Graphic Novels from Hanuka, Lemire, Manara & Pratt, Thurman & Others, and Debuter Kim | Xpress Reviews

Week ending May 19, 2017

starred review starHanuka, Asaf. The Realist: Plug and Play. Archaia. Apr. 2017. 112p. ISBN 9781608869534. $24.99; ebk. ISBN 9781613986240. GRAPHIC NOVELS
Hanuka (Bipolar), a widely acclaimed commercial illustrator and comic book artist, has unleashed a terrific self-effacing visual essay. Realist is chock-full of snippets from family life as viewed by an artist, husband, and father. Aloof yet still integral to the work, Hanuka tells of his attempts, for example, to remain calm and convince his children that running to a bomb shelter near their home in Tel Aviv, Israel, is akin to strolling to the corner market and describes his gross mismanagement of the home while his wife is away. All the stories, including many without words, are rendered with a bold, surrealistic creativity and droll humor. Sequential art is punctuated periodically with sublime single-panel concept bits.
Verdict This Eisner Award–winning series is rich to view. The line work is clean and dignified, and the coloring perfect. Each page is its own reward. YA as well as adult readers will enjoy this clever collection of everyday life observations.—Russell Miller, Prescott P.L., AZ

starred review starKim, Chris W. Herman by Trade. SelfMadeHero. May 2017. 120p. ISBN 9781910593288. $22.95. GRAPHIC NOVELS
[DEBUT] This heartbreakingly gorgeous debut tells of Herman, an introverted loner with the inexplicable ability to take on the appearance of others at will. Herman is a boardwalk street cleaner in a city where an eccentric movie director is shooting a sequel to her classic cult film. One of many auditioning for a part, Herman repeatedly tries on new identities to land a role yet finally succeeds by being himself and revealing his secret talent, making the rest of the cast obsolete by playing all the parts. Using black-and-white crosshatch illustrations, Kim brings to life the boardwalk and the characters inhabiting the space hoping to make their big break. The art perfectly captures Herman’s loneliness, which is brought out even more by the author’s style of presenting his protagonist’s internal thoughts visually through a dialog cloud instead of typical speech bubbles.
Verdict A simple story of identity to which many will relate, this book stays with the reader, and Kim’s art leaves a permanent imprint. For fans of Teju Cole’s Open City and fantastical surrealism.—Ryan Claringbole, Wisconsin Dept. of Pub. Instruction, Madison

starred review starLemire, Jeff (text) & Dean Ormston & Dave Stewart (illus.). Black Hammer. Vol. 1: Secret Origins. Dark Horse. Apr. 2017. 152p. ISBN 9781616557867. pap. $14.99; ebk. ISBN 9781630083281. SUPERHEROES
Ever wonder what happens to those superheroes written out of continuity by the cosmic crises that routinely rewrite the fabric of fiction universes? For at least some of the heroes of Spiral City, the answer is that they find themselves trapped on a mysterious small farm in a quaint little town in a world much like our own, where they must pose as a decidedly dysfunctional family. For some, this new life is a blessing and a chance for a normal existence; for others, it’s a curse they’ll never stop trying to overcome. Writer Lemire (Roughneck) combines his talent for both high-concept sf and gothic tales of country living to craft a strange and melancholy tale of larger-than-life characters who are forced to reckon with what’s left when their adventures come to an end. Ormston’s (2000 AD) illustrations deftly capture both the uncanny and small moments of human drama that make this volume such a compelling and complex read.
Verdict Lemire is the rare talent who is embraced by both mainstream and independent comics fans, and this title should have massive appeal for both.—Tom Batten, Grafton, VA

Manara, Milo with Hugo Pratt (text & illus.). The Manara Library. Vol. 1: Indian Summer and Other Stories. Dark Horse. Mar. 2017. 206p. tr. from Italian & French by Kim Thompson. ISBN 9781506702629. pap. $29.99. Rated: M. GRAPHIC NOVELS
One of the most celebrated comics artists in Europe, Italian maestro Manara (El Gaucho; Butterscotch) receives his due with this collection. Following in the unique style of famed French graphic novelist Moebius, Manara has entranced audiences for more than 40 years with his gorgeous artwork and sensually visual storytelling. Gathered in this volume are the stories “Indian Summer” and “The Paper Man.” Manara collaborates with fellow Italian writer/artist/ Americana buff Pratt (Corto Maltese) on the former, which tells of the tenuous peace and politics of the newly established Puritans in 1600s New England and their Native American neighbors. “The Paper Man,” written and drawn by Manara, takes place in post–Civil War Arizona and chronicles the journey of an unlikely trio: a love-struck prospector trying to reunite with his lover Gwendolyn, an elderly British solider marooned in Mexico on his way to Quebec, and a Native American woman fleeing the U.S. Army.
Verdict A perfect edition for readers interested in the evolution of comics and international influences within the medium. However, the stories portray several moments of eroticism and are therefore intended for mature audiences.—Alger C. Newberry III, Genesee Dist. Lib., Flint, MI

Thurman, Robert A.F. & others (text) & Steve Buccellato & others (illus.). Man of Peace: The Illustrated Life Story of the Dalai Lama of Tibet. Tibet House US. Mar. 2017. 289p. bibliog. ISBN 9781941312049. pap. $39.95. BIOG/REL
In 1950, China invaded Tibet, beginning a brutal occupation of the once peaceful country. By 1959, the situation had deteriorated to such a degree that the Dalai Lama, Tibet’s religious and political leader, fled to India and set up a government in exile. Man of Peace relates the story of the 14th Dalai Lama and his struggles to save his beloved culture through nonviolence, compassion, and Buddhist teachings. Authors Thurman, William Meyers, and Michael G. Burbank, all authorities on Tibetan Buddhist culture, along with an artistic team led by Buccellatto (Legendhaus Studio, L.A.), do a wonderful job of making Tibet’s history accessible and easy to read. Well paced, this book strikes a delicate balance in its portrayal of historical events, Buddhist meditations, and the Dalai Lama’s personal reflections. Although compositions and figure posing can feel awkward at times, the use of color and lush Tibetan iconography propel the story forward. Overall, this graphic novel reads very much like Ben Avery’s The Christ and similar retellings of the Bible—employing a modern format and dramatic storytelling to deliver a religious message.
Verdict An intriguing account of the 14th Dalai Lama; an important purchase for readers sympathetic to Tibet’s plight and Buddhist doctrine.—E.W. Genovese, Andrew Bayne Memorial Lib., Pittsburgh

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