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Jane Eyre - Classical Comics

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Emily Bronte/Karen Wenborn
Classical Comics
978-1906332488
Autumn 2008

Classical Comics' second new offering is slightly more perplexing than their release of Frankenstein. With their original line up of Shakespeare stories - Macbeth and Henry V - it was clear that they had chosen 'rip roaring' stories full of adventure and action to tempt disaffected teenage boys into reading. With Jane Eyre it's less easy to see who is being targeted?

The artwork, although agonizingly beautiful, is more watercolour than Photoshop and adds to the dated feel of this comic. Walking around my class (year 6) I found it difficult to find a group that would take to a story about a young girl's turbulent journey through childhood to the heartaches of adulthood. With a GCSE class, one could position the narrative within the timeline of feminism, and the literary tradition of liberated female authors, as well as using it as a launchpad for exploring adaptations of classic stories. Therein lies the contradiction that this version of Jane Eyre never shakes off: a story undoubtedly aimed at adults, repackaged in a format that is read and adored by boys.


reviewed for ACHUKA by Michael Lucchesi

Mary Shelley/Jason Cobley
Classical Comics
978-1906332167
Autumn 2008

Classical Comics are an interesting operation. Based in the UK, since 2006 they have been publishing graphic novels aimed at early teen readers. Instead of churning out Batmans however, the comic company has made a name for itself with some excellent adaptations of Shakespeare plays (Henry V and Macbeth). Their unique selling point is that they offer differently lettered editions depending on whether you want to read the original text, a full translation into modern English in the spirit of the original, or an easier to read full modernisation.

The first of their new titles is Mary Shelley's gothic horror Frankenstein. Sensitively adapted by Jason Cobley, with all the gore and horror painted superbly by Declan Shalvey. There are only two versions of this one - an Original text closely based on Shelley's novel, and a Quick text version that updates and condenses the dialogue without compromising the story. My class of Year 6 children has been mesmerized by this classic tale, with the quick text the preferred read. Unlike the slow, cumbersome nuts-n-bolts Frankenstein of old, this version is stylish and cool.

reviewed for ACHUKA by Michael Lucchesi

Silverfin - The Graphic Novel

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Charlie Higson & Kev Walker
Puffin
978-0141322537
Autumn 2008

Like the Young Bond series itself, the first Young Bond Graphic Novel adaption is a cut above all others in its class. Kev Walker's artwork and layouts are more Marvel than Manga and capture the look and feel of the 1930s and a more classic Bond - Sean Connery. The effect is magical, appealing to both older readers as well as early teens in a style similar to Neil Gaiman's Stardust.

The graphic format suits Young Bond like a black tux and an Aston Martin, and even though there are no major omissions from the original, Kev Walker's artwork creates a tense pace with lots of visual winks for Bond fans. Like Bond wearing #007 on his chest during the sports day race.

As a teacher, I really hope this format is successful as there is a lack of graphic novels for early and pre-teen readers with most of the Batmans, Young Sherlock Holmes and Young Indiana's being too adult orientated. Unlike these, Silverfin would sit happily in a year 4 class and is the perfect tonic for Year 6 boys who wrestle with and lose interest in orthodox print fiction.

reviewed for ACHUKA by Michael Lucchesi

Fearless Dave

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Bob Wilson
Frances Lincoln
1845074963
May 2006
A self-professed �heroic tale of daring deeds, dangerous dragons, blood, gore, smoked cheese � and motherhood�, �Fearless Dave is the latest novel by Bob Wilson, most famous for his Stanley Bagshaw stories.

Employing the form of a graphic novel, �Fearless Dave� is the story of Dave, a zealous, if somewhat ineffectual knight-in-embryo and his well meaning, though somewhat overbearing, mother.

Responding to an advert in the paper making a plea for a person to help a Princess in distress, Dave sets forth with trusty wooden-blade in hand, and a bucket on his head intending to rid the princess� bedroom of the beast that dwells there. All, however, is not quite as it appears, although the outcome does mean Dave does has to contend with one of his fears and so prove himself as brave�

Good natured, playful jibes are made about the excesses and hyperbole of history and age-old stories as a tour-guide fervently embellishes the true story of Dave, presenting instead a heroic account to amaze his audience, the contrast between this and the true pictorial and narrative account of Dave�s deeds make for a tongue-firm-in-cheek romp of a read.



