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Shaun Tan

Lothian (2006)

ISBN:0734406940

Reviewed by Alisa Krasnostein (this review was first published in April 2007)

For me, by far the most outstanding work published in Australia last year was Shaun Tan’s The Arrival. The book itself, physically, is a beautiful work of art. The hard cover is designed to look like a beat up, battered old book – maybe a loved storybook or family photo album. It also reminds me of an old suitcase.

The story, too, is a beautifully crafted work of art. It tells the story of the immigrant – of a man who leaves his wife and child to escape the monster terrorising their city to begin a life for them anew in some other, freer city. Along the way, we share his struggles as he is confronted by the alienness of this new world as he misses his family as well as the stories of other immigrants who have fled their own oppressors to start a new life in this city. Read the rest of this entry »

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Jane Yolen and Rebecca Guay

Dark Horse (Oct 2011)

ISBN: 9781595827982

Reviewed by Tehani Wessely

The strange daughter of the healer, Tansy, looks at the world a little differently from everyone else. Her world is a tiny island, where dragons once roamed, and now do again. How can Tansy and her people destroy the vicious beast stealing their kin and their cattle? They turn to the mainland, and find a hero to help – but heroes aren’t always what they seem, and he may not be hero enough.

There is so much that is lovely about this book. The art, although perhaps a little patchy in places, looking unfinished, is still evocative, sometimes advancing the story in whole panels without text. The writing is beautiful, bespeaking an older time and place. The story, while fairly straightforward (I actually had the plot of A Bug’s Life in my head at one point, when the “hero” has the villagers working together!), is true fantasy, meshed in wonder. It’s a bit heavy handed in the first few pages, but evens out as the story progresses. I enjoyed reading it, but having said that, I did have some problems with the work.

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Naomi Novik and Yishan Li

Random House

ISBN: 978-0-345-51656-5

Reviewed by Tansy Rayner Roberts

Naomi Novik has moved into whole new territory with her recent release, Will Supervillains Be on the Final Vol. One. Far from the Napoleonic dragon bromance of Temeraire and his many sequels, this is the first in an American manga series that I really enjoyed. It has the fluffy romance of a Fruits Basket, mixed with a whole lot of US superhero traditions, and is beautifully drawn by Yishan Li.

This first volume introduces nervous student prodigy Leah, who has been allowed into superhero university Liberty Vocational a couple of years early because her immense powers are greatly needed in the war against supervillainy. There’s a whole world lightly sketched here, with hints of far bigger stories in the past and the future. I’m particularly intrigued by the background character of Calvin Washington, once the greatest superhero ever, now a quiet professor who has lost his powers. I also genuinely enjoyed the classroom challenges, and the left-of-centre lessons being thrown at the students. As a sucker for magical school stories, and someone who has been hanging out for a new fluffy manga to fall in love with, I’m signing up for this one!

The only down side is I’m not sure of when the next one is coming out, and whether there is a regular schedule planned or if they’re just putting out one to see how well they sell. Wahhh!

True Blood, Volume 2, Issue 1

IDW Publishing (2011)

ISBN: 9781613770191

Reviewed by Tehani Wessely

I didn’t even realise that a True Blood graphic novel existed until I came across this on Net Galley. Given this issue is from Volume 2, I clearly haven’t been paying attention, a situation that will shortly be remedied.

“Tainted Love” is the first part of the trade edition of True Blood Volume 2. We are introduced to our characters by way of a dream sequence where Sookie shares herself with both her vampire lovers Bill and Eric, in a gory blood bath. This rather graphic sequence sets a somewhat gorier tone than that of the rest of the issue, which focuses around human Hoyt deciding to put on a pretend Prom for his newly made vampire girlfriend Jessica. Fairly innocent, but we also know that someone has spiked the blood substitute Tru Blood with an agent that is causing vampires across the country to go on killing sprees. What will happen to the partygoers when they drink this wicked cocktail, especially Jessica, who has enough problems with self-control as it is?

I quite enjoyed this foray into the True Blood universe. It really is that of the television show, not the books, evidenced by the drawing of the characters to match their television counterparts (and indeed, the very embodiment of some characters only come from the show). The cast are recognisable from the screen, which is just as well because very little introduction is supplied. I wouldn’t recommend this to newcomers as a place to start exploring Sookie’s universe, as the story pretty much jumps straight in, but I haven’t seen the first volume, which may offer a better initiation.

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James Patterson, with Michael Ledwidge, art by SeungHui Kye

Atom

ISBN: 978 1 907410 52 9

Reviewed by Tehani Wessely

Adapted from James Patterson’s Daniel X novels, the first volume of the Daniel X manga is both entertaining and at times somewhat confusing. Daniel X is a teen alien hunter, on his own since his parents (his father was also an alien hunter) were murdered. He has supernatural powers, such as being able to create tangible illusions, and he is tracking down aliens on “The List”, to rid the planet of their evil ways. As it turns out though, Daniel himself is also on the list, and he finds himself kidnapped and taken to a planet far away, where he learns more about himself and his history.

Without the benefit of having read the novels this manga is based on, I struggled a little at various points to figure out what was going on, and I felt the story suffered somewhat for not exploring some of the angles a little more. However, it was a fast and action-packed book, with some interesting characters and plot points that kept me engaged throughout, even when I didn’t really know what was going on. The artwork is manga at it’s best – very cute, but with a stylish edge, and the pictures are a great complement to the story.

