Readers love to find new books under the Christmas tree and Cinebook has four new offerings that are sure to delight younger readers.
Blake & Mortimer #11: The Gondwana Shrine by Yves Sente and André Juillard (56p, 978-1-84918-094-8, $15.95). This is the perfect volume for older tweens, teens, and even adults who enjoy adventure, mystery, and science fiction. The Gondwana Shrine is like a more cerebral Adventures of Johnny Quest episode or Indiana Jones movie with Mortimer searching for a lost civilization in the company of old friends and a former flame.
The African setting allows Sente and Juillard to place the characters in the path of lion attacks, elephant stampedes, and dangerous, hungry hippos. There are also fisticuffs and shoot-outs as Blake and Mortimer’s old enemy Olrik crashes the party and reveals a surprising secret. The script, which does require more than basic reading skills, is intelligent and literate. Along with the mystery and adventure elements, there is also some humor in the interaction between Mortimer and his old girlfriend.
While events from the previous volume do tie directly into this one, everything the reader needs to understand the story is included in the narrative. Juillard’s clean art style not only makes the book attractive to look at, but it also makes the story easy to follow. There are only the lines needed to tell the story on the page. This ensures there’s no confusion as to what’s happening in each panel. The fact that Juillard makes his adult characters look like men and women who have weathered more than a few storms is another plus. It adds to the story’s verisimilitude by grounding the fantastic in the ordinary.
(As an aside, kids don’t really mind reading about adults doing things because they want to be those adults someday.) The backgrounds are lovely. Juillard is equally adept at portraying animals, machinery and fantastic landscapes.
René Goscinny and Tabary’s vizier who wants to be caliph is up to his old tricks again in Iznogoud Rockets to Stardom (44p, 978-1-84918-092-4, $11.95). In the five stories collected here, Iznogoud tries to: dispatch the caliph into space; teach a reluctant prince; use a magic amulet that makes dreams come true; get a madness inducing hat on the caliph; and capture the vizier’s likeness with a magic pencil, all with comic results.
Goscinny combines humor types, going for as many laughs as possible. There are the names: Astroh Nautikal, a rocket inventor; Klot Ed Krim of Tartary (say it fast); the magician In’shahted. There’s the mixed up message game. There are wonderful puns and pointed editorial asides. There’s visual humor as characters look up and acknowledge captions.
Then there’s Tabary’s bold, energetic art. It has the simplified look of early television animation and that perhaps is the secret to its expressiveness. Fewer, looser lines give it the appearance of movement.
Morris and Goscinny’s laconic cowboy Lucky Luke returns in two new volumes. In The Daltons’ Escape (46p, 978-1-84918-091-7, $11.95),
after trying to capture the Daltons, Luke is caught by them instead. There’s a great running gag in this volume concerning Joe, the shortest Dalton, and his ball and chain.
There’s also a fun use of the cliché of the cavalry arriving in the nick of time, and an interesting variation on the shoot-out on main street.
The success of the Allan Pinkerton detective agency sends Luke into early retirement in Lucky Luke versus the Pinkertons (46p, 978-1-84918-098-6, $11.95). But not everyone likes Pinkerton’s methods and Luke ends up with some unlikely allies.
Working in the style of Morris, Achdé, Pennac, and Benacquista mix history, humor, and satire. While younger readers might not get it, there’s a lesson to be learned about invasive security measures. Sharp-eyed readers will spot a C.S.I. joke, while action fans can enjoy the cleverly staged shoot-outs.
Both Lucky Luke volumes are a good way to introduce readers to the Western genre. The cartoony art style and slapstick action will catch their interest, while the fun, well-researched stories will soon have them wanting more of the same.
These over-sized graphic novels are a great value. The sturdy bindings and heavy, non-slick paper hold up to repeated re-readings.
And they will be re-read.
For the past 13 years, Penny Kenny has been an elementary library paraprofessional in a rural school district. For the seven years prior to that, she headed a reading-math program designed to help first grade students with learning difficulties. Her book reviews regularly appeared in Starlog from 1993 to the magazine’s unfortunate demise in 2009 and she has published several e-novellas under a pen name. She has been a reviewer with Comics Bulletin since 2007.