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We Are Robin, Vol. 1: The Vigilante Business

Lee Bermejo et al. DC, $14.99 trade paper (160p) ISBN 978-1-4012-5982-2

In the aftermath of the Batman: Endgame story arc, a vacuum exists in the Gotham City superhero community, and who better to fill it than a diverse team of teenagers with axes to grind? Bermejo (Batman: Noel) is joined by artists Jorge Corona (Teen Titans Go!) and Rob Haynes (Batman: Black and White) to begin the sagas of six heroes collected by an unknown benefactor called the Nest to bring justice to the broken streets of Gotham. Corona’s wild, kinetic style lends intensity to even the quietest scenes, allowing Bermejo room to explore teen melodrama in his own brooding style. The new Robins bring gender, racial, and class diversity to the Bat-books in an authentic way that reflects the social circles modern young adults experience. A story drawn by James Harvey (Masterplasty) shifts suddenly to pop art–inspired designs and sly Easter eggs, providing an intermission of sorts before Corona and Haynes return to push this volume to its action-packed finale. (Apr.)

Reviewed on 04/29/2016 | Details & Permalink

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Gulag Casual

Austin English. 2dcloud, $24.95 trade paper (160p) ISBN 978-1-937541-19-4

Cartoonist and fine artist English confounds readers with a collection of abstract short comics about interpersonal relationships. In “A New York Story,” two boys talk of a dream one has about a dead friend. “The Disgusting Room” shows a Kafkaesque nightmare in which a young man is party to an act of violence and seems to see it from a dream-like distance. English draws on visual vocabularies from hybrid artists such as abstract expressionist painter Philip Guston, painter/muralist Ben Shahn, and punk comics artist Gary Panter. The visuals in English’s first graphic novel, Christina and Charles, leaned on what could be called a naive/art brut aesthetic, like a sweeter version of the Fort Thunder art group. In contrast, here the turbulence of the pictures goes beyond any barriers set by his art comics forebears. The stories are uneven, but the mysteries of the visuals reward rereading. A niche audience will find much to chew on, but a general readership will find it difficult to adjust to Austin’s fractured visuals and storytelling. (Apr.)

Reviewed on 04/29/2016 | Details & Permalink

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5,000 KM per Second

Manuele Fior, trans from the French by Jamie Richards. Fantagraphics, $22.99 (144p) ISBN 978-1-60699-666-9

The depths of love and longing are plumbed in this brief and bittersweet tale by Italian illustrator/cartoonist Fior, which won Best Book at the Angoulême Comics Festival in 2011. Lucia and Piero are lovers, but not the starry-eyed sort. They meet as teenagers, enjoy an intense attraction, and eventually drift apart. Their ambitions take them to Egypt, Norway, and into the arms of other people, yet the memory of their time together lingers on. Achingly vivid jewel tones provide sumptuous visuals: Piero and Lucia’s heady younger years are a riot of chartreuse and lemon yellow, their reunion a moody meditation in oak brown and dusky cerulean. Fior has a knack for capturing the charming awkwardness of infatuation—nimbly translated by Richards—which he applies to both the earnest beginning of Lucia and Piero’s romance and its melancholic final chapter. This story is full of unadulterated emotion, as stingingly sad as it is deeply hopeful. (Apr.)

Reviewed on 04/29/2016 | Details & Permalink

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Guardians of the Louvre

Jiro Taniguchi. NBM, $24.99 (136p) ISBN 978-1-68112-034-8

“Is this a dream?” wonders a young comic-book artist who is surprised to find his visit to the Louvre interrupted by a fantastical reverie. Before his curious eyes, the long queues of tourists disappear and he is visited by an apparition in the form of Winged Victory. Like a literal patron saint of the arts, she introduces him to the spirits she calls the Guardians of the Louvre before sending him on a phantasmagorical journey where he meets and chats with some of his favorite painters, such as Corot and Van Gogh. Taniguchi’s (The Walking Man) coolly and resplendently drawn, if rather indifferently written, book is the latest curious addition to NBM’s Louvre Collection. It’s unclear why the Louvre would want a book to emphasize the difficulty of navigating their great swarms of visitors, but Taniguchi does a fine job of selling the museum as a bastion of wonderment, albeit one best visited in solitude with the guidance of a benevolent ghost. (May)

Reviewed on 04/29/2016 | Details & Permalink

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