Newest Graphic Novels Reviews

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Batman: Dark Knight III: The Master Race by Frank Miller and Brian Azzarello

3.5star.jpg Graphic Novels

Batman is not playing ball. He's been videoed duffing up Gotham policemen, and not the baddies he usually biffs. But then he's not Batman – he's a she, and she finally comes up with the news that Batman died in her hands. Elsewhere, Lara, the daughter of Superman and Wonder Woman, is encouraging Ray Palmer/The Atom to turn his technologies concerned with shrinking and expanding life to the miniaturised city of Kandor, the last vestige of Kryptonian existence not to fly about in visible blue pants. What with Superman sitting idle in an exposed Fortress of Solitude having gone into a sulk, and Batman dead, there would appear to be little in the way of help for the world should anything nasty happen – but then, of course, something nasty does happen… Full review...

The Gritterman by Orlando Weeks

5star.jpg Graphic Novels

There's a man who has an ice cream van. In summer, what there is of summer, he uses it to sell ice creams, That's not his vocation though, but it does keep him going whilst he waits for winter, when the van becomes a Gritting Van and our narrator becomes a Gritterman. The fibreglass 99s on the roof light up and rotate, playing a tune, whether the van's gritting or selling ice creams. Tonight - Christmas Eve - will be the van's last trip. The council has sent the letter about his services no longer being required. Global warming. Dying profession, they say. There's even a tarmac now that can de-ice itself, but the Gritterman isn't sure that he wants to live in a world where the B2116 doesn't need gritting. Full review...

Water Memory by Mathieu Reynes, Valerie Vernay and Jeremy Melloul (translator)

4.5star.jpg Graphic Novels

Despite the title, it seems at first the memories here are much more earthy, for Caroline has brought her young daughter to the place she herself left as a toddler. The move has been caused by a break-up, and it's just the two of them in the family unit, making a fresh start (with the help of a kindly old neighbour) in an old house on a promontory of the Brittany coast. Young Marion soon discovers the clifftops are peppered with strange standing stones, with even stranger figures, initials and dates carved on to them. She also soon works out there is a way to get across a causeway at low tide to the local lighthouse, manned as it is by a gruff, surly old man. But while Caroline's beginning anew starts with a nice local job, things are slowly getting more creepy. Large sea creatures are beaching themselves, the stones' imagery is found in even stranger places - and the lighthousekeeper seems to hold darker secrets. What memory could possibly be in this storm-drenched land? Full review...

The Lyrical Comics of Dillies Set: Including Abelard, Bubbles & Gondola, Betty Blues by Renaud Dillies

4.5star.jpg Graphic Novels

A young duck who plays horn in a jazz band is so rapt in his music he doesn't see his girlfriend leaving the bar with another man, which compels him to throw his instrument away and seek a change of scene – without realising what that might entail. A young mouse writer finds himself in the company of solitude, whether he likes it or not. And a young bird with a happy life still itches to learn what is over the horizon, and partly inspired by a crush on a girl he knows, seeks an entirely new life in America to attain the sparkly things that might be what turns her head. Yes, these graphic novels are entirely peopled by animals – sometimes unspecified species, too – but they have a very mature look at the world, and it's not a world where everything comes up roses… Full review...

Buddha: An Enlightened Life (Campfire Graphic Novels) by Kieron Moore and Rajesh Nagulakonda

4star.jpg Graphic Novels

I don't do religion, but still there was something that drew me to this comic book. For one, the whole Buddhist faith is still a little unknown to me, and this was certainly going to be educational. Yes, I knew some of the terms it ends up using, but not others, such as bhikshu, and had never really come across the man's life story. Yes, I knew he found enlightenment and taught a very pacifist kind of faith, but where did he come from? What failings did he have on his path, and who were the ones that joined him along the way? Full review...

Honor Girl by Maggie Thrash

4.5star.jpg Teens

It's camp. It's supposed to be fun.
Well excuse me for not having the time of my life.

That simple piece of dialogue is the key to this autobiographical graphic novel. Why is Maggie not happy at camp? Forget the way she's isolated by being a sleep-walker, and ignore the fact she's from a different state to every other girl around, and practically only there to obey her mother's family tradition – she's all of a sudden become an ace shot on the rifle range, and can boss the Backstreet Boys-themed talent performance. But those aren't enough for Maggie to feel settled and like she's enjoying her summer, and anyway they do come with their own problems. No, the bigger problem is something else – the fact that she seems to be falling in love with one of the counsellor campers, there to look after the welfare of the younger inmates – being potentially a lesbian is a shock to our narrator. Full review...

