A fantastical graphic novel with superlative artwork and inventive plot devices that’s somewhat marred by inadequate...

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The Sword and The Butterfly

Writer Wolf (Unbeatable: Hotter than Hell, 2010, etc.), debut illustrator Jimenez, and debut colorist Cabellé ingeniously combine Arthurian legend and epic space opera in a new graphic novel.

Young Cat is sent to an orphanage after her father inexplicably attempts to drown her. Thereafter, her story doesn’t get much happier, as her fellow orphans mercilessly bully her. She eventually snaps and pummels the other children, exhibiting innate fighting prowess while doing so. Enter the wizard Merlin, who snatches her away from the orphanage in order to train her with the Protectors of the Sword, a warrior guild devoted to keeping Excalibur safe after the death of King Arthur. Cat eventually proves herself as Excalibur’s Keeper, destined to wield the weapon until the emergence of the rightful king. However, when she claims the weapon, it upsets a demonic underground being who sends his minions to stop her. The story goes on to turn tropes of the Arthurian legend on their heads in plot twists involving spacecraft, mecha-suited warriors, and the lost city of Atlantis. Cat is aided by Heinz, her only friend from the orphanage, who grows from a pudgy, scrappy child into a brawny love interest. What could have been a random hodgepodge of genre tropes instead becomes a unique alternative history of Excalibur. However, Wolf doesn’t sketch Cat’s psyche beyond her sadness and her outsized fighting abilities, which results in some disorienting character beats: she slaughters most of the men she grew up with on Merlin’s command, for example, yet experiences no apparent emotional fallout. The author spends a little more time on Heinz, who charmingly spends the entire book wearing a flowered purple hat—a gift from his dead father. Generally, though, characterization takes a back seat to plot movement and extended battle sequences. Jimenez and Cabellé produce some gorgeous, dynamic pages; high points include a scene involving monsters interrupting a farmer’s peaceful morning and a clever “training montage” of Cat fighting across multiple panels, each set in a different season. The book’s high-quality, glossy paper allows Cabellé’s broad color spectrum to shine.

A fantastical graphic novel with superlative artwork and inventive plot devices that’s somewhat marred by inadequate characterization.

Pub Date: July 31, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-9798689-2-4

Page Count: 206

Publisher: Razor Wolf Entertainment

Review Posted Online: June 21, 2016

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An enjoyable, cozy novel that touches on tough topics.

THE AUTHENTICITY PROJECT

A group of strangers who live near each other in London become fast friends after writing their deepest secrets in a shared notebook.

Julian Jessop, a septuagenarian artist, is bone-crushingly lonely when he starts “The Authenticity Project”—as he titles a slim green notebook—and begins its first handwritten entry questioning how well people know each other in his tiny corner of London. After 15 years on his own mourning the loss of his beloved wife, he begins the project with the aim that whoever finds the little volume when he leaves it in a cafe will share their true self with their own entry and then pass the volume on to a stranger. The second person to share their inner selves in the notebook’s pages is Monica, 37, owner of a failing cafe and a former corporate lawyer who desperately wants to have a baby. From there the story unfolds, as the volume travels to Thailand and back to London, seemingly destined to fall only into the hands of people—an alcoholic drug addict, an Australian tourist, a social media influencer/new mother, etc.—who already live clustered together geographically. This is a glossy tale where difficulties and addictions appear and are overcome, where lies are told and then forgiven, where love is sought and found, and where truths, once spoken, can set you free. Secondary characters, including an interracial gay couple, appear with their own nuanced parts in the story. The message is strong, urging readers to get off their smartphones and social media and live in the real, authentic world—no chain stores or brands allowed here—making friends and forming a real-life community and support network. And is that really a bad thing?

An enjoyable, cozy novel that touches on tough topics.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-7861-8

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Pamela Dorman/Viking

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2019

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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

THE CATCHER IN THE RYE

A violent surfacing of adolescence (which has little in common with Tarkington's earlier, broadly comic, Seventeen) has a compulsive impact.

"Nobody big except me" is the dream world of Holden Caulfield and his first person story is down to the basic, drab English of the pre-collegiate. For Holden is now being bounced from fancy prep, and, after a vicious evening with hall- and roommates, heads for New York to try to keep his latest failure from his parents. He tries to have a wild evening (all he does is pay the check), is terrorized by the hotel elevator man and his on-call whore, has a date with a girl he likes—and hates, sees his 10 year old sister, Phoebe. He also visits a sympathetic English teacher after trying on a drunken session, and when he keeps his date with Phoebe, who turns up with her suitcase to join him on his flight, he heads home to a hospital siege. This is tender and true, and impossible, in its picture of the old hells of young boys, the lonesomeness and tentative attempts to be mature and secure, the awful block between youth and being grown-up, the fright and sickness that humans and their behavior cause the challenging, the dramatization of the big bang. It is a sorry little worm's view of the off-beat of adult pressure, of contemporary strictures and conformity, of sentiment….

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

Pub Date: June 15, 1951

ISBN: 0316769177

Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1951

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