Clever if rough-hewn concept bearing at best a chancy resemblance to its literary models.

BATMAN TALES

ONCE UPON A CRIME

Four classic tales, considerably reworked to feature the Dark Knight and various foes and associates.

The creators of the Secret Hero Society series (kicked off with Study Hall of Justice, 2016) turn from middle school to another fertile milieu—classic tales. The creators follow wooden “Waynocchio” on his quest to become a “real Boy Wonder”; send the butler Alfred into Wonderland to rescue his costumed charges from the “Jokerwacky” and “Harley Queen”; cast Nora “Mrs. Freeze” Fries as the Snow Queen, who seeks help from Batman to thaw her captive husband, Mr. Freeze; and reimagine “The Princess and the Pea” as a series of interrogations by police seeking a hefty stolen diamond. As dialogue constitutes the only text in all but one of these, readers unfamiliar with the originals may have trouble following at least the first two. Moreover, Batman himself takes only a supporting role in all but “The Snow Queen.” Still, from the Cheshire Catwoman on, the characters (all white), though largely drawn as children or at least with young faces, will be recognizable to fans of DC comics and films. Being loosely drawn and brushed in transparent inks, the art has a quick, sketchy look reinforced by impressionistic backgrounds in both the spacious panels and unbordered larger scenes.

Clever if rough-hewn concept bearing at best a chancy resemblance to its literary models. (Graphic fantasy. 9-12)

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4012-8340-7

Page Count: 192

Publisher: DC

Review Posted Online: Dec. 8, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2020

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Kibuishi gives his epic tale a hefty nudge toward its long-building climax while giving readers plenty of reasons to stick...

SUPERNOVA

From the Amulet series , Vol. 8

Stonekeeper Emily frees the elves from their monstrous masked ruler and sets out to rejoin her brother and mother in the series’ penultimate episode.

The multistranded storyline picks up with Emily’s return to the world of Alledia. Now a fiery, destructive phoenix struggling to regain control of her actions, Emily goes on to follow her brother Navin and allies as they battle invading shadows on the nearby world of Typhon, then switches back to human form for a climactic confrontation with the Elf King—in the course of which Emily rips off his mask to a chorus of “ERGH!! NO!!! GRAH! RRGH!! AAAGH!” to expose a rousingly hideous face. Cute animal heads on many figures (the result of a curse) and a scene with benevolent-looking trees provide at least a bit of relief from the grim expressions that all the human and humanoid elven characters almost invariably wear. But along with emphatic sound effects, the battle and action scenes in the cleanly drawn, if sometimes cramped, panels feature huge blasts of fire or energy, intricately detailed giant robots, weirdly eyeless monsters, and wild escapades aplenty to keep the pace’s pedal to the metal. Aliens and AIs in the cast come in a variety of hues, elves are a uniform gray, and except for a brief encounter between Emily and a slightly darker lad, the (uncursed) humans default to white.

Kibuishi gives his epic tale a hefty nudge toward its long-building climax while giving readers plenty of reasons to stick around for it. (Graphic fantasy. 10-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 25, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-545-85002-5

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Graphix/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: July 24, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2018

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A solid, not particularly daring addition to the hybrid format for middle-grade readers, mixing drama with heart.

POSITIVELY IZZY

This reader-friendly graphic/prose hybrid explores the lives of two very different girls who have an unexpected connection.

Izzy and Brianna both, separately, navigate difficult middle school experiences. Brianna, whose story is told entirely in sequential panels, is studious, reserved, and a little lonely. Izzy, who tells her story in paragraphs broken up by illustrations, is an unreliable middle sister with a love for performance and a lot of indifference toward schoolwork. Izzy sneaks out against her mother’s wishes to perform in the school talent show, while Bri’s mother (also a teacher at her school) convinces her to fill in for a sick actor. Both girls juggle complex family dynamics, shifting friend groups, and boys in the hours leading up to their performances. The story is light but resonant for middle graders, with constant comedic asides in the illustrations. Both girls appear white (based on the color cover), with multiracial supporting casts, and both threads of the story skirt larger issues. The opening pages, in which Bri complains about labels, hint at a larger theme that recedes into the background as the two girls struggle with their interpersonal relationships. Readers primed by the back-cover blurb will spend the whole book waiting for the two stories to intersect, with a surprise reveal at the end that may call for an immediate reread.

A solid, not particularly daring addition to the hybrid format for middle-grade readers, mixing drama with heart. (Graphic/fiction hybrid. 9-12)

Pub Date: May 1, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-06-248497-0

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Feb. 13, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2018

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