Ratchwood Dilemma by Duncan Watson and Brian Bicknell

3.5star.jpg Graphic Novels

Well, this is a singular book and make no mistake. The first part of the trilogy led us in quite bewildered steps from a hive mind crash-landing at Roswell and infecting a scientist, through a religious espouser being shot live on TV and the death of Judas, right up to some kind of godhead having to better the existence of what, you know, the more commonly perceived God, had left us with. I think. Here we start with an A&E case where one of a pair of twins is left in near-vegetative state, but one advisor suggests that before the crash or whatever that caused the problem in the first place there might have only been one person. We see a man with the ability to snatch people out of space/time – in a world where that can happen who knows how stable anyone or anything or anywhen might be? And what might any slight imbalance in the universes mean? Full review...

Tarzan - And the Lost Tribes (Vol. 4) (The Complete Burne Hogarth Comic Strip Library) by Burne Hogarth and Rob Thompson

4.5star.jpg Graphic Novels

Normally I turn against the most popular. If there's a book series that I know is, say, seven volumes long, I shrug and let people enjoy it. I've been bitten too often by series you think are complete being extended, for one, and the originator's death too often never puts the full stop you'd expect on things. But some franchises are much longer, but too important to ignore. Take, for example, the series (of series) surrounding Tarzan. Unless fully in the know, you will be surprised at just how many films there were back in the day. I'm not going to count up the number of official books he was in. He was also in comic strips, as you might expect, but for my sins they've never crossed my path until here. But boy isn't this just a wonderful way to see what I was missing… Full review...

The Loxleys and Confederation by Mark Zuehlke and Claude St Aubin

3.5star.jpg Graphic Novels

There is a huge hole in my history knowledge where North America is concerned. Slowly, from an opening of sheer ignorance, having never studied it whatsoever at school, I've got a small grip on things like the Civil War, the foundations of the USA and a few other things. But that means nothing as far as this book is concerned, for that huge hole is Canada. No, I didn't have an inkling about how it was trying to unify, just as the American Civil War was in full pelt just across the border. I didn't know what was there before Canada, if you see what I mean. The story does have some things in common with that of their southern neighbours – European occupancy being slowly turned into a list of states as we know them now, slowly spreading into the heart of the continent with the help of the railways etc; native 'Indians' being 'in the way'; past trading agreements to either maintain or try to improve on; and so on – but of course it also had the British vs French issue. But did you know how an American President getting shot at the theatre had a bearing on the story? Or the Irish? Like I said, a huge hole… Full review...

Children of Lucifer: Modesty Blaise by Peter O'Donnell and Enric Badia Romero

3.5star.jpg Graphic Novels

Out of ninety-five diverse comic strip stories, the publication of this book leaves just the last three yet to be presented in these fabulous large format paperbacks. So if you haven’t yet met with the sassy brunette with her curves and her great crime-solving mind, and of course with her Willie, this is the last-but-one chance for you to do so. And if you have any interest in quick little action tales, or even dated kitsch, for both apply here, then you should eagerly be on board… Full review...

The Legion of Regrettable Supervillains: Oddball Criminals from Comic Book History by Jon Morris

5star.jpg Graphic Novels

As much as I like comics – and I do, whether superhero ones or not – I have to admit one thing, namely that the villains in them are a bit pants. What is The Penguin but the world's worst Mafioso, with a hobby of waddling along like his pet birds? Where else do you win an Oscar of all things by playing a two-bit killer who just fell in a vat of random chemicals and changed colour, and got mardier as a result (although recently he's become a nanotech genius – but let's not go there)? And what is it with the gimp in the see-through plant pot because he is the embodiment of cold? And that's just some of the better-known enemies of Batman, one of the better goodies. You can imagine how awful the baddies related to the bad goodies can be. And if you can't, this is the perfect primer. Full review...