Tsubasa: RESERVoir CHRoNiCLE

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CLAMP
Tanoshimi
009950412X
Aug 2006
August sees Random House launch its new Manga imprint, Tanoshimi www.tanoshimi.tv. It launches with five new series. Literally translated from the Japanese, Manga means �random pictures�. Manga holds huge cultural significance in Japan with weekly sales of comic books there outselling the entire annual output of the U.S. comic industry. The surge of interest in anime films such as �Spirited Away� in the UK make it a n opportune time for development of what is already proving a burgeoning and highly diverse field.

Tsubasa means wings in Japanese and these play a crucial role in this graphic novel both as a plot device for Sakura, princess of Clow Country, and as a metaphor for the spiritual �flight� they enable.

Raised by her brother, King Toya who presides over Clow County, Sakura has a vision of a symbol. When visiting the archaeologist Syaoran, a childhood friend to whom she intends to profess undying love, Sakura discovers markings in the shape of the same symbol. Powers are unlocked creating the formation of wings upon her back and quickly threaten to pull her into the ruins Syaoran has been uncovering. With tremendous effort, he is able to save Sakura, but amidst this process her wings shatter and disperse across the dimensions

Syaoran and the comatose Sakura make their appearance before Yuko � as concurs with the first volume of �xxxHOLiC�, another series by the CLAMP creators that runs in parallel with this. Syaoran learns that to save Sakura, he must collect each of the feathers from her wings.




xxxHOLiC

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CLAMP
Tanoshimi
0099504073
Aug 2006
Watanuki Kimiho presents as the almost archetypal children�s book hero in this brooding, gothic tale. Orphaned, he holds special powers, in this instance the ability to see spectres. The graphic novel lends itself particularly well to paranormal elements, as too do the conventions of Manga, with its intense focus on personal emotions. Intensity of feeling, of action and reaction are the standard fare of Manga and this is foregrounded through conventions of the form, dropped jawlines, large expressive eyes, style of delineation of speech bubbles etc.

Increasingly distressed by the powers vested upon him, Watanuki seeks refuge in a shop that purports to grant wishes. Inside the shop, Yuko offers to aid Watanuki�s hope to be rid of his ability to see ghosts, however, to remunerate her efforts, he must work off a debt equal to the power taken to achieve this�

Yuko is a sage, a wise witch who helps cure her customers of the various addictions, obsessions and preoccupations from which they suffer. Yuko has two henchman, Maru and Moro, twin entities with a deathly pallor and an unnerving ability to communicate telepathically with their mistress.

The �xxxHOLiC� volumes cross with those in �Tsubasa: RESERVoir CHRoNiCLE� and CLAMP, the creators of both, claim the two series tie all of their previous work together. Referential material and interplay between characters and artefacts alike add an extra dimension to the series by consequence.



Guru Guru Pon-Chan

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Satomi Ikezawa
Tanoshimi
0099504049
Aug 2006
�A love between dogs and humans can never be�

Caught somewhere between Melvin Burgess� �Lady My Life as a Bitch� and �Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde� but enlivened and made highly accessible by the dynamism of the Manga form, with its characteristic, almost hyper-active revelation of drama and emotion, �Guru Guru Pon-Chan� makes for a high-paced and humorous reading experience.

The action of the story begins when Grandpa Koizumi believes he has created a �chit-chat� bone, a device allowing animals to communicate with humans. The bone, however, unexpectedly transforms the canine Ponta into a homo-sapien.

Mayhem ensues as Ponta, who in human form initially struggles to speak her needs and desires, gradually falls in love with Mirai who saves her life after she runs out into the road.

Much of the frenetic, sometimes almost too-fast-paced � humour derives from Ikezawa�s perceptive observations of the behaviour of dogs. Alongside parading naked, vomiting and the inevitable sniffing of excretia, Ponta battles against the prejudice of her classmates and has numerous accidents along the way concerning appropriateness of canine behaviour when translated into the human form.

A fun-filled, highly accessible book that will serve as a great introduction to the Manga form and that will resonate with dog owners.



Negima!

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Ken Akamatsu
Tanoshimi
0099504154
Aug 2006
Ken Akamatsu will be most familiar for his best-selling �Love Hina� series which won its author the prestigious Manga of the Year title. In this new story-strand, he introduces readers to Negi Springfield, a ten year old wizard who aspires to become a Magister Magi, one of a special class of wizards who use their power to aid others.

