Space Pirate Captain Harlock

Reimagining a classic manga and anime series that introduces a fresh storyline yet paying homage and preserving the spirit of the original can be a daunting feat, yet Jérôme Alquié successfully achieves this vision in Space Pirate Captain Harlock. He adapts basic source material from Leiji Matsumoto’s rendition of the iconically eye patched, skull and bones emblazoned cape donning pirate, sailing across space with a ragtag crew of misfits en route to save the earth from an unidentified global threat.

The story is set in 2977, paralleling the original series. A wave of unexplained snowstorms ravage the earth, throwing the climate off balance. Teams of scientists launch research expeditions to uncover the mystery behind these phenomenally violent blizzards. Clues lead to the discovery of a mausoleum buried beneath the icy depths of the arctic regions. As the mystery deepens, a trio of mutant sisters appear, somehow collectively connected to unique elemental forces of nature like fire and ice. They have engineered a masterplan to undermine the stronghold of the Mazon—an ancient race of female aliens hibernating upon the earth for millennia.

This version of the Captain Harlock mythos presents a faithful rendering of the original both in character and set design along with core characters such as the impulsive driven Tadashi, loyal lieutenant Kei, reticent, observant alien Mimay, model building hobbyist and expert shipwright Yattaran, and on planet earth, little Mayu, daughter of a deceased friend whom Harlock has sworn to protect. Narrated in part as an epistolary series of journal entries from Harlock to the spirit of his battleship Arcadia, the plot unfolds through episodic chapters. The crew ventures through space in search of answers to combat the imminent invasion descending upon the earth. Rendered in noir style within the reaches of a deep blue outer space, Alquié also integrates brightly lit landscapes of a snow-covered earth. Intermittent expositional summaries fill in the backstory for new readers through intricately composed montages, highlighting key events and characters strategically arranged in a collage-like style.

Exquisitely illustrated panels packed with crisp, colorful character and set designs hearkening back to the original series will appeal to past and present otaku fans alike. A bonus gallery of variant covers and character sketches and descriptions occupy the back matter. This brilliantly crafted story takes place alongside the setting of the original and introduces a new alien threat, this time stemming from the earth. Space Pirate Captain Harlock offers a fresh, deftly reimagined take on a classic manga series that will attract younger as well as familiar fans in the science fiction canon of Japanese animation.

Space Pirate Captain Harlock Vol.
By Jérôme Alquié, Leiji Matsumoto,  ,
Ablaze, 2022
ISBN: 9781950912544

NFNT Age Recommendation: Older Teen (16-18)
Creator Representation:  French,  Character Representation: Japanese,

Alice Guy: First Lady of Film

Trailblazing French filmmaker Alice Guy-Blaché was present at the birth of modern film, a contemporary of the Lumière brothers and Georges Méliès. In Alice Guy: First Lady of Film, writer–artist duo Catel & Bocquet draw on original research from late media critic Francis Lacassin to document Guy’s career as the first major woman filmmaker and a pioneer of her industry.

The graphic biography opens with Guy’s 1873 birth and childhood in Europe and Chile. Lively and outspoken, Alice has an early interest in acting that is deemed unsuitable by her middle-class French family. Instead of taking to the stage, she goes to work as a secretary for what will soon become the Gaumont Film Company. Catel and Bocquet depict the chaos of these early years of film, with competing firms squabbling to dominate the new market. In this cutthroat environment, Alice is able to demonstrate business acumen and gain professional standing despite her gender.

In addition to business savvy, Guy has a vision for what film could be—a vehicle for telling stories. She teams up with a cinematographer to film the 1896 film La Fée aux Choux, a fantasy of cabbage-patch babies that may have been the first narrative film. As Alice finds success directing films for Gaumont, she and her collaborators develop the conventions that will define their industry, from filming on location to creating special effects to hammering out the logistics of public film screenings.

Alice also grapples with the ethical issues that face any unregulated new industry. She must take decisive action when an underaged actress is sexually assaulted by an older male professional on her set, or when a script about bullfighting raises questions of filming animal cruelty. Alice’s status as a woman filmmaker informs the way she handles these challenges and inspires her to take risks, from an attempted collaboration with activist Rose Pastor Stokes on a film about family planning to the production of A Fool and His Money, likely the first film with an all-African American cast. 

Alice’s personal and professional life brings her to the United States, where she starts a family and New York-based studio with her husband, film producer Herbert Blaché. But their once-happy marriage ends in divorce, and business troubles bring Alice’s career to a premature close. Decades later, her role as a woman film pioneer has faded from memory: “The history of cinema has completely forgotten about me,” she tells Francis Lacassin.

Alice Guy’s story is an extraordinary one, and this biography is an exhaustive documentary source for information about her life. An appendix with a detailed timeline, bibliography and filmography, and 50 pages of biographical essays about historical figures depicted in the book makes this a valuable reference work for those interested in Alice Guy’s life and times.

As a casual reader, however, this book didn’t hook me. Catel’s elegant monochrome illustrations are versatile enough to capture both the domestic scenes of Alice’s personal life and the exciting variety of her film sets, but the story itself feels bogged down by the kitchen-sink detail of Bocquet’s script. A number of characters and episodes seem as if they’re present for the sake of completeness, giving the story a choppy, episodic quality. The result is a book that lacks a strong narrative arc, without a clear throughline of who Alice Guy was and what compelled her, creatively and personally, to succeed in this challenging new industry.

