it: After the race, Gole’s suspicions prove correct -- the mysterious purple smoke coming from Truax’s jet racer does smell of foul play. I enjoyed the environmental message woven into Deas’s bright comics, which also feature lots of emphatic punctuation!!! The key to the alien alphabet found at the end sent me back through the story to decode various signs that I couldn’t read on my first pass.

I'd give it to: Keegan, a third grader whose quick wit will delight in the alien-ness of slug-like Dalen & Gole. They find a dictionary, flip through it, can suddenly speak English, and tell a girl they meet to take them to her leader. Keegan would love it if aliens appeared in his backyard!

Star Wars: Purge by Haden Blackman, Alexander Freed, John Ostrander, Jim Hall, Chris Scalf, Douglas Wheatley, & Marco Castiello

Darth Vader brings death to the Jedi who survived Order 66. His legend grows as he roots out Jedi, crushing their lives, their hopes, and all memory of their kind from the civilizations that now bow to the Galactic Empire.

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Abelard: A Magical Graphic Novel by Renaud Dillies, Regis Hautière, Joe Johnson

Link to this review by geneambaum tagged graphic novelliterary

Abelard has always lived in the swamp. He doesn’t know how good he’s got it: fishing, playing cards, hanging out with friends.

One day he sees a beautiful young woman, Eppily, who is visiting the swamp with her friends. A young man tells Abelard that to seduce her, he needs to offer her the moon or a bouquet of stars. After Abelard hears that a flying machine has recently been invented in America, he sets off to bring the stars back for Eppily.

Why I picked it up: Dillies’s previous book, Bubbles & Gondola, was beautiful.

Why I finished it: Eppily is clearly out of Abelard’s league. She’s tall and curvy and beautiful. He seems to be a little boy in comparison. But he’s a dreamer. He travels his path and is taken advantage of by some of those that he comes across, while others recognize his innocence and help him on his journey. But overall a very sad, melancholy air hangs over the adventure because Abelard can’t succeed and isn’t aware of how impossible his quest is.

I'd give it to: Darcy would like the notes that Abelard finds in his hat every day. They offer him wisdom or a way to reflect on his journey. It’s kind of like if Hogwarts’s sorting hat started writing a one-sentence advice column.

Genius by Steven T. Seagle, Teddy Kristiansen

Link to this review by ang tagged graphic novelliterary

Ted is a genius. After being recruited as a physicist at the prestigious Pasadena Technological Institute, he finds himself quietly stagnating. He understands the whys and hows of the universe, but struggles with the intricacies of everyday life and his children. His world threatens to come apart when a mass is discovered in his wife’s brain. Worse, his boss is demanding he come up with a big idea.

Fighting to hold on to his job and family, Ted finds hope in the delusional ramblings of his father-in-law. He was once Albert Einstein’s bodyguard, and “Bert” may have told him a secret that he has guarded throughout his life.

Why I picked it up: The simple cover hinted at something intellectual and ethereal. Inside, Kristiansen’s monochromatic illustrations are washes punctuated with color and overlaid with sharp lines. Flipping through it, I could see it’s beautiful and distinctive from cover to cover.

Why I finished it: The smart, subtle humor kept surprising me. The book touches on some difficult subjects -- dementia, illness, puberty, insecurity -- but the dry humor keeps it from becoming too heavy. In particular, I loved watching Ted bungle his way through a sex talk with his fourteen-year-old son. It is an awkward moment of genuine connection that influences some of the funniest, warmest scenes in this novel.

I'd give it to: Eric. He'll love the bits of scientific theory and quotes from Einstein, but will probably benefit most from the reassurance that even people with massive intellect are allowed to be really stupid when it comes to their hearts.

Law of the Desert Born: A Graphic Novel by Louis L'Amour; Adapted by Charles Santino; Written by Beau L'Amour and Kathy Nolan; Illustrated by Thomas Yeates

The first graphic novel adaptation of the work of master storyteller Louis L’Amour is a dynamic tale of the Old West that explores the borderlands of loyalty and betrayal with the emotional grittiness of a noir thriller.

LAW OF THE DESERT BORN captures the dust and blood of Louis L’Amour’s West—a world where the difference between a hero and a villain can be as wide as the gap between an act of kindness or brutality or as narrow as a misspoken word.

Click to Request an Advance Sampler of this Graphic Novel. (Quantities Limited).

