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HOUND OGN

A visceral and neatly executed graphic parable of war’s dehumanizing power.

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In Freeman and Romesburg’s graphic novel, a soldier encounters a strange cult on the front lines of World War I.

In this graphic novel, a moldering old diary tells an astonishing story: A young man named Barrow (a thin, innocent waif) is sent to the front lines of the British troops in southern France while fighting in WWI, told by his commanding officer that he’ll be serving in an unusual regiment nicknamed the Hounds because of the long snouts of their omnipresent gas masks. With the Hounds, Private Barrow journeys to a ruined house in the shattered countryside where, to his horror, he finds that his new comrades are far darker than they seem: They’re keeping a group of brutalized German prisoners in the house, and worse is to come—when they release these prisoners, the Hounds devolve into semi-human monsters to hunt and consume the fleeing men. “Before my arrival, I feared the change the trench would force upon me,” Barrow reflects; “I had forgotten that the trenches were dug by the hands of men.” Private Barrow and the Hounds embark on a collision course that will see the young soldier descend to the farthest depths of tragedy that the war has to offer. “I’ve always believed people can turn,” Private Barrow writes in his journal, “from good to bad, then back again. But this … this feels different.” This stark, unsettling story is told by Freeman and Romesburg with confidently effective understatement—they seem well aware that excess verbiage is the enemy of mood. And that mood is greatly enhanced by Vásquez’s vivid, jittery, full-color artwork, full of scratchy line-work that underscores the gruesome horrors that Private Barrow both witnesses and perpetrates; as he’s told when he’s a boy, “In this life, we will hurt those that don’t deserve it.”

A visceral and neatly executed graphic parable of war’s dehumanizing power.

Pub Date: Feb. 20, 2024

ISBN: 9781952303784

Page Count: 96

Publisher: Mad Cave Studios

Review Posted Online: Jan. 3, 2024

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SUPERMAN SMASHES THE KLAN

A clever and timely conversation on reclaiming identity and acknowledging one’s full worth.

Superman confronts racism and learns to accept himself with the help of new friends.

In this graphic-novel adaptation of the 1940s storyline entitled “The Clan of the Fiery Cross” from The Adventures of Superman radio show, readers are reintroduced to the hero who regularly saves the day but is unsure of himself and his origins. The story also focuses on Roberta Lee, a young Chinese girl. She and her family have just moved from Chinatown to Metropolis proper, and mixed feelings abound. Jimmy Olsen, Lois Lane’s colleague from the Daily Planet, takes a larger role here, befriending his new neighbors, the Lees. An altercation following racial slurs directed at Roberta’s brother after he joins the local baseball team escalates into an act of terrorism by the Klan of the Fiery Kross. What starts off as a run-of-the-mill superhero story then becomes a nuanced and personal exploration of the immigrant experience and blatant and internalized racism. Other main characters are White, but Black police inspector William Henderson fights his own battles against prejudice. Clean lines, less-saturated coloring, and character designs reminiscent of vintage comics help set the tone of this period piece while the varied panel cuts and action scenes give it a more modern sensibility. Cantonese dialogue is indicated through red speech bubbles; alien speech is in green.

A clever and timely conversation on reclaiming identity and acknowledging one’s full worth. (author’s note, bibliography) (Graphic fiction. 13-adult)

Pub Date: May 12, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-77950-421-0

Page Count: 240

Publisher: DC

Review Posted Online: Feb. 29, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2020

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SHUBEIK LUBEIK

Immensely enjoyable.

The debut graphic novel from Mohamed presents a modern Egypt full of magical realism where wishes have been industrialized and heavily regulated.

The story opens with a televised public service announcement from the General Committee of Wish Supervision and Licensing about the dangers of “third-class wishes”—wishes that come in soda cans and tend to backfire on wishers who aren’t specific enough (like a wish to lose weight resulting in limbs falling from the wisher’s body). Thus begins a brilliant play among magic, the mundane, and bureaucracy that centers around a newsstand kiosk where a devout Muslim is trying to unload the three “first-class wishes” (contained in elegant glass bottles and properly licensed by the government) that have come into his possession, since he believes his religion forbids him to use them. As he gradually unloads the first-class wishes on a poor, regretful widow (who then runs afoul of authorities determined to manipulate her out of her valuable commodity) and a university student who seeks a possibly magical solution to their mental health crisis (but struggles with whether a wish to always be happy might have unintended consequences), interstitials give infographic histories of wishes, showing how the Western wish-industrial complex has exploited the countries where wishes are mined (largely in the Middle East). The book is exceptionally imaginative while also being wonderfully grounded in touching human relationships, existential quandaries, and familiar geopolitical and socio-economic dynamics. Mohamed’s art balances perfectly between cartoon and realism, powerfully conveying emotions, and her strong, clean lines gorgeously depict everything from an anguished face to an ornate bottle. Charts and graphs nicely break up the reading experience while also concisely building this larger world of everyday wishes. Mohamed has a great sense of humor, which comes out in footnotes and casual asides throughout.

Immensely enjoyable.

Pub Date: Jan. 10, 2023

ISBN: 978-1-524-74841-8

Page Count: 528

Publisher: Pantheon

Review Posted Online: Oct. 26, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2022

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