Book Review: The Odyssey (Hinds)

December 27, 2010

*ARC Alert*

The Odyssey by Gareth Hinds (based on the epic by Homer) was published October 12th, 2010 by Candlewick Press (hard- or softcover, full-color, $14.99 soft, 256 pages).

No surprises that this one is up for a Cybil–actually, there are two Odyssey retellings on the nominations list, but the other one isn’t as pretty.  And oh, this book is pretty.  I’m fairly sure that Hinds does his art digitally, but it looks like watercolor and he handles it well.  His linework is expressive, his colors set a great mood, and his pacing lays the story out quite nicely.  His text adaptation is modern enough to make comprehension easy, but retains the resonance and power of its mythic origins, and besides that he does a great deal to humanize the characters through dialogue–Penelope, especially, is given more emotional screen time than in other translations I’ve read.

Because of Hinds’ page count and some gore, I’d recommend the other Odyssey graphic novel for younger readers.  This one, however, is great for reluctant teens; in my experience the old stories are among the most accessible, and graphic interpretation and contemporary writing make them more appealing still.

 

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Book Review: Girl Genius Volume 9: Agatha Heterodyne and The Heirs of the Storm (Foglio, Foglio)

December 27, 2010

*ARC Alert*

Girl Genius Volume 9: Agatha Heterodyne and The Heirs of the Storm by Phil and Kaja Foglio was released July 13th, 2010 by Airship Entertainment (hard- or softcover, full-color, $22.95 soft, 144 pages).

I squealed when I got this book in the mail.  Girl Genius has been a favorite of mine for years–I usually read it, as you can, thrice weekly at the comic’s website.  This is less expensive than buying the books, but you miss out on all sorts of extra goodies like giant bathtub snails.  And book-versions of webcomics make great gifts for our less-savvy loved ones.

But Ray, you say, what is Girl Genius actually about?  Ho!  I am so glad you asked.  The cover should probably have tipped you off, but this is steampunk at its best.  The slogan of the series is “Adventure!  Romance!  Mad science!” and it lives up to that, but I would also add “Hilarity!  Irreverence!  Tiny robot civil wars!”  Seriously, guys, this stuff is… genius.  They say that there is nothing new under the literary sun, but you have never seen anything like this.  Down to the tiniest details of the art and dialogue, it’s off-the-wall fun of the type that won the series the Hugo Award for Best Graphic Story in 2008.  Cheers, Professor and Professoressa Foglio–five years and counting, with hopes of many more to come.

Just as a last note, this is, of course, the ninth book in the series.  All of the comics are archived by the authors on their site, and can be read there free of charge as I mentioned earlier.  You can start with this volume if you like, but despite continuing the GG tradition of excellence, it won’t make much sense on its own.


Book Review: The Night Owls (Timony, Timony)

December 17, 2010

*ARC Alert*

The Night Owls by Peter and Bobby Timony was released March 30, 2010 by Zuda Comics (softcover, black and white, $14.99, 192 pages).

A nerdy supernatural detective, a flapper with a mean right hook, and an ever-hungry gargoyle?  Yes, please! The Night Owls combines the tried-and-true aspects of the detective genre with Prohibition-era America, flirty comedy, and light-but-satisfying violence (great taste, less filling!).  Add simple, elegant grayscale art and an original cast of baddies and you end up with a great read for middle-grades and up.  The book ends on a rather sizable cliffhanger, and I’m praying for a second volume.


Book Review: Amulet, Book Three: The Cloud Searchers (Kibuishi)

December 17, 2010

*ARC Alert*

Amulet: The Cloud Searchers (Book 3) by Kazu Kibuishi was released September 1st, 2010 by Scholastic GRAPHIX’ press (softcover, full-color, $10.99, 208 pages).

If you read graphic novels, you’ve probably heard of Kazu Kibuishi–he’s the guy who created Flight (now in its seventh volume and up for a Cybil this year), and he has two books of his own up in the Cybils running as well–Copper, a collection of webcomics about a boy and his dog, and this third volume of Kibuishi’s popular Amulet series.

To start, I would recommend going back and reading the first two books before picking this one up; I tried to get into it as a stand-alone and had very little idea of what was going on (but it’s well worth it to do the extra reading). This volume deepens the story of the elf king’s sinister rule and takes the focus of the adventure to a larger scale than just Emily and Navin’s family.  Moral complexity is also introduced to the adventure, and this measure of uncertainty in the mission serves to deepen the characters and create suspense for the next volume. Kibuishi’s settings are the most beautifully illustrated part of the book, as usual, but don’t distract from the characters, who are illustrated with greater subtlety than in previous books to suit their new depths. Overall, the series continues to improve with each new book. I look forward to the next one.