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

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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The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

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A LITTLE LIFE

Four men who meet as college roommates move to New York and spend the next three decades gaining renown in their professions—as an architect, painter, actor and lawyer—and struggling with demons in their intertwined personal lives.

Yanagihara (The People in the Trees, 2013) takes the still-bold leap of writing about characters who don’t share her background; in addition to being male, JB is African-American, Malcolm has a black father and white mother, Willem is white, and “Jude’s race was undetermined”—deserted at birth, he was raised in a monastery and had an unspeakably traumatic childhood that’s revealed slowly over the course of the book. Two of them are gay, one straight and one bisexual. There isn’t a single significant female character, and for a long novel, there isn’t much plot. There aren’t even many markers of what’s happening in the outside world; Jude moves to a loft in SoHo as a young man, but we don’t see the neighborhood change from gritty artists’ enclave to glitzy tourist destination. What we get instead is an intensely interior look at the friends’ psyches and relationships, and it’s utterly enthralling. The four men think about work and creativity and success and failure; they cook for each other, compete with each other and jostle for each other’s affection. JB bases his entire artistic career on painting portraits of his friends, while Malcolm takes care of them by designing their apartments and houses. When Jude, as an adult, is adopted by his favorite Harvard law professor, his friends join him for Thanksgiving in Cambridge every year. And when Willem becomes a movie star, they all bask in his glow. Eventually, the tone darkens and the story narrows to focus on Jude as the pain of his past cuts deep into his carefully constructed life.  

The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

Pub Date: March 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-53925-8

Page Count: 720

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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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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