Books  |  Reviews

Comic Book & Graphic Novel Round-Up (9/26/12)

September 26, 2012  |  2:53pm

Each week, Paste reviews the most intriguing comic books, graphic novels, graphic memoirs and other illustrated books.

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A Trip to the Bottom of the World with Mouse
by Frank Viva

Toon Books, 2012
Rating: 9.2

Screencaps cannot render accurately just how damn gorgeous this book is. Printed in five lush, saturated colors, it’s as much a dream for adults as it is for the young children who are its intended audience. Antarctica seems to provoke this kind of reverie, with its own enforced simplicity and limited color palette, as it did for Werner Herzog and (in imagination) Edgar Allan Poe. Mouse and his human companion mostly focus on lists—kinds of penguins, things the motion of a boat makes it difficult to do, small things, things that swim in the water—and the action is minimal without feeling aggressively educational. Clear, cool, and beautiful, it belongs on your bookshelf even if you’re considerably older than four. (HB)

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A Wrinkle in Time: The Graphic Novel
original novel by Madeleine L’Engle, adapted by Hope Larson

Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2012
Rating: 7.9

Seeing that this year is the 50th anniversary of Madeleine L’Engle’s original publication of A Wrinkle in Time, one of the most beloved young adult novels of all time, the timing could hardly be better for Hope Larson’s adaptation of the sci-fi classic into a graphic novel. Nor could one imagine a better choice to make the translation. Larson has particular skill when it comes to rendering adolescent girls with delicacy and breadth, and Meg Murry, the book’s protagonist, is one of the roundest young female characters in the canon. The problem comes in the book’s conceptual and scientific subject matter, with fifth-dimension-enabled space/time travel and angelic creatures who can’t quite manifest in comprehensible form. L’Engle’s text makes it much easier to process these concepts, whereas Larson’s images, beautiful as they are and hard as they strive, take some of the imagination out of them. Meg, too, is perhaps more frustrating here than she is in the original, rendered as a ball of frustration and anger. It’s true of her character in the text-only book, but having to see her anguish in panel after panel is wearing in a way L’Engle doesn’t have to deal with. Those minor complaints aside, which would have been the case for anyone attempting this task, the book remains original, brave, interesting, and moving. Larson’s renderings of text are always strong, and they are here, too, with sound effects and crucial words appearing as graphic elements. Consider it a supplement to the classic rather than a replacement; I’m sure the artist would want you to. (HB)

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Talon #0
by Scott Snyder, James Tynion IV and Guillem March

DC Comics, 2012
Rating: 7.0

Eventually I lost track of Scott Snyder’s Batman. I never stopped liking it,  I just stopped going to the comic shop every Wednesday. Mostly I just ran out of room for yet more comics that I will probably never have time to reread. So I’m not sure how the “Court of Owls” storyline wrapped up. I’m not sure how Calvin Rose, the escape artist turned assassin and titular antihero of the new Batman spinoff Talon, connects to that story or the Talon that punctured Batman multiple times throughout. Considering Talon #0 takes place entirely in the past, “five years ago” (the same “five years ago” as Justice League #1, or is that now six years ago?), it’s possible Rose is long dead before Batman ever first meets a Talon. I don’t know. Rose has a classical comic book origin—an abusive father keeps him locked in dog pens, a youthful escape leads to running away with the circus (one familiar to Dick Grayson fans), and from there the teenaged escapist is recruited by a shadowy underground conspiracy and trained to be yet another anti-Batman who preys for evil and not on it. Rose’s conflict over his true obligations fuels what promises to be the engine that drives this new on-going series, as he quickly finds himself at odds with his new masters. That set-up could lead to compelling drama on top of the action this book will no doubt deliver, but at this point there’s no indication we’ll actually care about Rose as a character, or about the concept of the Court of Owls and its Talons outside of the Batman connection. We get little glimpse into Rose’s personality, other than the fact that he’s a lifelong victim who is opposed to murder and probably uses Houdini’s real name as his Gmail password. Snyder plotted along with James Tynion IV, who scripted, and now that the backstory is out of the way hopefully they’ll construct a worthwhile new corner of the Batman universe. (GM)

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Wolverine and the X-Men
by Jason Aaron and Mike Allred

Marvel Comics, 2012
Rating: 8.0

The fake teaser at the end of Wolverine and the X-Men #17 promises Next Issue: Doop vs. Galactus! [not really], but after the romping, hilarious exploits of the green mutant in this episode, it’s a tragedy that the spotlight will move on. Jason Aaron’s recent scripts on this series have strayed from the anything-goes buffet of Claremont-era melodrama and Morrison sci-fi fun to fit the humorless tone of the disappointing Avengers vs. X-Men event. It’s a shame, as Wolverine and the X-Men started as a tight, original ride with inspired characterization and absurdity. In direct response, this whimsical issue features Doop, the goofy mascot of X-Statix who speaks exclusively in alien runes, run through a typical day of work. And it’s possibly the most fun you’ll have with a comic this year. We learn that the quirky green blob is tasked with protecting Wolverine’s school from all manner of off-beat threats. These hazards include a Big Lebowski-inspired Nazi bowling league, promiscuous school bureaucrats, and best of all, Satan shredding on a Flying V. More importantly, original Doop illustrator and creator Mike Allred provides his gorgeous retro art aided by his gifted wife Laura on colors. This issue is a needed diversion from the militaristic slog that the X-brand has become, and hopefully sets a tonal precedence for future arcs. And after seeing Doop fight barbarian robots with Howard the Duck, how about a Marvel Team-Up featuring the green guy exploring the history of the 616 Universe? (SE)

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