A refreshingly disability-positive superhero origin story.

THE ORACLE CODE

Nijkamp (contributor: His Hideous Heart, 2019, etc.) reimagines the backstory of Oracle, computer genius and ally to Batman.

When skilled hacker Barbara “Babs” Gordon and her best friend, Benjamin, attempt to intervene in a robbery, Babs is shot. Six weeks later, the newly paralyzed Babs reluctantly rolls into the Arkham Center for Independence, where teens with disabilities undergo physical and emotional rehabilitation. Despite her father’s well-meaning advice, Babs resents being there. Even the mysterious cries within the mansion’s walls can’t lift the teen’s despondence—until Jena, a burn survivor full of haunting tales, disappears. Aided by supportive patients Yeong and Issy, whom she gradually befriends, Babs must accept her new reality in order to find Jena and escape a sinister plot. The author sensitively portrays Babs’ frustration and trauma and realistically addresses her challenges, such as mastering wheelchair ramps and negotiating stairs. Babs’ increasing self-confidence is heartening, and the message that people with disabilities don’t need to be “fixed” in order to thrive is empowering (albeit slightly heavy-handed). Balancing bright and dark colors, Preitano’s (contributor: Puerto Rico Strong, 2018, etc.) illustrations vividly convey Babs’ anger and determination, and a jigsaw-puzzle motif reflects Babs’ quest to piece together her new identity as well as the institution’s secret. Most characters present white. Yeong, who walks with forearm crutches, is cued through her name as Korean; Issy, who uses a wheelchair, presents black.

A refreshingly disability-positive superhero origin story. (Graphic fantasy. 12-16)

Pub Date: March 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4012-9066-5

Page Count: 208

Publisher: DC

Review Posted Online: Jan. 23, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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Entertaining for fans of villain backstories and Disney classics alike.

EVIL THING

A VILLAINS GRAPHIC NOVEL

From the Villains series

A chronicle of Cruella De Vil’s descent into Dalmatian destruction.

The only child of Lord and Lady De Vil, Cruella was enamored by high society life from a young age. She idolized her cold, demanding mother and loved her caring father, despite his giving her less extravagant gifts. Both parents wanted her to distinguish herself, though they intended very different meanings by that word. While young Cruella believed that servants and others from less privileged backgrounds should know their places, Anita, her less socially lofty best friend, was an exception. But as she grew up and married, she had to face the question of what it really meant to possess wealth, beauty, and happiness. Framed as a memoir, this story vividly expresses Cruella’s personality. Valentino does a solid job of establishing the cast of characters, and fans of the animated film will enjoy connecting the threads. While there are moments of softness that evoke readers’ empathy, Cruella unapologetically wields her power to behave cruelly. She is ultimately fueled by her desperation for maternal validation, jealousy, delirium, and a perhaps-cursed pair of earrings. Jovellanos’ art deftly captures a range of emotions, specifically in showing how Cruella’s face is transformed in response to her whims. Using a color palette of muted reds, blacks, grays, and whites, the illustrations express a fitting tone for a Cruella tell-all. Characters read as White.

Entertaining for fans of villain backstories and Disney classics alike. (Graphic fiction. 12-16)

Pub Date: Sept. 28, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-368-06816-1

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

Review Posted Online: Aug. 16, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2021

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BEOWULF

Pairing art from an earlier, self-published edition to a newly adapted text, Hinds retells the old tale as a series of dark, bloody, chaotic clashes. Here Grendel is a glaring, black monster with huge teeth, corded muscles and a tendency to smash or bite off adversaries’ heads; the dragon is all sinuous viciousness; and Beowulf, mighty of thew, towers over his fellow Geats. The narrative, boxed off from the illustrations rather than incorporated into them, runs to lines like, “Bid my brave warriors O Wiglaf, to build a lofty cairn for me upon the sea-cliffs . . . ” and tends to disappear when the fighting starts. Because the panels are jumbled together on the page, the action is sometimes hard to follow, but this makes a strongly atmospheric alternative to the semi-abstract Beowulf, the Legend, by Stephen L. Antczak and James C. Bassett, illus by Andy Lee (2006), or the more conventionally formatted version of Michael Morpurgo, with pictures by Michael Foreman (2006). (Graphic fiction. 12-15)

Pub Date: April 1, 2007

ISBN: 978-0-7636-3022-5

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2007

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