Immersive, mysterious, and just the right amount of trippy.

TOPSIDE

When a small mistake quickly snowballs, a young girl of color braves the strange surface of her planet to prove she can set things right.

In a crumbling subterranean society like the Interior, repair technicians are essential, and Jo Wilson is one of the best. Skilled, vigilant, and committed to doing her job well and without help, Jo wants nothing more than to demonstrate her competence and expand her opportunities to fix what is broken. So when a minor mistake turns into a major problem, Jo is determined to rectify the situation on her own (and ideally before any Interior agents take notice) by traveling to the planet’s ungoverned surface. But with forged papers, a clandestine mission, a con artist guide, and bounty hunters in pursuit, trouble is inevitable. Monk (editor: Enough Space for Everyone Else, 2016) has crafted a work that demonstrates the dynamic narrative balance so distinctive of science fiction in which a technology- and action-heavy plot is driven by thoughtful character motivations. Bogosian’s (Kringlewart and the Crookedest Christmas Tree, 2016) art follows through with visual depth for a planetary setting that literally comes alive and a refreshingly gender-expansive and racially diverse cast. Some readers may be a bit disappointed with a conclusion that falls short in narrative complexity, but the likelihood of sequels for further exploration is an effective balm.

Immersive, mysterious, and just the right amount of trippy. (Graphic science fiction. 12-17)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5124-4589-3

Page Count: 200

Publisher: Graphic Universe

Review Posted Online: July 21, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

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Entertaining for fans of villain backstories and Disney classics alike.

EVIL THING

A VILLAINS GRAPHIC NOVEL

From the Villains series

A chronicle of Cruella De Vil’s descent into Dalmatian destruction.

The only child of Lord and Lady De Vil, Cruella was enamored by high society life from a young age. She idolized her cold, demanding mother and loved her caring father, despite his giving her less extravagant gifts. Both parents wanted her to distinguish herself, though they intended very different meanings by that word. While young Cruella believed that servants and others from less privileged backgrounds should know their places, Anita, her less socially lofty best friend, was an exception. But as she grew up and married, she had to face the question of what it really meant to possess wealth, beauty, and happiness. Framed as a memoir, this story vividly expresses Cruella’s personality. Valentino does a solid job of establishing the cast of characters, and fans of the animated film will enjoy connecting the threads. While there are moments of softness that evoke readers’ empathy, Cruella unapologetically wields her power to behave cruelly. She is ultimately fueled by her desperation for maternal validation, jealousy, delirium, and a perhaps-cursed pair of earrings. Jovellanos’ art deftly captures a range of emotions, specifically in showing how Cruella’s face is transformed in response to her whims. Using a color palette of muted reds, blacks, grays, and whites, the illustrations express a fitting tone for a Cruella tell-all. Characters read as White.

Entertaining for fans of villain backstories and Disney classics alike. (Graphic fiction. 12-16)

Pub Date: Sept. 28, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-368-06816-1

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

Review Posted Online: Aug. 16, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2021

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BEOWULF

Pairing art from an earlier, self-published edition to a newly adapted text, Hinds retells the old tale as a series of dark, bloody, chaotic clashes. Here Grendel is a glaring, black monster with huge teeth, corded muscles and a tendency to smash or bite off adversaries’ heads; the dragon is all sinuous viciousness; and Beowulf, mighty of thew, towers over his fellow Geats. The narrative, boxed off from the illustrations rather than incorporated into them, runs to lines like, “Bid my brave warriors O Wiglaf, to build a lofty cairn for me upon the sea-cliffs . . . ” and tends to disappear when the fighting starts. Because the panels are jumbled together on the page, the action is sometimes hard to follow, but this makes a strongly atmospheric alternative to the semi-abstract Beowulf, the Legend, by Stephen L. Antczak and James C. Bassett, illus by Andy Lee (2006), or the more conventionally formatted version of Michael Morpurgo, with pictures by Michael Foreman (2006). (Graphic fiction. 12-15)

Pub Date: April 1, 2007

ISBN: 978-0-7636-3022-5

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2007

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