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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A solid introduction for budding lovers of the Bard.

HAMLET

From the Campfire Graphic Novels series

Something is rotten in the state of Denmark.

The timeless tale of the young and disaffected Danish prince who is pushed to avenge his father’s untimely murder at the hands of his brother unfolds with straightforward briskness. Shakespeare’s text has been liberally but judiciously cut, staying true to the thematic meaning while dispensing with longer speeches (with the notable exception of the renowned “to be or not to be” soliloquy) and intermediary dialogues. Some of the more obscure language has been modernized, with a glossary of terms provided at the end; despite these efforts, readers wholly unfamiliar with the story might struggle with independent interpretation. Where this adaptation mainly excels is in its art, especially as the play builds to its tensely wrought final act. Illustrator Kumar (World War Two, 2015, etc.) pairs richly detailed interiors and exteriors with painstakingly rendered characters, each easily distinguished from their fellows through costume, hairstyle, and bearing. Human figures are generally depicted in bust or three-quarter shots, making the larger panels of full figures all the more striking. Heavily scored lines of ink form shadows, lending the otherwise bright pages a gritty air. All characters are white.

A solid introduction for budding lovers of the Bard. (biography of Shakespeare, dramatis personae, glossary) (Graphic novel. 12-18)

Pub Date: Aug. 27, 2019

ISBN: 978-93-81182-51-2

Page Count: 90

Publisher: Campfire

Review Posted Online: July 13, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2019

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Will appeal to manga fans but raises questions around depictions of racialized material.

OTHELLO

From the Manga Classics series

An illustrated reimagining of one of Shakespeare’s most memorable tragedies.

From the very beginning of this clever adaptation, effort is made to prioritize accessibility of both the manga form and the classic Shakespearean play: The frontmatter briefly highlights the reading direction of the panels, and characters are labeled when introduced, coming to life via a striking combination of early modern Venetian dress; quintessential manga hairdos and facial expressions; and pronounced linework. Like the rest of the series, this account of Othello remains faithful to the original. The black-and-white illustrations allow for Iago’s conniving manipulations to manifest visually as well as animating characters’ bigotry in impactful, distressing ways. However, there are shortcomings: Where the original text may use parentheticals and asides to progress the story, the occasional appearance of parentheses in speech bubbles are a distracting reminder that comics utilize storytelling tools that haven’t been fully adopted here. Likewise, panel after panel of Othello’s turn to violence and his enraged face obscured by shadow provide a poignant dramatic effect but seem to exacerbate prejudices inherent to both the play and medium. Not only is the titular character visually distinguished from other characters by his shading, hair, lips, and overall size, unfortunately neither Shakespeare nor the illustrator seem wholly prepared for a contemporary conversation regarding racial representation in one of literature’s most infamous depictions of othering.

Will appeal to manga fans but raises questions around depictions of racialized material. (adapter’s notes, character designs) (Graphic fiction. 13-18)

Pub Date: May 25, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-947808-13-3

Page Count: 420

Publisher: Manga Classics

Review Posted Online: March 25, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2021

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