Foreword Reviews

Six Great Graphic Novels from Winter 2016

graphic novels

A quest for Shangri La. Talismans against the darkness. A Buddhist monk on a dramatic quest. A bear looking for his place in the world. Modern takes on the myth of Prometheus. The race to obtain a treasure sought by Templars. These graphic novels cover a range of exciting topics and themes, making them a great resource for courting wonder.

The Adventures of the 19XX—Shining Skull 1936

Book Cover
Paul Roman Martinez
Paul Roman Martinez
Hardcover $19.99 (156pp)
Buy: Local Bookstore (Bookshop), Amazon

The third book in the Adventures of the 19XX finds the intrepid members of the 19XX organization on their way to Tibet to stop the dastardly Shining Skull and the Order of the Black Faun. The Shining Skull is hell-bent on finding Shangri La and is happy to turn the entire country to civil war to do so. With the members of the 19XX split into two groups, thanks to a plane crash, it’s going to take all their ingenuity to stop the Shining Skull. Having two converging plotlines helps to ratchet up the tension, particularly in the exhilarating final chapter. Handily mixing elements of Buddhism, Christianity, science fiction, fantasy, and actual characters from history, Martinez has crafted a story both informative and highly entertaining from an oft-neglected decade. The lush illustrations are absolutely gorgeous. Enough background is provided that this can be read and enjoyed as a stand-alone book, but readers will surely want to go back and read the previous two installments anyway.

ALLYCE AMIDON (November 27, 2015)

Crystal Cadets

Book Cover
Anne Toole
Katie O’Neill, illustrator
Roar Comics
Softcover $12.99 (112pp)
Buy: Amazon

After Zoe receives a baby book containing a strange crystal from her birth mother, she discovers she’s part of a long line of protectors against the darkness, the Crystal Cadets. She must join up with three fellow cadets in order to find the remaining members before the forces of darkness do. The ensemble cast features a diverse group of monster-slaying girls, all bringing various talents to the table. The girls must learn to work together, which is easier said than done. There is no sage leader to guide them, an absence played to comedic effect as the girls fumble through training themselves. Reminiscent of both Sailor Moon and Steven Universe, this funny comic will thrill middle-grade readers. Though the end wraps up nicely, the door is open for more stories in this wonderful new series.

ALLYCE AMIDON (November 27, 2015)


Book Cover
Masahiko Murakami
Ken Tanaka, illustrator
Middleway Press
Softcover $12.95 (272pp)
Buy: Local Bookstore (Bookshop), Amazon

Thirteenth-century Japan is suffering from a series of natural disasters, disease, corruption amongst the ruling class, and religious leaders who only care about money and power. Enter Nichiren, a different breed of Buddhist monk. Nichiren only wants to help those who are suffering and worries that the current dominant Buddhist practice, which teaches that happiness will be forthcoming in death, doesn’t incentivize anyone to work to improve life in the here-and-now. As he grows in influence, current leaders come to see him as a threat and move to take action against him. Philosophical teachings pair with plenty of action in this drama-filled retelling of actual historical events. With plenty of samurais, assassins, conspiracies, and humor, this is an entertaining way to learn about Nichiren and the Lotus Sutra.

ALLYCE AMIDON (November 27, 2015)

The Well-Dressed Bear Will (Never) Be Found

Book Cover
J. Roselló
Publishing Genius Press
Softcover $14.95 (210pp)
Buy: Local Bookstore (IndieBound), Amazon

The Well-Dressed Bear has been receiving a lot of phone calls for someone named Jonathan. The caller is nothing if not persistent … and also perhaps desperate. She refuses to believe she has the wrong number, despite the fact that the Well-Dressed Bear has a bear accent. Meanwhile the Well-Dressed Bear is being shunned by human society, who see him as violent and “other,” and by bears, who see him as too civilized or as competition for food (they’re not great at communicating). The story’s premise and design—both adorable—belie a deep, thoughtful investigation into the meaning of identity and imagination. Is there a point at which it’s better to try to blend into society—become something you’re not—than to be your true self? If you believe a thing hard enough, can you make it so? This is a book that begs for rereading on every level.

ALLYCE AMIDON (November 27, 2015)

Prometheus Eternal

Book Cover
Josh O’Neill, editor
Andrew Carl, editor
Chris Stevens, editor
Locust Moon Press and Philadelphia Museum of Art
Softcover $5.99 (24pp)

In Greek mythology, Prometheus is the titan who steals fire from Mount Olympus and brings it down to humanity. As punishment, Zeus chains him to a rock on a mountain where an eagle eats out his liver every day for eternity. One of the most famous depictions of the myth in art is Peter Paul Rubens’s seventeenth-century collaboration with Frans Snyders, Prometheus Bound. In the fabulous Prometheus Eternal, a group of modern artists engage with the myth and famous painting, with results ranging from the very witty to the deeply poignant. In these pages, Prometheus is a superhero, muses on the role of father figures, is transposed into the domestic (and mortal) sphere, and converses congenially with the eagle; humanity writes a brief letter to Prometheus; and Rubens’s entertaining bio is probably how all art history courses should be taught. The eight short comics have vividly different styles, all equally entrancing. (One would expect no less from a collaboration with an art museum.) Though short, it’s easy to spend hours poring over this book.

ALLYCE AMIDON (November 27, 2015)

Assassin’s Creed—Leila (Vol. 6)

Book Cover
Eric Corbeyran
Djillali Defali, illustrator
Titan Books
Hardcover $9.99 (48pp)
Buy: Local Bookstore (Bookshop), Amazon

For fans of the popular video-game series Assassin’s Creed comes Eric Corbeyran’s entertaining offshoot comics series. Leila, the sixth and final book of the series, stars Jon Hawk. Jon is a member of the Assassin Brotherhood and can experience the life and memories of his ancestor El Cakr in ancient Egypt. In this installment, Hawk is trying to determine the location of the Scepter of Aset, last in the possession of El Cakr in Egypt, 1341 CE, before his enemies, the Templars, can get their hands on it in the present day. However, back in 1341, El Cakr has been thrown in jail and his only chance to escape lies with the mysterious Leila, a member of the sultan’s harem who’s been imprisoned for murdering the sultan … or so she says. Corbeyran’s crafted a compelling tale, flitting easily back and forth between past and present, and complimented by Defali’s beautiful, action-filled illustrations. As the book jumps in without any background on the characters or previous events, this is best enjoyed by those already familiar with the complex world of the Assassin’s Creed universe, particularly those who’ve read the previous five comics.

ALLYCE AMIDON (November 27, 2015)

Allyce Amidon

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