Underlying the desire to become a Magister Magi, is Negi�s wish to find his father Nagi Springfield, a once legendary mage who most now believe to have died. On leaving his school of magic, bizarrely Negi is given an alias as a professor teaching English to a class of girls, all of whom are older than himself, in Japan.

Negi comes across as a likeable, although extremely youthful, individual who is both sensitive and hardworking. His age and relative inexperience enable Akamatsu to parody and satirise a number of conventions in the graphic novel form creating a fiction that looks inward upon its genre challenging a number of its clich�s and parameters.

Negi�s class respond to him more as a younger brother to be patronised rather than as a teacher and an antagonism erupts between him and one of the students, Asuna who had a crush for the teacher whom Negi replaced. The story as Negi continues to battle to fulfil his dream of becoming a Magister Magi follows in further volumes.




Ghost Hunt

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Shiho Inada
Tanoshimi
0099503999
Aug 2006
Ghost Hunt is based on the novel �There are many evil spirits� by Fuyumi Ono. The author claims that each of the characters as presented here perfectly match with the vision she had for her novel.

Mai Taniyama is a high school student with a job employed by the mysterious company, Shibuya Psychic Research. She examines hauntings and the supernatural. Seventeen-year-old Shibuya Kazuya boss of the Psychic Research centre and, to Mai�s mind a liar, cheat and a narcissist, throws her into a confused state of attraction and repulsion from what she initially perceives as arrogance accompanied by boyish good looks.

The company is employed to investigate an old school building that is believed to be cursed after a series of �accidents� occur each time the site is attempted to be re-developed.

Mai�s curiosity over a camera that has been set up to record evidence of any paranormal happenings, leads to her working to pay for the damage. The principal of the school hires other psychics to assess the property including Ayako Matsuzaki who is a Shinto priestess, Takigawa who is a Buddhist monk, John Brown a priest who has learnt Japanese in the Kyoto dialect and believes this to be the polite method of pronunciation and one of the most renowned psychic mediums as featured on teleivison, Masako Hara.

The cross sections of different thoughts and systems of belief provides a backdrop for theological and philosophical discussion. Disagreements abound between all concerned, not in the least between Shibuya and Mai herself, whose wrangling it is implied shrouds quite another emotion as is suggested at the end of the novel when Shibuya offers Mai an administrative position and she keenly accepts.



Deogratias

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J. P. Stassen, Transl. Alexis Siegel
First Second
1596431032
Jun 2006
"Another madman... All that's left are corpses, madmen and dogs..."

Stassen beautifully captures the colour and the sense of calm of the Rwandan environs by day and by night in �Deogratias�. There is an appalling juxtaposition between this and the horrors perpetrated against the Tutsi as the Hutu vie for supremacy of the land in the aftermath of colonial �divide and rule� tactics.

Told in the form of a graphic novel, �Deogratias� follows a boy of the same name as he jointly wanders the streets of the present and achingly struggles, quite literally, to drown his sorrows through drinking Urwagwa, the banana beer that is traditional in his country.

Three depictions of Deogratias are presented within the book, the first sees him wide-eyed with horror, dressed in tattered clothing, the second as an immaculately presented young man, keen to impress the Tutsi young ladies Apollinaria and Benina. The third and most disturbing sees Deogratias take on the appearance and characteristics of a dog, the shocking reason for which becomes apparent as the story unfurls�

Essentially a story of love and of loss, what makes �Deogratias� such a memorable, abhorrent and at once vitally important read is the central role Deogratias plays in the genocide of the Tutsi, the pack-mentality that he becomes a part of and the dog-eat-dog attributes that engulf him both physically and mentally following this. As readers we live our experiences vicariously alongside Deogratias, feel his anger, hurt, sorrow and pain.

Alexis Siegel, the translator provides a useful introduction that contextualises the history of the decimation of the Tutsi people. This grounds the novel in a realism that cannot easily be shed and which, by consequence, spreads a chill throughout the course of the book.

If the cry of �never again� which followed the Holocaust is to have meaning, an understanding of the types of brutality exercised against a set of people, an awareness of the mechanics that drive conflict and that see difference only as threat needs to be located firmly into the consciousness of society. Creative works such as �Deogratias� play a key role in achieving that by making one think and feel more, stimulating empathy, understanding and the deep-stirrings of compassion.