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From the Castle in the Stars series, volume 4

by Alex Alice ; illustrated by Alex Alice ; translated by Anne Smith & Owen Smith

Pub Date: Sept. 8th, 2020
ISBN: 978-1-250-20681-7
Publisher: First Second

Readers may wish this graphic novel were several times taller and wider.

Alice’s illustrations showcase some of the most glorious landmarks of the solar system, circa 1871, from a castle in Prussia to a crater on the moon and the caverns and canyons of Mars. Often, there are airships floating above them, shaped like enormous birds. Fans of the series might wish the pictures were the size of turn-of-the-20th-century broadsheets, like the Little Nemo comic strips, or posters they could hang on their walls. Even the most ardent fans, who’ve read the previous volumes again and again, may be baffled by the plot, which includes multiple political factions active in multiple parts of the galaxy. But the core of the story is simple enough to follow: There are good guys and bad guys, and they fight—sometimes with airships, sometimes with psychic powers. (No matter how many factions show up, almost all of the characters are white—even a Martian princess appears, at first, to be white and blond.) Like the first three volumes, this book ends with a cliffhanger, but it does resolve most of its major plot threads. It even ends with a kiss. More important, the last page is utterly filled with aircraft, with three balloons apiece. (This book was reviewed digitally with 11.3-by-17-inch double-page spreads viewed at 78% of actual size.)

Every page is stunning, like coming across an atlas that covers the entire solar system.

(Graphic steampunk. 10-16)