The Pavee and the Buffer Girl by Siobhan Dowd and Emma Shoard

5star.jpg Graphic Novels

When Jim's family halt at Dundray, his heart grows heavy. A new Buffer school for this Pavee boy to attend. Jim doesn't like school. He doesn't like Buffers. And you know, you couldn't really blame him because the distrust and suspicion is mutual. Prejudice against the Traveller community is strong and when Jim and his cousins turn up on their first day, it's to stares and muttered insults from the pupils and condescension from the teachers. Within days, Moss Cunningham and his gang have accused Jim of stealing a CD - he did no such thing - and have begun a campaign of threats, bullying and worse. Full review...

One Trick Pony by Nathan Hale

4.5star.jpg Graphic Novels

Forget the moon being made of cheese, here the Earth looks like it's a huge dollop of the finest Swiss stuff. Horrid, giant insectoid alien things have taken over, and they have zapped anything technological they can find – pumping a blob of something over it, and turning whatever turns up in the resulting spheres into sand, or carting it off to larger ships. Our heroes belong to a travelling caravan of a village, keeping intact as much human knowledge as they can (think a digital version of those readers in Fahrenheit 451), but they've left their compatriots behind to go exploring. They'll never expect to find a magical, wondrous, robotic horse, though – which is where their problems begin… Full review...

Scotland Yardie by Bobby Joseph and Joseph Samuels

4.5star.jpg Graphic Novels

Things are grim in London. 'People of colour' can no longer stand at a bus stop or cross the road without white cops shooting them down, and planting drugs and guns on them. Heaven help them if their satnav leads them past certain corrupt coppers. But obviously one of the problems there is that there are no black police, so to encourage their growth Boris has built Jamaica a prison, and borrowed their finest – Scotland Yardie, a dreadlocked and heavily-armed skunkhead rasta. It's purely thought of as a PR exercise, but Yardie knows different. When you add on a mystery regarding a new chain of chicken shops, and the nasty cops, he has his work cut out. Seen? Full review...

Sins by Mary Telford and Louise Verity

4star.jpg Short Stories

Is there enough new to say about the seven deadly sins? We've seen them all shown to us, from school age and up to the movie Se7en, which we sincerely hope was NOT shown to anyone at school age. We can each recount them all, having been long familiar with them, even if we probably can't pin down when they were actually set in stone without help. Similarly, is there anything new in the world of fairy tale? We know the tropes - characters identified by their status or gender (the woman, the husband), a clear set of rules to obey, and a moral as strong as, if not stronger than, the formulae involved. Well, this volume demands we decide the answer to those questions as being positive ones, and if it's not always definitive in the writing here that there is something new, rest assured there will be something in the imagery that will definitely strike one as fresh... Full review...

Alpha by Bessora, Barroux and Sarah Ardizzone (translator)

4star.jpg Graphic Novels

It felt like there was boiling water inside my head. To cool it down, I had to leave… Those words aren't spoken by Alpha, the narrator of this graphic novel, but they might have been. Living in Abidjan, on the south coast of Cote d'Ivoire in Africa, he is determined to get out to go to Paris, and a relative's hair salon and a much better life. It's not just the boiling water that is causing him to jump out the frying pan into the unknown fire, but the fact that his wife and son went already, and he's trying to follow in their footsteps. Your feet become your head. Your body obeys them he observes at one point during the ordeal – but there are people smugglers galore, and blind chance to also obey along the way… Full review...

Ready for Pop by Hurk

4.5star.jpg Graphic Novels

London, The mid-sixties. In what appears to have been a murder attempt, Britain's greatest pop sensation 'Vic Vox' has been left a foot tall – the effects of a 'shrink drug' administered by assailants unknown. As Detective Chief Inspector Ladyshoe and his team at Scotland Yard try to find who did it and why, comedian Tubs Cochran prepares himself for his big come-back show. Can he keep his old fashioned comedy instincts relevant enough to entertain a new generation? Will Vic Vox's big rivals, 'The Small Pocks' be given a boost in Vic Vox's absence? And will June Scurvy get her hit (or maybe not) new single featured on the show they're all waiting for…Ready for Pop! Full review...