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The Moon Moth by Jack Vance, Humayoun Ibrahim, Hilary Sycamore

Link to this review by billba tagged graphic novelscience fiction

Edwer Thissell has been sent on a diplomatic mission to the planet Sirene. He's out of his depth. The residents are human, but their social conventions are alien. They wear bizarre masks, communicate with a combination of speech and music, and have very different concepts of property, politeness, and honor.

Then he learns that Haxo Angmark, a deadly and ruthless assassin, is on the planet. Thissell must track him down. But how to find one man in a land he barely understands, where everyone is masked?

Why I picked it up: The art is striking, but I knew it was an adaption of a classic piece of science fiction, and the title led me to believe there would be a giant lunar Lepidoptera. So I kept putting it off. But after a purge of my giant books-to-read pile I finally cracked it open. (Turns out the title refers to the simple mask worn by Thissell, which is crucial to the plot.)

Why I finished it: I had no idea where this story was going, something I can rarely say. At first I was as confused by Sirene as Thissell. Their ways seemed impossibly convoluted and unnecessary. But over time they started to make a certain kind of sense, and I could see why some of Thissell's countrymen had gone native. And then, amazingly, Thissell does catch Angmark -- and things go from bad to worse.

I'd give it to: Jerry, who introduced me to Gene Wolfe. The works of Wolfe and Vance coexist in the rare Venn diagram overlap of Science Fiction and Literature. The writing in this story simply dances, and as for the plot, there is a point towards the end where I actually exclaimed out loud, "Holy sh*t!"

A Matter of Life by Jeffrey Brown

Link to this review by dawnrutherford tagged biographygraphic novel

Jeffrey Brown explores his fear of bugs, being a dad, his love of physics, and answering really tough questions from his son. Where once he obsessed over his difficulty relating to and understanding women, now he has moved on to deeper issues including his own mortality.

Why I picked it up: I read pretty much everything Brown writes because his unique illustration style and voice lack pretension and make me like people more, including his charming Star Wars books.

Why I finished it: I've always admired Brown’s excruciating honesty. This volume was no exception, as he examines his loss of religion, going from being an unquestioning preacher’s kid to realizing the contradictions and politics of the church had left him completely jaded.  It is especially interesting to see how this impacted his relationship with his devout father. I really appreciate seeing how much Brown has grown over the years -- he’s lost much of his painful awkwardness while settling into marriage and fatherhood.

I'd give it to: My brother, Jonathan, who is a holiday Catholic married to an atheist and still goes to church with our mom sometimes. I think he would appreciate how Brown approaches questions about religion from his curious young son, giving him room to figure out his own beliefs while being honest about his own. Maybe this will inspire Jonathan to have similarly open conversions with my niece, Clover.

Five Funerals and a Bucket of Blood: (Skullkickers Volume 2) by Jim Zub, Edwin Huang

Link to this review by geneambaum tagged fantasygraphic novel

The humorous, fantastic adventures of two mercenaries -- a red-bearded dwarf with an axe and a tall bald guy with a gun -- who are hailed as heroes and taken to Urbia to meet the Duke.

During a celebratory dinner party, they see fairies attempting to assassinate the nobles at the table. They try to put a stop to it. But when the dining room doors open, and the entering servants find them covered in blood, brandishing weapons, knee-deep in dead bodies.

Contains Skullkickers #6 - #11.

Why I picked it up: The age rating on the back cover was even better than the one for Volume 1.

“This book is for Teen Readers 13+ and includes the following -- Alcohol use, comic mischief and cartoon violence. And by ‘Violence’, we mean: blood, heads popping off, a knee in the face, an arrow in the back, squirrel tossing, gut punches, window smashing and mutant ape wrestling. Yippy!”

Why I finished it: The book made me laugh. At the beginning the mercenaries are dressed in court finery for their dinner in Urbia. It’s quite funny to see two tough guys dressed in poofy shirts and seventeenth century wigs. It’s even better when the dwarf describes the death of Chancellor Kenby (slain in the last book) in detail to one of his dinner companions, explaining how the arrow went in his eye and then out the back of his skull. He makes her faint.

I'd give it to: The unkillable leader of the thieves would remind my friend Dave of one of his favorite moments from Highlander: during a duel, the immortal Connor MacLeod is stabbed repeated by a puzzled, wig-wearing fop named Hotchkiss.

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