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Ronin: The Deluxe Edition

Frank Miller and Lynn Varley. DC, $29.99 (336p) ISBN 978-1-4012-4895-6

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Before Miller redefined Batman with a dark, noir look and feel that influenced comics of the 1980s and beyond, his first series followed the adventures of a samurai warrior in a future dystopia. The series is now back in print in a deluxe edition. Miller virtually single-handedly popularized ninjas in American comic books, and here he builds on the tropes of Japanese sword-fighting action against a background of fine-lined European design in the style of French artist Moebius. This edition gorgeously reproduces Miller’s deft and intricate artwork. His fight sequences are refreshing and imaginatively choreographed, staging scenes that combine panels into kinetic action. The over-the-top violence is balanced against nimble and believable human anatomy and motion, and his technique of expressing emotion by showing a single face in multiple panels is especially effective. The coloring by frequent Miller collaborator Varley is subtle and understated, eschewing the usual brilliant shades of comic books for pastels and earth tones. The book is a thrilling and inspired adventure story, even 30 years after its original publication—a first-rate classic that absolutely deserves the elegant and attractive design of this new edition. (Oct.)

Reviewed on 10/24/2014 | Details & Permalink

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Skandalon

Julie Maroh, trans. from the French by David Homel. Arsenal Pulp (Consortium, dist.), $21.95 trade paper (160p) ISBN 978-1-55152-552-5

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Maroh returns after the great success of her first graphic novel, Blue Is the Warmest Color, with a tale that follows the career of a fictional French singer/songwriter named Tazane. The book opens with Tazane at the height of his popularity. He is beloved by young men and women alike, and no matter what he sings or how he changes his work or how badly he acts, his fans stick by him. He begins to act out, abusing fans, causing riots, and doing drugs before shows. The story culminates when he sexually assaults a fan, and the book covers the fallout as the world turns against him. Tazane is a very realistic, believable character that readers will love and hate. The book is beautifully drawn, with fluid figures, in Maroh’s signature, rubbery style, with dream sequences and strange moments giving ethereal breaks in the text. The book is fast and engaging—maybe a bit too fast, as the swiftly moving story could have been expanded even more. Agent: Ivanka Hahnenberger. (Oct.)

Reviewed on 10/24/2014 | Details & Permalink

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The Lonesome Go

Tim Lane. Fantagraphics, $39.99 trade paper (296p) ISBN 978-1-60699-754-3

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Lane’s (Abandoned Cars) glorious intricate panegyric of American wanderlust may be comics in its purest form. In several short, punchy stories, he spins visual and verbal tales of hobos, grifters, estranged exes, and other wanderers through abandoned fun houses, and motor inns, with lurid sex and hallucinatory episodes. Lane’s subtle and meticulous merging of art and words displays the full range of his skill, offering bleak no-moral tales and sour vignettes that build on the experience and mythology of traveling the darker paths of the road. The yarns aren’t pleasant or feel-good, but studying individual panels of tortured figures and well-balanced shading reveals a greater beauty behind them. The wide range of art styles that Lane draws upon throughout the different chapters contributes to the book’s gritty realism, and several memorably bleak sequences are reminiscent of the deepest, darkest film noir. Lane is one of those rare comics storytellers who understands and deftly captures the lure of the road and memorably portrays America’s seedy underbelly. (Oct.)

Reviewed on 10/24/2014 | Details & Permalink

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Marx

Corinne Maier and Anne Simon. Nobrow (Consortium, dist.), $19.95 (72p) ISBN 978-1-9077-04-83-3

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Following up on their biography of Freud, Maier and Simon present a strange, surprisingly sweet, and informative biography of Karl Marx (1818–1883), the scourge of capitalists everywhere and the inspiration for generations of communist revolutionaries. The authors give a full account of Marx’s life, from his early encounters with anti-Semitism and censorship to his never-ceasing struggle for the working class. Simon’s whimsical and vivid art is delightful, turning Marx’s travels into thrilling adventures, as when leaves his native Prussia in 1843 with his wife to start a newspaper in Paris. The book also delves into Marx’s private history, from his loving relationship with his daughters to his affair with the family’s maid, and his reliance on his wife’s inheritances to make ends meet. The close of the book, with Marx as a cape-wearing avenger, apologizing for the horrors perpetrated by the Communist regimes of the 20th century, feels awkward. Overall, though, this is an excellent comics biography that shows how well the medium can capture the twists, turns, triumphs, and defeats of a remarkable life. (Oct.)

Reviewed on 10/24/2014 | Details & Permalink

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