While the plot feels too unfinished for publication, readers will enjoy the ride.

COSMOKNIGHTS

From the Cosmoknights series , Vol. 1

Princeless meets TV’s Firefly in a feminist webcomic-turned–graphic novel.

The night Pan helps Princess Tara evade a forced marriage by escaping the planet, she loses the one friend she ever had. Five years later, she is helping her mechanic father in the shop and groaning as the men watch tournaments on TV—this is outer space, so the jousts happen with high-tech spacesuits, not horses, though the prize is still marriage to the planet’s princess for the cosmoknight’s sponsor. The night after one particularly gruesome battle, a lesbian couple arrives at Pan’s doorstep, asking for her doctor mother’s help. Pan figures out that the wounded woman is a cosmoknight, accompanied by her wife, but what really shocks her is their secret: When they win, they whisk the princess away to freedom. That’s all it takes for Pan to stow away on their spaceship to join them. At first they are angry, but she proves her worth at the next joust. The jewel-toned, full-color illustrations use different palettes to mark flashbacks, fights, and the present day but can still be confusing. Pan’s journey to recognizing her own worth and identity as a feminist is earnest and believable. To say the book ends on a cliffhanger is charitable; the conclusion is incredibly abrupt. Pan and the knight are white; her wife and Princess Tara are black.

While the plot feels too unfinished for publication, readers will enjoy the ride. (Graphic science fiction. 15-adult)

Pub Date: Sept. 10, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-60309-454-2

Page Count: 216

Publisher: Top Shelf Books

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2019

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An exemplary demonstration of the transformative possibilities of graphic narrative.

MY FRIEND DAHMER

A powerful, unsettling use of the graphic medium to share a profoundly disturbing story.

If a boy is not born a monster, how does he become one? Though Backderf (Punk Rock and Trailer Parks, 2008) was once an Ohio classmate of the notorious Jeffrey Dahmer, he doesn’t try to elicit sympathy for “Jeff.” Yet he walks an emotional tightrope here, for he recognizes that someone—maybe the other kids who laughed at and with him, certainly the adults who should have recognized aberration well beyond tortured adolescence—should have done something. “To you Dahmer was a depraved fiend but to me he was a kid I sat next to in study hall and hung out with in the band room,” writes the author, whose dark narrative proceeds to show how Dahmer’s behavior degenerated from fascination with roadkill and torture of animals to repressed homosexuality and high-school alcoholism to mass murder. It also shows how he was shaken by his parents’ troubled marriage and tempestuous divorce, by his emotionally disturbed mother’s decision to move away and leave her son alone, and by the encouragement of the Jeffrey Dahmer Fan Club (with the author a charter member and ringleader) to turn the outcast into a freak show. The more that Dahmer drank to numb his life, the more oblivious adults seemed to be, letting him disappear between the cracks. “It’s my belief that Dahmer didn’t have to wind up a monster, that all those people didn’t have to die horribly, if only the adults in his life hadn’t been so inexplicably, unforgivably, incomprehensibly clueless and/or indifferent,” writes Backderf. “Once Dahmer kills, however—and I can’t stress this enough—my sympathy for him ends.”

An exemplary demonstration of the transformative possibilities of graphic narrative.

Pub Date: March 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-4197-0216-7

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Abrams ComicArts

Review Posted Online: Dec. 18, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2012

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A sugarcoated but undiluted vehicle for schooling American readers about their rights and responsibilities.

THE UNITED STATES CONSTITUTION

A GRAPHIC ADAPTATION

A searching interpretation of that sonorous document the Constitution, with cartoons.

Why have a Constitution to begin with? Because, remarks film and TV writer Hennessey—who, even if his prose is bound by balloons, turns out to be quite the Constitutional scholar—the founding fathers were keenly aware that civil rights were never formally written down in Britain, “and that deeply troubled the framers.” That’s as much of an establishing conflict as is needed for a superhero piece, and Hennessey, paired with artist McConnell, does a fine job of turning the making of the document, despite all the dull stretches in the Constitutional Convention that James Madison recorded in his diary, into a drama. Happily, Hennessey is aware of the truly radical origins of the Constitution, even as he notes its conservative strains. For example, he remarks that the system of checks and balances is a remarkable innovation, even if it sometimes seems that presidential actions—as with military intervention in Vietnam and elsewhere—go unchecked. In addition, laws are difficult to make in this country for very good reason: “Otherwise we might get too many of them.” Combining words and appropriate images, sometimes comic and sometimes earnest, the narrative visits such matters as the three-fifths law of determining apportionment, the writ of habeas corpus, eminent domain and conceptions of property and freedom of assembly and movement (for instance, the Articles of Federation forbade “vagabonds and paupers” from crossing state lines). Also covered are the many guarantees Americans take for granted—not least the Ninth Amendment, which states that certain rights not enumerated (“The right to scratch a dog behind the ears?”) shall not be denied.

A sugarcoated but undiluted vehicle for schooling American readers about their rights and responsibilities.

Pub Date: Oct. 21, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-8090-9487-5

Page Count: 142

Publisher: Hill and Wang/Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2008

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