A distinctive horror tale with stark characters and radiant artwork.

Horrorscope

When the mob uses a fortuneteller’s predictions for its criminal benefit, things quickly turn violent and macabre in this graphic novel.

Psychic Helen Wilson charges a meager $25 for a reading at her Naugatuck, Connecticut, home. Those who pay for her services witness her astonishing abilities to foresee future events and apparently speak with the dead. But Luigi Nicolo watches Helen guess plays during a baseball game. Once his mob boss uncle, AC Nicolo, gets wind of this and believes Helen is legit, he sends Luigi to intimidate her. After all, she can boost the gangsters’ capital with predictions that make bank robberies a cinch. When one of those heists goes bad, AC suspects Helen betrayed him, and he responds in typical mob fashion. But Helen may be the wrong person to cross, and her retaliation is more horrifying than anything AC can imagine. In a concurrent plot, Helen seemingly derives her power from her “zodiac table.” This story gradually reveals the origin of the table, which, though clearly antique, is much older than it looks. Xalabarder’s tale is based on a 2014 book by Evans, Biltz, and Bousquet called Horrorscope. Xalabarder’s graphic novel, though predictable (even for nonpsychics), establishes memorable characters. For example, Helen is an empathetic woman who uses her powers to help others, while police Detective Merton Howard succumbs to a growing fascination with the fortuneteller and her enigmatic table. The narrative’s latter half, in which zodiac-inspired creatures take the narrative reins, bursts with bloody, graphic imagery. It’s a fine display of Xalabarder’s art, particularly the assorted colors; muted blues adorn night scenes and contrast with intermittent sepia-toned flashbacks. In a standout 1950-set sequence, the only color among black-and-white images is the glaring red of blood. The story’s open ending as well as a few unknown character fates suggest that a sequel will follow.

A distinctive horror tale with stark characters and radiant artwork.

Pub Date: June 1, 2021

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 81

Publisher: WestWinds Press

Review Posted Online: Sept. 8, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2021

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Chwast and Twain are a match made in heaven.

A CONNECTICUT YANKEE IN KING ARTHUR'S COURT

Design veteran Chwast delivers another streamlined, graphic adaptation of classic literature, this time Mark Twain’s caustic, inventive satire of feudal England.

Chwast (Tall City, Wide Country, 2013, etc.) has made hay anachronistically adapting classic texts, whether adding motorcycles to The Canterbury Tales (2011) or rocket ships to The Odyssey (2012), so Twain’s tale of a modern-day (well, 19th-century) engineer dominating medieval times via technology—besting Merlin with blasting powder—is a fastball down the center. (The source material already had knights riding bicycles!) In Chwast’s rendering, bespectacled hero Hank Morgan looks irresistible, plated in armor everywhere except from his bow tie to the top of his bowler hat, sword cocked behind head and pipe clenched in square jaw. Inexplicably sent to sixth-century England by a crowbar to the head, Morgan quickly ascends nothing less than the court of Camelot, initially by drawing on an uncanny knowledge of historical eclipses to present himself as a powerful magician. Knowing the exact date of a celestial event from more than a millennium ago is a stretch, but the charm of Chwast’s minimalistic adaption is that there are soon much better things to dwell on, such as the going views on the church, politics and society, expressed as a chart of literal back-stabbing and including a note that while the upper class may murder without consequence, it’s kill and be killed for commoners and slaves. Morgan uses his new station as “The Boss” to better the primitive populous via telegraph lines, newspapers and steamboats, but it’s the deplorably savage civility of the status quo that he can’t overcome, even with land mines, Gatling guns and an electric fence. The subject of class manipulation—and the power of passion over reason—is achingly relevant, and Chwast’s simple, expressive illustrations resonate with a childlike earnestness, while his brief, pointed annotations add a sly acerbity. His playful mixing of perspectives within single panels gives the work an aesthetic somewhere between medieval tapestry and Colorforms.

Chwast and Twain are a match made in heaven.

Pub Date: Feb. 18, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-60819-961-7

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: Nov. 3, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2013

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Intriguing and accessible, this thought-provoking tale will be new to many.

THE DAUGHTERS OF YS

An ancient Breton folktale finds new life as a graphic novel.

King Gradlon won his wife’s hand by murdering her first husband. Upon her mysterious death, their two daughters, Rozenn and Dahut, are sickened by their father’s debauchery and consumed by grief. Several pages of wordless panels show the girls growing up and growing apart. Rozenn retreats to the countryside, meets Corentin, a “holy hermit,” and falls in love with a fisherman. Dahut commits herself to learning her mother’s magic, including seducing, murdering, and sacrificing a string of young men to protect the city. Dahut’s ultimate betrayal of her sister brings about the deadly denouement. Anderson drew on multiple sources to retell this story of Ys, a “famed city of pleasures” stolen from the sea and doomed to destruction. Overtones of other tales, from the lost land of Lyonesse to the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, echo through the pages of this morality tale. Blood and betrayal permeate the plot while natural sounding dialogue and perfect pacing draw readers along smoothly. Rioux’s art adds a suitably Celtic feel, with swirling patterns, medieval costumes, and a red-haired sorceress at its center. While nudity and sexual activity both occur, as do beheadings and drowning, neither the text nor the pictures are particularly explicit. Main characters are white; clothing and textual references indicate contact with Near and Far Eastern nations.

Intriguing and accessible, this thought-provoking tale will be new to many. (source note) (Graphic fantasy. 16-adult)

Pub Date: Aug. 11, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-62672-878-3

Page Count: 208

Publisher: First Second

Review Posted Online: March 25, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2020

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