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September 8, 2013 / schulerbooks

September Graphic Novels – pt. 2

9781401241001

Up for reading some more cool graphic novels? Excellent! Let’s continue with what else is going on at DC, this month.

Remember Amethyst, Princess of Gemworld? It’s been a while since this plucky, 80’s character was seen, but thanks to the magic of the New 52 we got a relaunch, thanks to Sword of Sorcery.

The story may be slightly different, but the idea is the same. As long as she can remember, Amy Winston’s life has been a little weird. Her mother’s dragged her all over the country, never staying in one place too long. Her days are spent being the new kid at school, and her nights are spent in sword practice with her mom, who seems very intent on making sure her daughter’s ready for anything.

Come her 17th birthday, it all makes sense. That’s the day they travel back to Gemworld, where her mother was once a Lady of the House of Amethyst, and took her infant daughter to Earth to escape the wrath of her sister — greedy for the power that her mother’s death would give her.

Now, with assassins everywhere, and no sense of who can be completely trusted, Amy must learn to embrace her heritage if she wants to survive. But there’s worse things than her cruel aunt waiting for her, and when John Constantine shows up to “help” her, it’s anyone’s guess what might happen next…

When it debuted, back in the 80’s, Amethyst was a rarity: an action comic aimed at young women, and written with a great deal of intelligence and insight. Thankfully, the relaunch has been in keeping with that dynamic, but Amethyst’s triumphant return was tragically cut short by DC’s rather short-sighted habit of killing off under-performing titles before they can really find their audience.

So we have all of Sword of Sorcery in one package, along with the backup stories Beowulf (which was intriguing, and had some promise) and Stalker (which, frankly, stunk). It would have been interesting to see how this title developed, over time, but for now we at least have a rocking good story, with intelligent writing and excellent art. Hopefully a resurrection will occur in due course.

9781401240424Speaking of resurrections: remember OMAC? The Jack Kirby-fueled title, which debuted as part of the new 52, didn’t last much longer than Sword of Sorcery, due to DC’s aforementioned, dollar-led criteria on what to keep and what to toss under the bus. But if you were curious as to where that mohawked monstrosity got its parentage from, or if you’ve been a Kirby fan all along, we have a special treat for you — Omac is back!

In the far future, the anonymous agents of the Global Peace Agency wage a quiet war to keep the world from being destroyed by unscrupulous people who would abuse the high-tech tools and toys of this era. But every so often their presence is not enough, and they require a superman to act in their stead. And so does Buddy Blank — weak but well-meaning corporate drone — become invested with magnificent powers by the sentient satellite Brother Eye, and become OMAC: the One Man Army Corps!

Got all that? Well, if you’re still on board, you are in for a treat. Jack Kirby was the undisputed master of writing crazy stories about what happened when the human condition was threatened by high technology and the general inhumanity of man, and how ordinary people could become heroes and overcome their oppressors. OMAC is a prime example of this, and showcases the man’s ability to write, draw, and edit his own comics at a time when he was drawing 15 pages a week for four DC titles a month.

(If you don’t know much about comics, just believe me when I say that’s a massive overload.)

OMAC was probably going to go some magnificent places, but Kirby left DC for Marvel just eight issues in to the run, and the story was left on a cliff-hanger. This glorious trade paperback collects those issues, along with a generous introduction, examples of Kirby’s uninked work, and OMAC’s entry from DC’s “Who’s Who.” If you’ve never read Kirby before, you should check this out, now.

Meanwhile, over in the independents, Jeff Smith (Bone) has finished another classic graphic novel, and you owe it to yourself to pick it up and and read it.

Call him Rasl. He’s an art thief, a drunkard, and a messed-up character. But if you had to make your living by strapping yourself to some 9781888963373weird, transdimensional engine setup, going to parallel worlds, and stealing their art treasures so you could sell the same masterpieces over and over again, you’d probably be a little messed up too, right?

Turns out that’s not the only reason he’s not doing so well. Before he was an outlaw he was a scientist, and he actually invented the transdimensional engine. That was back when he was working with the government, trying to use Nikola Tesla’s researches to develop weapons for the defense department in the hopes of finding peaceful applications for the man’s other inventions. But something went badly wrong, and now he’s done with that.

Unfortunately, it’s not done with him. Some strange man with a face like a lizard is hunting him from dimension to dimension, killing the people he’s close to and telling him to make with the information. Now Rasl has to decide whether to come back and face the music, or start singing a different tune…

There isn’t anything that could be said to explain just how amazing a work this is. In Bone, Jeff Smith showed that he understood the synthesis of art and narrative, and how to tell a great story for all ages. Rasl is a more adult work, but there’s nothing gratuitous or out of line within it. The work holds together like one of Tesla’s invisible engines, and the scary thing is that, for all we know, it may be more true than we’d care to admit.

A long time in the making, Rasl is now available as a hardcover. If you know someone who likes weird science, conspiracy theories, science fiction, or just a damn good story, this would make a great Yuletide present for that someone. (Just saying…)

9781606996423On the other side of that equation is Lost Cat, the latest work from Jason, which is both his longest work to date and his most heartrending.

When a detective with a rather empty existence finds a woman’s lost cat, he finally meets someone who makes his life seem like it has something real within it. When she goes missing, not too long thereafter, he searches for her in vain, only to have to abandon his personal case for something that’ll put money on his table. But he never forgets her, and never quite exorcises the imagined life with her from his mind or his heart.

And then something really weird happens.

I could tell you more, but why on earth would I? If you liked his other works, like I Killed Adolf Hitler, then you have to take it on faith that this strange graphic novel is something you’re going to want. And even if you’re not sure you’re going to like it, I’d challenge you to just read about ten pages and let it work its magic upon you.

(If anything, his unique art style is worth a gamble, right?)

And that’s what we’ve got for this time. if you have any questions about graphic novels, or need some recommendations, be sure to drop into any of our stores and ask to talk to the bookseller who shelves them. I’m sure you’ll learn more than you thought you could know!

– Jim Tremlett, Eastwood

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