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YOU'VE BEEN CANCELLED

An action-laden tale with vigor and cultural insight.

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In Pires’ graphic novel, a near-future game show features the bloody executions of those deemed society’s worst offenders.

In mid-21st-century Los Angeles, murder is always available for streaming. The show Cancelled encourages its audience to vote on which people in the world they’d like to see die. Heavily armed assassins, including Roland Endo, who’s ranked first among the Cancellers, then track down the chosen and end their lives. One serial sexual harasser and assaulter, for example, meets an especially brutal end. For Roland, it’s just a job, but things take a disturbing turn when he learns Cancelled has been hacked, and now he’s set to be canceled. The show’s CEO anticipates a ratings boost and sees no need to stop other Cancellers from targeting Roland. Meanwhile, Roland scours the city for the hacker, and what he discovers is alarming—not only the hacker’s identity, but also what the hacker has to tell him. Although Pires’ blunt graphic novel has its share of humor, it takes itself seriously just as often. The story unfolds in a dystopian L.A. where the government has all but abandoned the working class. The taut narrative ultimately centers on the question of who among the public revels most in the violence that Cancelled delivers. Similarly, Roland isn’t the apathetic killing machine he appears to be, and his backstory hints at trauma suffered when he was a soldier. Still, the highlight of this graphic novel is its action. Castaniero’s stylized, full-color illustrations showcase Roland in battle mode as he floors opponents with fists, cookware, and what looks suspiciously like a lightsaber. The artwork is at its best in glorious full-page tableaux, whether they feature Roland calmly awaiting attackers or a collage of the show’s viewers cheering on the show’s barbarity.

An action-laden tale with vigor and cultural insight.

Pub Date: Dec. 12, 2023

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 110

Publisher: Mad Cave Studios

Review Posted Online: Jan. 3, 2024

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SUPERMAN SMASHES THE KLAN

A clever and timely conversation on reclaiming identity and acknowledging one’s full worth.

Superman confronts racism and learns to accept himself with the help of new friends.

In this graphic-novel adaptation of the 1940s storyline entitled “The Clan of the Fiery Cross” from The Adventures of Superman radio show, readers are reintroduced to the hero who regularly saves the day but is unsure of himself and his origins. The story also focuses on Roberta Lee, a young Chinese girl. She and her family have just moved from Chinatown to Metropolis proper, and mixed feelings abound. Jimmy Olsen, Lois Lane’s colleague from the Daily Planet, takes a larger role here, befriending his new neighbors, the Lees. An altercation following racial slurs directed at Roberta’s brother after he joins the local baseball team escalates into an act of terrorism by the Klan of the Fiery Kross. What starts off as a run-of-the-mill superhero story then becomes a nuanced and personal exploration of the immigrant experience and blatant and internalized racism. Other main characters are White, but Black police inspector William Henderson fights his own battles against prejudice. Clean lines, less-saturated coloring, and character designs reminiscent of vintage comics help set the tone of this period piece while the varied panel cuts and action scenes give it a more modern sensibility. Cantonese dialogue is indicated through red speech bubbles; alien speech is in green.

A clever and timely conversation on reclaiming identity and acknowledging one’s full worth. (author’s note, bibliography) (Graphic fiction. 13-adult)

Pub Date: May 12, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-77950-421-0

Page Count: 240

Publisher: DC

Review Posted Online: Feb. 29, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2020

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SHUBEIK LUBEIK

Immensely enjoyable.

The debut graphic novel from Mohamed presents a modern Egypt full of magical realism where wishes have been industrialized and heavily regulated.

The story opens with a televised public service announcement from the General Committee of Wish Supervision and Licensing about the dangers of “third-class wishes”—wishes that come in soda cans and tend to backfire on wishers who aren’t specific enough (like a wish to lose weight resulting in limbs falling from the wisher’s body). Thus begins a brilliant play among magic, the mundane, and bureaucracy that centers around a newsstand kiosk where a devout Muslim is trying to unload the three “first-class wishes” (contained in elegant glass bottles and properly licensed by the government) that have come into his possession, since he believes his religion forbids him to use them. As he gradually unloads the first-class wishes on a poor, regretful widow (who then runs afoul of authorities determined to manipulate her out of her valuable commodity) and a university student who seeks a possibly magical solution to their mental health crisis (but struggles with whether a wish to always be happy might have unintended consequences), interstitials give infographic histories of wishes, showing how the Western wish-industrial complex has exploited the countries where wishes are mined (largely in the Middle East). The book is exceptionally imaginative while also being wonderfully grounded in touching human relationships, existential quandaries, and familiar geopolitical and socio-economic dynamics. Mohamed’s art balances perfectly between cartoon and realism, powerfully conveying emotions, and her strong, clean lines gorgeously depict everything from an anguished face to an ornate bottle. Charts and graphs nicely break up the reading experience while also concisely building this larger world of everyday wishes. Mohamed has a great sense of humor, which comes out in footnotes and casual asides throughout.

Immensely enjoyable.

Pub Date: Jan. 10, 2023

ISBN: 978-1-524-74841-8

Page Count: 528

Publisher: Pantheon

Review Posted Online: Oct. 26, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2022

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