REVIEWS: Midwest Book Review June 2007

by Jeff

The Comix/Graphic Novel Shelf

Blue Beetle Companion
Christopher Irving
10407 Bedfordtown Drive, Raleigh, NC 27614
1893905705, $16.95

The Blue Beetle appeared in 1939 and came to rival Superman and Batman for comic history, but didn’t become popular until his recent death when DC Comics resurrected him in the Infinite Crisis series. The history and adventures of the character are followed here in The Blue Beetle Companion: His Many Lives from 1939 to Today, following some 60 years of the character’s evolution and transitions and providing interviews with key and major comic graphic artists along the way. Black and white comic strips from all eras enhance the presentation.

Dungeon: Parade Volume One: A Dungeon Too Many
Joann Sfar, Lewis Trondheim, Manu Larcenet
NBM Publishing Inc.
40 Exchange Place #1308, New York NY 10005
1561634956, $9.95

French humor artist Manu Larcenet illustrates a fine new adventure in the popular fantasy-comedy Dungeon series: this revolving around a vegetarian dragon and a self-centered duck who must defend the castle – however reluctantly. Here Herbert acquires a magical lamp with one wish left – and the Keeper of the castle sends Herbert and Marvin to a dying sage to decide what wish would be best. A fun, lively story evolves.

Fullmetal Alchemist: The Abducted Alchemist
Makoto Inoue, author
Alexander O. Smith, translator
Viz Communications Inc.
295 Bay Street, San Francisco, CA 94133
1421502224, $9.99 1-800-394-3042

Fullmetal Alchemist: The Abducted Alchemist is the second in a series of text novels based on the wildly popular Fullmetal Alchemist anime and manga. Written by Makoto Inoue, skillfully translated from the original Japanese by Alexander O. Smith, and featuring two afterwords (one by the author, and one by Fullmetal Alchemist manga creator Hiromu Arakawa), Fullmetal Alchemist is set amid a dual terrorist crisis: a succession of train lines destroyed seemingly without victims, and a series of kidnappings targeting friends and families of the military. Colonel Roy Mustang suspects a link between these criminal acts, but it is Edward and Alphonse Elric who become embroiled in the middle of the investigation – becoming targets of the kidnappers themselves! An action-packed, enthralling adventure from cover to cover, and a “must-read” for Fullmetal Alchemist fans.

Sounds of Your Name
Nate Powell
Microcosm Publishing
PO Box 14332, Portland, OR 97293
0977055795, $18.00

Sounds of your Name is a graphic novel anthology of black-and-white zine and comic stories by punk band player Nate Powell. Featuring dark, gritty artwork, dialogue that turns on a dime from casual to deadly serious, and sequences that are likewise drift from day-in-the- life to tense to shockingly explosive, the stories in Sounds of Your Name captivate with underground fervor. From the hard life of an alley cat who longs for the comforts of domesticity, to the simultaneously grim and spiritual insights of a war veteran, to the rites of passage from childhood to adulthood, Sounds of Your Name is undeniably a “thinking man’s comic” from cover to cover. An avant-garde collection especially recommended for anyone interested in taking the pulse of the underground comix scene.

Top Shelf Productions Inc.
PO Box 1282, Marietta, GA 30061-1282 1-770-425-0551

Simply put, Top Shelf Productions is a premiere publisher of avante garde and counter-culture comix and graphic novels whose diverse titles showcase the very essence of originality. Their newest and highly recommended graphic novel releases include Nicholas Mahler’s “Lone Racer” (9781891830693, $12.95). The story of a down-and-out racecar driver who hits bottom with a botched robbery where he was the getaway driver, and his decision to turn his life around. “Regards From Serbia” (9781891830426, $19.95) by Serbian cartoonist Aleksandar Zograf who takes as his subject matter how the war shattered the lives of his friends and neighbors even while the routine of daily life remained largely unchanged. “American Elf: Book 2” (9781891830853, $19.95) which showcases a little biographical comic strip based upon the daily life of its author/artist James Kochalka. “Essex County: Tales From The Farm (9781891830884, $9.95) by Xeric Award-winning cartoonist Jeff Lemire illustrated the life of Lester, a recently orphaned ten-year-old who goes to live on his Uncle’s farm, and his friendship with gas station owner Jimmy Lebeuf. Also highly recommended to mature readers for their artistic excellence and deft storytelling are three new comix from Top Shelf Production: Jeffrey Brown’s Feeble Attempts (48-pages; $5.00); Jame Kochalka’s Super F*ckers #4 (24-pages; $5.00); and Nate Powell’s “Please Release” (40- pages; $5.00).


The Midwest Book Review is an organization of volunteers committed to promoting literacy, library usage, and small press publishing. We accept no funds from authors or publishers in order to avoid possible conflict of interest issues. Full permission is given to post any of these reviews on thematically appropriate websites, newsgroups, listserves, internet discussion groups, organizational newsletters, or to interested individuals. Please give the Midwest Book Review a credit line when doing so.

The Midwest Book Review publishes the monthly book review magazines “California Bookwatch”, “Internet Bookwatch”, “Children’s Bookwatch”, “MBR Bookwatch”, “Reviewer’s Bookwatch”, and “Small Press Bookwatch”. All of these publications are archived and available for free on the Midwest Book Review website at

Anyone wanting to submit books for review consideration can send them to:

James A. Cox, Editor-in-Chief
Midwest Book Review
278 Orchard Drive
Oregon, WI 53575-1129

To submit reviews of any fiction or non-fiction books, audio CDs, or DVDs, email them to Frugalm… (be sure to include the book title, author, publisher, publisher address, publisher website/phone number, 13-digit ISBN number, and list price).

James A. Cox, Editor-in-Chief
Midwest Book Review

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