Griffin and Sabine 25th Anniversary Edition: An Extraordinary Correspondence by Nick Bantock

4star.jpg General Fiction

Oh Griffin and Sabine, where have you been all my life? I've loved epistolary novels and ones that take the narrative two-and-fro of letters and bring us closer to the sender than any omniscient narrator can hope to do. I've still got the childlike love of picking at an envelope stuck in a book to pull out a sheet of something else – not only is there the wonder at the handmade construction of something so bluntly and undeservedly called 'a book', but there is the frisson of being the first person to see this artefact ever. So how have I never seen this book before, and its cycle of sequels, concerning the correspondence between two completely different people? Full review...

The Beauty by Jeremy Haun and Jason A Hurley

4.5star.jpg Graphic Novels

Don't we all just want that one little fillup to our looks – that tuck there, those pounds or wrinkles vanished, that little tweak to make us more sexually attractive and virile? Well, if you catch The Beauty, you will indubitably end up, in what colloquial language has it, fit. But The Beauty is not to be caught as in a passing fad or itinerant beautician, but as a sexual disease. And it's hit half the population – most of those willingly. You feel feverish with it, but it's taken off big time, and Big Pharma is happy with the situation. Some violent anti-Beauty activists aren't, so special police units exist regarding it, but they, the Powers That Be, and the underground scientists working against the disease are only going to be swamped when The Beauty shows its true face… Full review...

Modesty Blaise - Ripper Jax by Peter O'Donnell and Enric Badia Romero

4star.jpg Graphic Novels

Is there any stopping Modesty Blaise? Well, inasmuch as there are only ten stories left that have not been anthologised in these lovely reprints, yes – just three books to go, by my reckoning. That reckoning should be quite accurate, if I can be immodest, for there is a lot that is routine about these stories. They all had three panels a day, six days a week (with one day's output being less relevant to the story for those papers that didn't carry the comic on weekends), for twenty-one weeks. But rest assured there is also a lot that is unusual about Modesty and her output, including a never-ending variety to the locations, to the manner of the baddy's crime, and to the action Modesty and her Willie are forced to undertake to win the day. And nobody, but nobody, has undertaken so much action and come out looking so attractive… Full review...

Alpha: Directions by Jens Harder

5star.jpg Graphic Novels

So, people might still ask me, why do I turn to graphic novels – aren't visual books with limited writing more suited to young people? Yeah, right – try pawning this off on juvenile audiences and the semi-literate. If you can't kill that cliché off with pages such as these I don't know what will work. I know the book isn't designed to be a message to people in the debate about the literary worth of graphic novels, but one side-effect of it is surely an engagement with that argument. What it is designed to be is a complete history of everything else – and in covering every prehistoric moment, it does just that, and absolutely brilliantly. Full review...

Hieronymus by Marcel Ruijters and Laura Watkinson (translator)

4star.jpg Graphic Novels

This is a book for those who find it amusing that a biography of someone who has been dead 500 years is called 'unauthorised'. This is a book where the detail is in the devil – people pissing in the street; the locals baiting blind people armed with cudgels in a pit with a pig, often failing to whack the beast and hitting their colleagues by mistake; farting demons visiting the sleeper. This is a book for those who don't mind a spot of ribaldry, an affront to religious piety or suchlike in their graphic novels. Whether or not this is a book for those seeking a biography of Hieronymus Bosch remains to be seen. Full review...

Fatale by Jean-Patrick Manchette, Max Cabanes and Doug Headline

3.5star.jpg Graphic Novels

Play. It's a weird verb – it can mean many different things. Aimee intends to play – she's already put paid to several men playing at being hunters, but she has a different game in mind. Arriving at a very insular little town she scopes the big-wigs out, watching them over the bridge table and across the golf tees, and, seeing them bicker about each other at both play and work, she knows she can play with them. But what might happen, given these undefined rules, if they chose to play as a team against her? Full review...

Scarlett Couture by Des Taylor

3star.jpg Graphic Novels

What, in the real world, would be the least likely cover for a secret agent but that of super-model? Apart from the advantage of everyone thinking you were gormless, there is the implausible clothing and having to run around after baddies in high heels to consider. But the world of comics isn't the real world, and so you have to ask the opposite – what would be the most visually appealing band of secret agents, if not for a whole cabal of them working undercover as bimbo-looking models? The Showroom is one such, and its main agent is Scarlett Couture, daughter of a male cop and a female fashionista-cum-agency boss. Looking wonderful is incredibly easy for her – but sometimes saving the world is quite a bit tougher… Full review...