An entertaining, colorful adventure with a striking hero.

THE SAGA OF EVIL MONKEY MAN!

SEASON ONE

In this debut graphic novel, a man-turned-monkey dodges authorities while searching for a way to reverse the lab experiment that transformed him.

A lab explosion rocks the quiet hamlet of Cold Spring Harbor on Long Island. Mike Ross crawls out of the rubble, quickly alarmed upon realizing he’s a giant monkey. He can still talk, but that doesn’t placate locals, who flee from his sight or attack him. Fortunately, Lina Chin, who runs a kung fu studio, sympathizes. She and Mike head back to the lab, where they find scientist Dr. Menke Moon, a fully conscious head in a jar, and his odd assistant, Manny. Moon explains that his “project” was transport; he intended for Mike to switch places with a baboon, not to form a hybrid. When Moon promises he can “fix” Mike, their small group travels east to locate several necessary items. Meanwhile, FBI agents investigate the explosion and, in little time, pursue the monkey man. Mike and the others try staying ahead of the agents, though the hardest part seems to be keeping him hidden, especially once media outlets pick up the story. Seals’ breezy novel, which collects his comic book series’ first four “episodes,” is madcap fun. The tale is primarily visual. A flashback, for example, shows Moon—before he was just a head in a jar—brandishing a syringe for a project “volunteer.” And feds are depicted unknowingly passing by their monkey fugitive more than once. Bizarre turns sometimes unfold with nary an explanation, as when Mike and his friends apparently time travel. But as this book is the first installment of a trilogy, readers will hopefully learn in later volumes such things as the purpose of Moon’s key items (for example, a golden helmet). Mapa’s artwork is pristine, right down to characters’ facial expressions, from Moon’s maniacal grins to Mike’s scowls. This novel also includes the story’s genesis, which Seals based on a friend’s song, and its original five-page one shot, illustrated by Angelo Ty “Bong” Dazo.

An entertaining, colorful adventure with a striking hero.

Pub Date: Sept. 25, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-73583-682-9

Page Count: 116

Publisher: Monarch Comics, LLC

Review Posted Online: Feb. 17, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: tomorrow

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Chwast and Twain are a match made in heaven.

A CONNECTICUT YANKEE IN KING ARTHUR'S COURT

Design veteran Chwast delivers another streamlined, graphic adaptation of classic literature, this time Mark Twain’s caustic, inventive satire of feudal England.

Chwast (Tall City, Wide Country, 2013, etc.) has made hay anachronistically adapting classic texts, whether adding motorcycles to The Canterbury Tales (2011) or rocket ships to The Odyssey (2012), so Twain’s tale of a modern-day (well, 19th-century) engineer dominating medieval times via technology—besting Merlin with blasting powder—is a fastball down the center. (The source material already had knights riding bicycles!) In Chwast’s rendering, bespectacled hero Hank Morgan looks irresistible, plated in armor everywhere except from his bow tie to the top of his bowler hat, sword cocked behind head and pipe clenched in square jaw. Inexplicably sent to sixth-century England by a crowbar to the head, Morgan quickly ascends nothing less than the court of Camelot, initially by drawing on an uncanny knowledge of historical eclipses to present himself as a powerful magician. Knowing the exact date of a celestial event from more than a millennium ago is a stretch, but the charm of Chwast’s minimalistic adaption is that there are soon much better things to dwell on, such as the going views on the church, politics and society, expressed as a chart of literal back-stabbing and including a note that while the upper class may murder without consequence, it’s kill and be killed for commoners and slaves. Morgan uses his new station as “The Boss” to better the primitive populous via telegraph lines, newspapers and steamboats, but it’s the deplorably savage civility of the status quo that he can’t overcome, even with land mines, Gatling guns and an electric fence. The subject of class manipulation—and the power of passion over reason—is achingly relevant, and Chwast’s simple, expressive illustrations resonate with a childlike earnestness, while his brief, pointed annotations add a sly acerbity. His playful mixing of perspectives within single panels gives the work an aesthetic somewhere between medieval tapestry and Colorforms.

Chwast and Twain are a match made in heaven.

Pub Date: Feb. 18, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-60819-961-7

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: Nov. 3, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2013

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A Rand primer with pictures.

ANTHEM

THE GRAPHIC NOVEL

A graphic novel for devotees of Ayn Rand.

With its men who have become gods through rugged individualism, the fiction of Ayn Rand has consistently had something of a comic strip spirit to it. So the mating of Rand and graphic narrative would seem to be long overdue, with her 1938 novella better suited to a quick read than later, more popular work such as The Fountainhead (1943) and the epic Atlas Shrugged (1957). As Anthem shows, well before the Cold War (or even World War II), Rand was railing against the evils of any sort of collectivism and the stifling of individualism, warning that this represented a return to the Dark Ages. Here, her allegory hammers the point home. It takes place in the indeterminate future, a period after “the Great Rebirth” marked an end of “the Unmentionable Times.” Now people have numbers as names and speak of themselves as “we,” with no concept of “I.” The hero, drawn to stereotypical, flowing-maned effect by illustrator Staton, knows himself as Equality 7-2521 and knows that “it is evil to be superior.” A street sweeper, he stumbles upon the entrance to a tunnel, where he discovers evidence of scientific advancement, from a time when “men knew secrets that we have lost.” He inevitably finds a nubile mate. He calls her “the Golden One.” She calls him “the Unconquered.” Their love, of course, is forbidden, and not just because she is 17. After his attempt to play Prometheus, bringing light to a society that prefers the dark, the two escape to the “uncharted forest,” where they are Adam and Eve. “I have my mind. I shall live my own truth,” he proclaims, having belatedly discovered the first-person singular. The straightforward script penned by Santino betrays no hint of tongue-in-cheek irony.

A Rand primer with pictures.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-451-23217-5

Page Count: 144

Publisher: NAL/Berkley

Review Posted Online: Dec. 2, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2010

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