Men of God susceptible to human mistakes; profound, stimulating, and, best of all, entertaining.


Last Confession

In Walker (When the River Rises, 2015, etc.) and Dunbar’s (Dungeons & Dragons: Legends of Baldur's Gate, Vol. 1, 2015, etc.) graphic novel/thriller, priests hoping to save a parish find a less than legitimate way to get the money, only to stir up a whirlwind of misdeeds and bad decisions.

St. Stephen’s Parish in Philadelphia, along with its orphanage, is in danger of being shut down from lack of funds. Everyone’s likewise shaken by thuggish Luca Furio’s final confession to Father Tom Finn, which ended with Furio putting a gun under his own chin and firing. But Tom may know how to save the parish. In his confession, Furio mentioned burying money at his sister Evelyn’s place. Tom distracts Evelyn while two elderly priests, Ben and Cesar, dig through the woman’s backyard. What they uncover is a hefty duffel bag of drugs. When a second attempt to find the cash proves fruitless, the priests look for someone to buy the drugs, setting off a string of unintended consequences. Walker’s work is a never-ending series of twists and surprises. It certainly has its share of violence: multiple guns guarantee that characters will die, while a shovel is good for both digging and knocking someone over the head. The curvy plot, however, can be comical at times. Father Nathan, for example, voices his disapproval of illicit acts by quoting biblical verses, but he’s shockingly good at being a drug dealer when the men try pawning off their stash. The story’s four priests are riveting, willingly stepping into a life of crime for what they believe is the good of the parish. Walker alludes to a murky background for Tom, whose collar hides a sizable tattoo on the back of his neck. Ben and Cesar, meanwhile, are akin to wise grandfathers, making them entirely sympathetic despite their criminal shenanigans. Dunbar’s art is stark and robust, but the choice of black-and-white illustrations is the most revealing: even the most well-intentioned characters have some gray areas. The morally ambiguous ending is nothing short of extraordinary.

Men of God susceptible to human mistakes; profound, stimulating, and, best of all, entertaining.

Pub Date: Aug. 4, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-942734-01-7

Page Count: 126

Publisher: Mastermind Comics

Review Posted Online: Sept. 14, 2015

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A not-very-illuminating updating of Chaucer’s Tales.



Continuing his apparent mission to refract the whole of English culture and history through his personal lens, Ackroyd (Thames: The Biography, 2008, etc.) offers an all-prose rendering of Chaucer’s mixed-media masterpiece.

While Burton Raffel’s modern English version of The Canterbury Tales (2008) was unabridged, Ackroyd omits both “The Tale of Melibee” and “The Parson’s Tale” on the undoubtedly correct assumption that these “standard narratives of pious exposition” hold little interest for contemporary readers. Dialing down the piety, the author dials up the raunch, freely tossing about the F-bomb and Anglo-Saxon words for various body parts that Chaucer prudently described in Latin. Since “The Wife of Bath’s Tale” and “The Miller’s Tale,” for example, are both decidedly earthy in Middle English, the interpolated obscenities seem unnecessary as well as jarringly anachronistic. And it’s anyone’s guess why Ackroyd feels obliged redundantly to include the original titles (“Here bigynneth the Squieres Tales,” etc.) directly underneath the new ones (“The Squires Tale,” etc.); these one-line blasts of antique spelling and diction remind us what we’re missing without adding anything in the way of comprehension. The author’s other peculiar choice is to occasionally interject first-person comments by the narrator where none exist in the original, such as, “He asked me about myself then—where I had come from, where I had been—but I quickly turned the conversation to another course.” There seems to be no reason for these arbitrary elaborations, which muffle the impact of those rare times in the original when Chaucer directly addresses the reader. Such quibbles would perhaps be unfair if Ackroyd were retelling some obscure gem of Old English, but they loom larger with Chaucer because there are many modern versions of The Canterbury Tales. Raffel’s rendering captured a lot more of the poetry, while doing as good a job as Ackroyd with the vigorous prose.

A not-very-illuminating updating of Chaucer’s Tales.

Pub Date: Nov. 16, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-670-02122-2

Page Count: 436

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2009

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Rich, creamy art and playful paneling make for a fun read.


Cartoonist Collins’ debut graphic novel is a long, smooth fable of a man whose unkempt facial hair ravages the tidy city of Here.

Here sits on an island, surrounded by the sea, separated from the far-off land of There. And whereas Here is all row houses and trimmed trees and clean cheeks, There is a dark, disordered place that would mix your insides with your outsides, your befores with your nows with your nexts—unpleasant business brilliantly depicted in panels breaking across a single body as it succumbs to chaos. So the people of Here live quiet, fastidious lives, their backs to the sea, and neighbor Dave delights in doodling it all from his window as he listens to the Bangles’ “Eternal Flame” on repeat. But an irregular report at his inscrutable office job triggers the single hair that has always curved from Dave’s upper lip to be suddenly joined by a burst of follicles. Try as Dave might, his unruly beard won’t stop pouring from his face in a tangled flood—and soon it threatens the very fabric of life in Here. Collins’ illustrations are lush, rounded affairs with voluptuous shading across oblong planes. Expressions pop, from the severe upturn where a sympathetic psychiatrist’s brows meet to the befuddlement of a schoolgirl as the beard’s hypnotic powers take hold. With its archetypical conflict and deliberate dissection of language, the story seems aimed at delivering a moral, but the tale ultimately throws its aesthetics into abstraction rather than didacticism. The result rings a little hollow but goes down smooth.

Rich, creamy art and playful paneling make for a fun read.

Pub Date: Oct. 7, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-250-05039-7

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Picador

Review Posted Online: Aug. 24, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2014

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