Airplanes, Railroads, Hedgehogs and CoyotesA column article by: Penny Kenny
If you've been in the big box stores lately, you know they're gearing up for the next holiday. Meaning it's not too early to be choosing a graphic novel for a Valentine's gift for your favorite young reader. Fortunately Archie Comics and Cinebook have some great new books available.
Cinebook recounts volume 3: the Wright Brothers by J.P. Lefevre-Garros and M. Uderzo (Cinebook, 46p, 978-1-84918-100-6, $11.95) tells the familiar story of the two men who were the first to invent "aircraft controls that made fixed-wing flight possible." However, scripter Lefevre-Garros includes details that aren't generally included in school textbooks, such as the role French-American Octave Chanute played in the Wrights' work. He also follows the narrative beyond the Kitty Hawk flight to the Wrights' work with the military in both the United States and France and the lawsuits they brought against others they suspected of copying their flight systems. The dialog is filled with technical details, but LeFevre-Garros also includes humanizing touches such as the brothers calling each other by their nicknames and noting that they didn't work on Sunday.
Uderzo is a superior draftsman, drawing with precision and in perfect scale. Looking at his depictions of the Wrights' early gliders, a reader can gain an understanding of how they work.
Many of his panels have the iconic look of historical paintings or photographs.
There are some problems with speech balloon placement in a few of the panels. A line that should be read first is on the right side of the panel, while the line that follows it is on the left side. However, a careful reader will be able to make the correction.
Lucky Luke takes a hand in bringing America's Transcontinental Railroad into being in Morris and Goscinny's Lucky Luke volume 32: Rails on the Prairie (Cinebook, 46p, 978-1-84918-104-4, $11.95) This volume is a fun way to introduce younger readers to one of the more impressive achievements of the 19th century. Amidst humorous gags such as Luke and the townsfolk trying to extend the railroad tracks at night, a complaining railroad passenger and unhappy cows, Goscinny also recounts some of the difficulties the project faced--such as spanning rivers, getting through mountains, and dealing with the Indians in the area.
This is all done with such a light and clever touch that readers won't realize they're learning something as they follow the attempts of a determined villain to block the railroad. Speaking of the villain, Black Wilson's not just an unmotivated "Black Hat" character. He has a reason for his behavior, one that offers readers a different perspective on the railroad.
Morris's art looks like cels from an animated movie. The panels have an open, spacious look that fits the subject matter. The characters' iconic appearances make them and their role in the story easily identifiable. Lucky Luke is upright, slender, clean-shaven, and wears a white hat. Black Wilson dresses in black, has a mustache, is stockier, and rubs his hands together in a greedy manner. Businessmen smoke cigars and wear suits. The action scenes are fluid and energetic. There's a panel depicting Indians riding down out of the hills to attack the train that could have come out of a John Ford western.
Sonic the Hedgehog Archives volume 17 (Archie Comics, unp, 978-1-879794-90-0, $7.99) features several rare appearances in its pages as Sonic and Tails continue their journey to find the evil wizard Ixis Naugus. Power Rings creator Nate Morgan plays a pivotal role in the story, as do Ultra Sonic and Hyper Tails. While quite a bit of Mobian history is covered in this volume, it's leavened with plenty of action.
Though the characters have a cartoonier look here, Steven Butler's action sequences are as dynamic as anything you'll find in the latest "realistic" superhero comic--or even more so! The panels are packed with detail, without looking cluttered.
Also included in the volume is the Sin City spoof "Sonic Spin City." The well done black and white art and tough guy narration by Sonic make for a kid-friendly introduction to the noir style.
Sioux Indian Yakari and his friends Rainbow and Buffalo Seed encounter adventure and danger on a canoe trip in Derib and Job's Yakari volume 9: Yakari and the Coyote (Cinebook, 48p, 978-1-84918-101-3, $11.95).
Part of the appeal of this series is the resourcefulness of its young hero and his companions. With no help from adults, the children repair a canoe turning it into a seaworthy vessel. Yakari shows courage when he must rescue Buffalo Seed from a cougar, but also wisdom as he takes the advice of friendly animals. Parents who are looking for child-friendly, positive role models will want to introduce their younger children to this book, though they should be aware that while the animals help Yakari, they're still wild animals. The coyote eats a field mouse on panel.
Derib's art is lovely. The panels are large, with good-sized drawings and no extraneous details. Young eyes can take in what's happening at a glance. Derib utilizes speed lines and moves in and out on the characters to create a strong sense of movement on the page. The colors are clean and warm, giving the book a friendly appearance. Children and parents alike will enjoy just looking at this volume.
Any or all of these volumes would make a solid addition to a young reader's graphic novel collection.
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.