I like seeing these sorts of manga done well, as they can be a great way for reluctant readers to become involved with longer texts – if they love the manga, it’s easier to convince them to tackle the original novels. Daniel X does a good job of sucking in a new reader and would, I think, also appeal to a Patterson fan of any kind.

Adapted by Eoin Colfer and Andrew Donkin, Art by Giovanni Rigano, Colour by Paolo Lamanna

Puffin Books

ISBN: 978 0 141 32586 6

Reviewed by Tehani Wessely

Juvenile criminal mastermind Artemis Fowl saved his mother in book one, and now he’s trying to save his father, if he’s even still alive. In the world beneath that which we know, Holly and her magical friends are facing another threat. Can Artemis help those below at the same time as meeting his own goals? And along the way, will he start to gain some newfound humanity?

This was completely enjoyable from beginning to end. Adapted from the second book of the hugely popular novel series, The Arctic Incident not only does justice to the original story, but embellishes and builds on it with the gorgeous artwork.

Colfer’s delightful “voice” still shines through in the graphic version, with a blend of humour and gravity that is powerfully appealing. Combined with the absolutely beautiful pictures, the book is an alluring package for any tween/teen.

In all, I had only one issue with the work: at times, some of the lettering is very very small, which made it somewhat difficult to read in places. However, this is a minor complaint, and is outweighed by the strength of the story and book as a whole.

This re-imaging of the already enormously popular Artemis Fowl series is sure to bring joy to established readers while at the same time drawing new readers to not only the graphic series, but the original books as well. Highly recommended.

Jonathan Walker (writer) and Dan Hallett (illustrator)

Allen & Unwin (2010)

ISBN: 978-1-74237-013-2

Reviewed by Ross Murray

The first thing you notice about Five Wounds is that the book itself is a lovingly designed and executed object, almost a piece of art in itself reminding of a time before mass market paperbacks. The book immediately sets itself apart as something special with its deep red cover and gold embossed illustration of a hand with symbols marked upon it. There’s even has an in-built bookmark like you’d find in an old-style Bible. The ‘Illuminated Novel’ of the title refers to the fact that like manuscripts produced in the Middle Ages and Renaissance eras, the text of Five Wounds is supplemented by decorations in the form of marginalia and illustrations. There’s also a set of glossy plates in the middle of the book providing accompanying illustrations to selected passages of the story.

Five Wounds tells the story of the intertwining lives of Gabriella, Crow, Cuckoo, Magpie, and Cur. These are strange and enigmatic characters. Gabriella is an earth-bound angel with clipped wings receiving garbled dream-messages from God; Cur was stolen as a baby by the Black Dog to be raised as an assassin; Cuckoo has a waxen face which he intends to use to improve his place in society; Magpie is a photographer after the perfect subject; and Crow is a leper trying to find the essence of death and therefore a cure for himself in dead things … and people. Crow’s plans to take over the government will throw the city onto chaos; Cuckoo’s desire to live the life of another has life threatening ramifications, as do Cur’s ambitions to leave the assassin’s life behind. Gabriella’s prophetic dreams infuse each character’s life while she seeks to decipher a coded message which appeared before her father’s death. As the story progresses it looks as if the characters are being manipulated, but by whom? And to what end?

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Jason Fischer

After the World Saga. 2

Black House Comics (2009)

ISBN: 9780980600643

Reviewed by Natasha Pearson* and Gillian Polack, July 2010

Gravesend is a post-apocalyptic zombie novella. It is the second of a new Australian pulp series published by Black House Comics. While the series calls itself a “saga”, this has to be tongue-in-cheek, as the novella is an unlikely form for a saga. Fischer’s novella definitely builds on the previous one, however (set in an Australian law firm) and its action begins after the zombie plague has taken hold and the last of the healthy humans are under siege.

The story is set in Kent in Gravesend (which is a pun that was inevitable the moment the subject of the novella was linked to the writing of Jason Fischer), and begins with the main character Tamsyn Webb on guard duty watching for zombies from a clocktower. It launches straight into the action with a mass zombie attack. Fischer then explains how the world has changed to become a place infested with the undead and how bleak the future looks for the villagers living in Kent. Things begin to get worse, as more people are killed by the zombies, but hope comes in the form of a transmission from America.

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Stephenie Meyer

Art and Adaptation by Young Kim

Atom (2010)

ISBN: 978 1 905654 66 6

Reviewed by Tehani Wessely, April 2010

First there was a book, then a series, the movies, merchandise, fan fic … everything you can imagine as the Twilight phenomenon rolled over publishing, film and fans everywhere. Unless you’ve been living under a bridge in Outer Mongolia for the last few years, you will have heard of Twilight, and know the story. Just in case, a short synopsis: clumsy girl moves to rainy town, meets sparkly “vegetarian” vampire, falls in love. There’s a bit more to it, but that’s the basics.

The Twilight madness that has taken over the world in recent years rivals the Harry Potter juggernaut that invigorated Young Adult and Children’s publishing in the late 1990s and early Noughties. Twilight fans start at a slightly older readership age, and slant more towards the female side of the demographic, but this seems only to make them even more intense in their passion for the books (and author), films (and actors) than those who worship Rowling. And now Twilight has something that Potterdom doesn’t: a graphic novel.

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