Review by New York Times Review
Comics can tell certain kinds of stories that prose, photographs and films can't. They can also tell familiar stories in drastically different ways. The artists of some of this seasons graphic novels transform history into broad comedy or rollicking adventure. Others show us worlds frighteningly different from our own, or aestheticize the realities we know with something as simple as a set of squiggly lines or a canny splash of color. Beakermania Thanks to the imminent 50th anniversary of the British Invasion, we're seeing a small wave of comics inspired by the Beatles, none more inventive than Eric Stephenson and Nate Bellegarde's NOWHERE MEN, VOL. 1: Fates Worse Than Death (Image, paper, $9.99). Its shuffled chronology requires multiple readings to puzzle out, but essentially: It's set in a world where a long-disbanded team of four brilliant scientists had the earthshaking effect on culture that the Beatles had on ours. The story, interspersed with fictional magazine clippings and book excerpts, is liberally sprinkled with sly allusions to the rock mythos. Shades of Love Julie Maroh's first graphic novel, BLUE IS THE WARMEST COLOR (Arsenal Pulp Press, paper, $19.95), was published in France in 2010 and adapted by Abdellatif Kechiche into this year's Palme d'Or-winning film of the same title. The story begins with a woman named Emma inheriting her lover Clementine's diaries, which trace their relationship over the course of about a dozen years, beginning when Clementine was an uncertain teenager and Emma a confident, slightly older lesbian with a shock of blue hair. Maroh's text is as melodramatic as any youthful fantasy of romantic torment ("Today everything changed," one diary entry begins. "Today innocence died"), but her delicate linework and ink-wash effects illuminate the story's quiet pauses and the characters' fraught silences and wordless longing. In the book's flashback sequences, everything is gray except for the blue that lingers in Clementine's memory. Taking a Stand Peter Bagge's comics, notably his '90s-era "Hate" series, are built on broad satire and slapstick, his characters rubbery dolls who rage, fume and fret. WOMAN REBEL: The Margaret Sanger Story (Drawn & Quarterly, $21.95), a biography of the birth-control activist who defied the Comstock laws in the first half of the 20th century, is an unlikely but inspired pairing of author and subject. A more or less historically accurate biography, it's played for boffo yocks on almost every page. Bagge throws in cameo appearances by the likes of the labor leader Big Bill Haywood and the sexologist Havelock Ellis, and brashly squeezes black humor out of even the savageries Sanger was trying to mitigate. He treats her capacity for vain self-delusion as grist for comedy but reserves his funniest blasts of contempt for the sanctimonious moralists she perpetually reduced to fits of frustration. Make Some Noise Since early last year, Ed Piskor's HIP HOP FAMILY TREE has been lovingly documenting the early days of hip-hop music and culture. The online strip's first collection (Fantagraphics, paper, $24.99), printed on mock-yellowed newsprint to give it the look of battered old comics, follows the story from Kool Herc's and DJ Hollywood's 1970s parties to the 1981 showdown between Kool Moe Dee and Busy Bee. Piskor has an aficionado's eye for details and connections - his portraits illustrating how the Funky Four Plus One dressed before and after they signed to Sugar Hill Records say a lot about hip-hop's rapidly shifting image - and a caricaturist's knack for cramming in visual information while ribbing nearly everyone he draws. (Russell Simmons and Rick Rubin come in for particularly irreverent treatment.) When Casanova Fly or Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five rock the house, their sheer volume seems to blow the printing off-register. In the Cross Hairs The writer Alex de Campi's acclaimed comics series "Smoke," drawn by the Croatian artist Igor Kordey (panel below) and initially published in 2005, was a quirky but relatively straightforward political thriller, involving a plucky young journalist, an albino assassin, vicious aristocrats and a grossly obese terrorist cell called the Right to Beauty Brigade. It's now been paired with a longer, stranger sequel, as SMOKE/ASHES (Dark Horse, paper, $29.99). "Ashes," a crowdfunded project illustrated by 14 different artists, begins with the lives of survivors from "Smoke" already in ruins. As they're pursued by a malevolent digital ghost, the story goes from spy-style noir to sci-fi horror (a factory holds "five square miles of genetically engineered stem-cell bones growing pig meat"), and its art makes whiplash shifts - a section that looks like a scribbled-on Beatrix Potter book is followed by a pastiche of medieval illuminated manuscripts. By the final chapters, de Campi and her collaborators shoot out the support beams of typical plot resolution, and the closing sequence, painted by Bill Sienkiewicz, abandons even the comforts of visual realism. DOUGLAS WOLK is the author of "Reading Comics: How Graphic Novels Work and What They Mean."
