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From the Sandman Universe series

Stories like this demonstrate that the classic fantasy tropes still work, but this entry unfortunately doesn’t quite...

It’s impossible to talk about Tim Hunter without talking about Harry Potter.

Tim is a novice magician with enormous glasses and an owl for a companion. The similarities between Tim and Harry Potter aren’t a flaw of the book. Tim was created earlier than Harry, in comic books published beginning in 1990; both characters are simply based on the same classic fantasy tropes. The problem is that there are tropes everywhere: Tim is threatened by sinister figures in hooded cloaks and by a vicious bully. After a few generations, even classic archetypes start to feel like clichés. But some of the familiar elements are altered in such strange ways that they become genuinely surprising. The mystical key is constructed out of junk, and the helpful owl was originally Tim’s yo-yo. Even the word “abracadabra” shows up so unexpectedly that it regains a sense of wonder. It helps that the characters’ facial expressions are often remarkably complex and nuanced even when the characters themselves are stock figures. Tim’s love interest, a black girl named Ellie, is severely underwritten. The dialogue, however, is often clever enough to make every character engaging. Ellie is also the only major character who isn’t white.

Stories like this demonstrate that the classic fantasy tropes still work, but this entry unfortunately doesn’t quite demonstrate it enough. (Graphic fantasy. 12-18)

Pub Date: July 16, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4012-9134-1

Page Count: 200

Publisher: Vertigo/DC Comics

Review Posted Online: July 20, 2019

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From the Campfire Classics series

Using modern language, McDonald spins the well-known tale of the two young, unrequited lovers. Set against Nagar’s at-times...

A bland, uninspired graphic adaptation of the Bard’s renowned love story.

Using modern language, McDonald spins the well-known tale of the two young, unrequited lovers. Set against Nagar’s at-times oddly psychedelic-tinged backgrounds of cool blues and purples, the mood is strange, and the overall ambiance of the story markedly absent. Appealing to what could only be a high-interest/low–reading level audience, McDonald falls short of the mark. He explains a scene in an open-air tavern with a footnote—“a place where people gather to drink”—but he declines to offer definitions for more difficult words, such as “dirges.” While the adaptation does follow the foundation of the play, the contemporary language offers nothing; cringeworthy lines include Benvolio saying to Romeo at the party where he first meets Juliet, “Let’s go. It’s best to leave now, while the party’s in full swing.” Nagar’s faces swirl between dishwater and grotesque, adding another layer of lost passion in a story that should boil with romantic intensity. Each page number is enclosed in a little red heart; while the object of this little nuance is obvious, it’s also unpleasantly saccharine. Notes after the story include such edifying tidbits about Taylor Swift and “ ‘Wow’ dialogs from the play” (which culls out the famous quotes).

Pub Date: May 10, 2011

ISBN: 978-93-80028-58-3

Page Count: 80

Publisher: Campfire

Review Posted Online: April 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2011

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Gorgeous and troubling.

Cartoonist Kuper (Kafkaesque, 2018, etc.) delivers a graphic-novel adaptation of Joseph Conrad’s literary classic exploring the horror at the center of colonial exploitation.

As a group of sailors floats on the River Thames in 1899, a particularly adventurous member notes that England was once “one of the dark places of the earth,” referring to the land before the arrival of the Romans. This well-connected vagabond then regales his friends with his boyhood obsession with the blank places on maps, which eventually led him to captain a steamboat up a great African river under the employ of a corporate empire dedicated to ripping the riches from foreign land. Marlow’s trip to what was known as the Dark Continent exposes him to the frustrations of bureaucracy, the inhumanity employed by Europeans on the local population, and the insanity plaguing those committed to turning a profit. In his introduction, Kuper outlines his approach to the original book, which featured extensive use of the n-word and worked from a general worldview that European males are the forgers of civilization (even if they suffered a “soul [that] had gone mad” for their efforts), explaining that “by choosing a different point of view to illustrate, otherwise faceless and undefined characters were brought to the fore without altering Conrad’s text.” There is a moment when a scene of indiscriminate shelling reveals the Africans fleeing, and there are some places where the positioning of the Africans within the panel gives them more prominence, but without new text added to fully frame the local people, it’s hard to feel that they have reached equal footing. Still, Kuper’s work admirably deletes the most offensive of Conrad’s language while presenting graphically the struggle of the native population in the face of foreign exploitation. Kuper is a master cartoonist, and his pages and panels are a feast for the eyes.

Gorgeous and troubling.

Pub Date: Nov. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-393-63564-5

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2019

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