A refreshingly disability-positive superhero origin story.

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THE ORACLE CODE

Nijkamp (contributor: His Hideous Heart, 2019, etc.) reimagines the backstory of Oracle, computer genius and ally to Batman.

When skilled hacker Barbara “Babs” Gordon and her best friend, Benjamin, attempt to intervene in a robbery, Babs is shot. Six weeks later, the newly paralyzed Babs reluctantly rolls into the Arkham Center for Independence, where teens with disabilities undergo physical and emotional rehabilitation. Despite her father’s well-meaning advice, Babs resents being there. Even the mysterious cries within the mansion’s walls can’t lift the teen’s despondence—until Jena, a burn survivor full of haunting tales, disappears. Aided by supportive patients Yeong and Issy, whom she gradually befriends, Babs must accept her new reality in order to find Jena and escape a sinister plot. The author sensitively portrays Babs’ frustration and trauma and realistically addresses her challenges, such as mastering wheelchair ramps and negotiating stairs. Babs’ increasing self-confidence is heartening, and the message that people with disabilities don’t need to be “fixed” in order to thrive is empowering (albeit slightly heavy-handed). Balancing bright and dark colors, Preitano’s (contributor: Puerto Rico Strong, 2018, etc.) illustrations vividly convey Babs’ anger and determination, and a jigsaw-puzzle motif reflects Babs’ quest to piece together her new identity as well as the institution’s secret. Most characters present white. Yeong, who walks with forearm crutches, is cued through her name as Korean; Issy, who uses a wheelchair, presents black.

A refreshingly disability-positive superhero origin story. (Graphic fantasy. 12-16)

Pub Date: March 3, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4012-9066-5

Page Count: 208

Publisher: DC

Review Posted Online: Jan. 23, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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Grossly fabulous.

THE INVISIBLE WAR

A WORLD WAR I TALE ON TWO SCALES

A nurse’s gastrointestinal battle with dysentery is paired with the horrors of World War I trench warfare in this graphic novel.

It is 1916, and Annie, a white Australian nurse stationed in France, is tending to the wounded who come pouring in from the Western Front. But another fight, unbeknownst to her, is going on in her gastrointestinal tract. A wounded man she treats has bloody diarrhea that turns out to be dysentery. Annie is accidentally contaminated with the bacteria. How she gets infected is rather gross—but that’s this story’s strength. Blood, mucous, diarrhea, amputated limbs, death—it’s all here, presented in a frank way. While Annie’s story is fictional, the events of the war and the biology presented are fact, detailed further in extensive backmatter. The black-and-white illustrations tell it like it is—when Annie has diarrhea, she is shown sitting on the toilet. But it is the panels and storyline about the microbes that highlight both the illustrator’s and authors’ skills. The battle between the Shigella (dysentery-causing) bacteria and the many kinds of viruses, bacteroides, prevotella, and other microorganisms that Annie’s body activates to defend itself has the tension of an epic battle, and readers will alternately be gripped with anxiety (will the good microbes win?), filled with wonder at the amazing defenses of the human body, and grossed out (talking about you, mucous.)

Grossly fabulous. (map, historical and scientific information) (Graphic science/historical fiction. 12-16)

Pub Date: April 2, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5415-4155-9

Page Count: 84

Publisher: Graphic Universe

Review Posted Online: Jan. 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2019

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A first-rate visual reframing: sensitive, artistically brilliant, and as charged as its enigmatic predecessor with profound...

THE GIVER

From the Giver Quartet series

An eerie graphic version of the Newbery Award–winning classic.

Russell (Murder Mysteries and Other Stories, 2015, etc.) pays no more attention than Lowry (Looking Back, 2016, etc.) did to continuity of detail or to justifying the counterintuitive notion that memories can be shed by transmitting them, but without taking significant liberties he skillfully captures the original’s full, creeping horror. By depicting human figures with uncommonly precise realism, bearing calm, smiling demeanors and moving through tidy 1950s style settings, he establishes an almost trite air of utopian normality at the outset…then proceeds to undermine it with disquieting (to say the least) incidents capped by an explicit view of Jonas’ serene dad “releasing” a supernumerary newborn by ramming a hypodermic into its head. He also neatly solves the color issue by composing his many small sequential scenes in blue pencil outlines with occasional pale washes—which makes Jonas’ disturbing ability to “see beyond,” from the red in an apple and a classmate’s hair to the garish orange memories the Giver downloads to his brain, startlingly vivid and presages the polychrome wilderness into which he ultimately vanishes. Jonas and the rest of the cast are uniformly light-skinned and generically European of feature, but that is explicitly established as part of the hideous scenario.

A first-rate visual reframing: sensitive, artistically brilliant, and as charged as its enigmatic predecessor with profound challenges to mind and heart. (interviews with the creators) (Graphic dystopian fantasy. 12-14)

Pub Date: Feb. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-544-15788-0

Page Count: 192

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: Nov. 21, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2018

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