Copyright (c) The New York Times Company [December 15, 2014]
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review
Love is a beautiful punishment in Maroh's paean to confusion, passion, and discovery. Clementine, a high school student, is in the midst of an identity crisis when she locks eyes with older, blue-haired Emma on the street. That moment keeps bubbling up in Clementine's dreams, drawing her toward a romantic truth that neither she, her family, nor her friends can or want to understand. Maroh's moody, exaggerated drawings and cool-hued colors give everything a dreamlike patina. Adolescent identity-seeking plays out against a mixture of heart-thumping decisions and brief but steam-heated romantic interludes. Maroh twists this potentially diagrammatic love story into a more operatic affair by telling it all in flashback, as Emma reads Clementine's diaries under the glowering eyes of her beloved's parents, who blame Emma for their daughter's death. Translated from the French, Maroh's graphic novel has already been adapted into a film that won the Palme d'Or at Cannes this year. Controversy over the film's explicit love scenes (criticized by some, including Maroh herself, for being too voyeuristic and unromantic) will likely result in a lot of interest in this elegantly impassioned love story. (Sept.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Review by Library Journal Review
French creator Maroh's Audience Award-winning graphic novel is a sincere love story told through the journal entries of Clementine, spanning her years in high school to adulthood. Despite Clementine's unhappy attempts at having a "normal" relationship with a boy, there is love at first sight when she sees the confident blue-haired Emma. Eventually, they meet and begin a relationship characterized by deep love but haunted by Clementine's difficulty in accepting herself and the depression brought on by her parents' and classmates' homophobia. Maroh's use of color is deliberate enough to be eye-catching in a world of grey tones, with Emma's bright blue hair capturing Clementine's imagination, but is used sparingly enough that it supports and blends naturally with the story. Verdict Even though the setting is dated, Paris in the mid-1990s, and the fight for LGBT rights is just beginning to gain public awareness, the electric emotions of falling in love and the difficult process of self-acceptance will resonate with all readers. Some nudity and brief sex scenes are depicted. The French film version of the graphic novel won the 2013 Palme d'Or, the highest honor awarded at the Cannes Film Festival, which may draw general interest.-Marlan Brinkley, Atlanta-Fulton P.L. (c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Review by Kirkus Book Review
From Belgium, the graphic novel on which the 2013 Palme d'Orwinning film of the same name was based. Clementine is 15 in 1994 when she sees a beautiful young woman with blue hair crossing the plaza. That night, the woman figures in an erotic dream, and her world is rocked. "I had no right to have thoughts like that." When she meets blue-haired Emma for real, she begins an at-first platonic relationship with the art student, who tells Clementine of her own coming out. The relationship turns sexual (graphically, beautifully so) and complicated. The story is told in flashback; readers meet a years-older Emma in the aftermath of Clementine's funeral as she reads Clementine's teenage diaries. The late-2000s scenes are somber and washed with blues, while the bulk of the tale is drawn in delicate black, gray and white with strategic highlights of blue. The text is occasionally clunky and purposive"We do not choose the one we fall in love with, and our perception of happiness is our own and is determined by what we experience"but the illustrations are infused with genuine, raw feeling. Wide-eyed Clementine wears every emotion on her sleeve, and even if today's teens will feel that her mid-'90s experience is rather antique, they will understand her journey perfectly. Though a bit of a period piece, a lovely and wholehearted coming-out story. (Graphic historical fiction. 16 up)]] Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.