Six Reviews in Search of a Column
Due to an influx of graphic novels at the Nexus Graphica Texas offices, I am opting out of my
usual monthly missives in favor of an entire column devoted to reviews. Next month, I'll return with
my more traditional piece. Well, unless something similar happens...
Habibi by Craig Thompson (Pantheon)
Set among the deserts and cities of the modern Middle East, the beautiful and lush Habibi follows the lives
of two escaped slaves, bound as youths by chance. Deftly intertwining an engaging love story with fascinating tales
from the Koran, the always insightful Thompson in his massive (650+ pages) graphic novel expertly explores the
economic and social divisions between the first and third worlds as well as the abundant similarities between
Islam and Christianity. The ornate gold gilt, embossed covers to the sensational black & white interiors make
this one of the century's prettiest books. The extraordinary and engrossing Habibi belongs in the rarefied air
of classics such as Maus and Persepolis.
Infinite Kung Fu by Kagan McLeod (Top Shelf)
McLeod's epic tale successfully apes the martial art films of the 70s while simultaneously delivering a
wholly unique creation. Ruled by a mysterious evil emperor and his five kung fu armies, The Martial World
needs a hero. Enter ex-soldier Yang Lei Kung, latest disciple of The Eight Immortals. Martial arts mayhem ensues
with (literally) flying limbs, zombies, ghosts, traitors, death and an abundance of fun, chaotic action. Replete
with fascinating characters (with the equally interesting names of Moog Joogular, Bunzo 12, Bald Bo, Windy,
Goldy, and Thursday Thoroughgood), mysticism, and bloody violence, Infinite Kung Fu delivers the real
deal as the ultimate martial arts graphic novel.
Petrograd Written by Philip Gelatt, Art by Tyler Crook (Oni)
Nearly 100 years after his death, the Russian holy man Grigori Rasputin, intimate advisor to the Tsarina Alexandra
and healer of her son Alexei, remains one of history's more enigmatic figures. Petrograd reveals the
untold plot behind the Mad Monk's assassination -- political, social, and romantic. What role did the British
consulate play? Which of the bourgeoisie formulated the plan? How exactly were the Bolsheviks involved? Gelatt's
well-crafted script combined with Crook's incredible draftsmanship produce a realistic and compelling vision
of early 20th century, World War I Pertrograd (present day Saint Petersburg). The excellent, educational,
and fascinating Petrograd provides a superior historical thriller.
Setting the Standard: Comics by Alex Toth 1952-1954 Edited by Greg Sadowski (Fantagraphics)
Arguably one of the most influential comic book artists, Alex Toth deserves mention alongside luminaries
Jack Kirby, Will Eisner, and Harvey Kurtzman. His works informed the DC house style for better than a quarter
of a century. Though the Simon/Kirby tandem invented the romance comic, Toth's vision stands at the iconic
view of the genre. Setting the Standard collects Toth's entire 62 story output for obscure publisher
Standard Comics. These over 400 pages of crime, horror, romance, science fiction, and war tales showcase
some of his finest works, typifying his mastery of design, graphics, and visual narrative. As he did with
the excellent Four Color Fear and Supermen! tomes, editor Sadowski supplies copious end notes
and annotations. Toss in the reproductions of original Toth pages and Setting the Standard becomes
mandatory reading for any fan of the medium.
Too Much Coffee Man Omnibus by Shannon Wheeler (Dark Horse)
Originally published as a mini-comic to promote Wheeler's initial strip collection Children With Glue,
Too Much Coffee Man proved to be an instant success, spawning a pop culture phenomenon with a newspaper
syndicated strip, a regularly produced comic book, magazine, five collections, an animated Converse commercial,
merchandising paraphernalia galore (mugs, coffee, t-shirts, and toilet paper!) and even an
opera. The Too Much Coffee Man Omnibus collects the five previously published Dark Horse
volumes (Parade of Tirade, Guide for the Perplexed, Amusing Musings, How to Be Happy,
and Screw Heaven, When I Die I'm Going To Mars) and unpublished Too Much Coffee Man stories in
a handsome oversized production. Far more than just tales of an iconic slacker, the Too Much Coffee Man
strips, as with all of Wheeler's works, supplies humorous and insightful observations on relationships,
politics, and society.
Yiddishkeit Edited by Harvey Pekar & Paul Buhle (Abrams)
The last fully realized work by the late Pekar, this anthology unveils the lasting influence of Yiddish on
American culture. The beautiful, original stories (which includes a play and numerous essays), crafted by a
host of creators including co-editor Buhle, Barry Deustsch, Peter Kuper, Allen Lewis Rickman, Spain Rodriguez,
Sharon Rudahl, Gary Dumm, David Lasky, Sam Marlow, Danny Fingeroth, Joe Zabel and Pekar himself, explore
the history, origins, and the meaning of Yiddishkeit ("Jewishness" as in "a Jewish way of life") in an
insightful, intelligent, and entertaining manner. Perhaps the most unusual and unexpected graphic work
of the year, the impressive Yiddishkeit successfully peels back centuries of scholarship and dogma
while revealing the nuances of the colorful language and its impact on contemporary society.
Copyright © 2011 Rick Klaw
Professional reviewer, geek maven, and optimistic curmudgeon, Rick Klaw has supplied
countless reviews, essays, and fiction for a variety of publications
The Austin Chronicle,
The San Antonio Current,
The Greenwood Encyclopedia of Science Fiction and Fantasy, Moving Pictures
RevolutionSF, King Kong Is Back!, Conversations
With Texas Writers, Farscape Forever, Electric Velocipede, Cross Plains
Universe, and Steampunk. MonkeyBrain Books published the collection of his essays, reviews,
and other things Klaw, Geek
Confidential: Echoes From the 21st Century.
He can often be found pontificating on Twitter
and over at The Geek Curmudgeon.