This book is recommended for larger graphic novel collections, particularly those that emphasize women’s history or media history. For those interested in learning about Guy’s remarkable life, it’s absolutely worth picking up, but general readers may not find it the most accessible entry point into her story.

Alice Guy: First Lady of Film
By José-Louis Bocquet
Art by Catel Muller
SelfMadeHero, 2022
ISBN: 9781914224034

NFNT Age Recommendation: Adult (18+), Older Teen (16-18)
Creator Representation:  French,  Character Representation: French,

Talli, Daughter of the Moon, Vol. 1

When Talli’s adoptive family finds themselves under attack, her father, Lord Borin, makes Talli leave with a faithful knight in order to keep her safe. Barely able to stay ahead of their pursuers, the two make their way to a small town with a market. In the market, they find an old man and his grandson selling allegedly magic items. The old man recognizes Talli for who she is and offers to get her out of town and somewhere safe. They must fight their pursuers, Lord Ulric’s forces led by Captain Nina, but eventually get free and make their way to safety, which is when Talli begins to learn of her origins as a Summoner. 

The line art is well done and shows a lot of little details and backgrounds. I had a personal issue in that the protagonist’s hair color is particularly important and it is white, but since all the art is black and white, this can only be picked up on by closely following the dialog. It seems like this was meant to be in full color but either never got colored or the publisher’s budget didn’t allow for a colorist. Either way I think that younger readers may have trouble with this important detail. 

It is interesting that one of the character development and plot points is that the female protagonist has a monthly period. Normally, this natural bodily function is ignored or only mentioned to invoke fear or disdain. Blood letting is part of the (not well described) magic system that Talli starts to learn about on her journey. Unfortunately, because of this, although Talli is viewed as powerful, people are also immediately scared of her as well. 

This book would be best suited for a collection aimed at younger teens (13-15). It isn’t a necessity but would help fill out a collection. 

Talli, Daughter of the Moon, Vol. 1
By Sourya Hollendonner
Oni Press, 2022
ISBN: 9781637150825

Publisher Age Rating: grades 7-9

NFNT Age Recommendation: Teen (13-16)
Creator Representation:  French, Laotian

Enola Holmes: The Graphic Novel, vol. 1

In 2006, Nancy Springer started a series of short chapter books featuring Enola Holmes, the imaginary younger sister of Sherlock and Mycroft Holmes with an independent streak and a knack for solving mysteries without the aid of her brothers. The series reached six volumes, won several awards, and had a sufficient fan base to inspire a movie in 2020. Nancy Springer has returned to the series, writing a seventh addition, and the graphic adaptations, by French creator Serena Blasco and originally translated in 2018, are now being republished in omnibus format by Andrews McMeel.

In “The Case of the Missing Marquess,” Enola’s carefree life is disrupted by her mother’s abrupt disappearance. Disappointed and angry at her brothers’ dismissal of her mother and at plans to curtail her freedom, Enola cracks codes left by her mother and runs away, stopping only to solve the mystery of a kidnapped heir and discover her own skills as a detective. In “The Case of the Left-Handed Lady,” Enola is now masquerading as Ivy Meshle and makes the acquaintance of Dr. John Watson. She learns from Watson that her brothers are still searching for her, but also of the mysterious disappearance of Lady Alistair, and she decides to pursue the case herself. In a dangerous climax, she solves the case, while further building her reputation as a detective and navigating her complicated relationship with her brothers. In “The Case of the Bizarre Bouquets,” Enola is searching for a new persona with which to hide herself from her brothers, especially Sherlock, when she hears the news of Dr. Watson’s disappearance. As she works to find out what has happened to the doctor, she makes a few discoveries about her own situation and her family as well.

Serena Blasco’s art is a far cry from the original covers of the mysteries and a bit jarring to readers expecting the typical dark hues of Sherlockian Victorian London. Blasco reinterprets Enola’s surroundings with colorful, swirling watercolors, emphasizing the vibrant hues of the flowers used for coded messages and Enola’s daring disguises. Even the scenes set at night in London’s underworld are richly colored with murky blues, purples, and greens. Enola’s long brunette locks, when not hidden under brightly colored and elaborately coiffured wigs, swirl loosely around her narrow face, her sharp nose showing her likeness to her brother Sherlock. The villains are often grotesque, fitting with the pastiche flavor of the original books, with distorted, even demonic faces. Although Enola’s lodgings in London are bright and cozy, the poorest streets where she ventures dressed as a nun swirl with lavender smoke and green miasmas from the river, with figures crouching miserably in the shadows. Enola’s exaggeratedly large, lustrous eyes glow with purpose or dim with tears, as she frequently reflects on the anagram of her name, “alone,” and her mother’s absence in scenes dim with misty blues.

Art and flowers both play a part in the stories, with excerpts from newspapers, Enola’s notebook, and codes following each story, and encapsulating the events, clues, and resolution. Enola finds clues in the codes of the flowers, in her own artistic skill and in that of the women whose lives she explores, all helping her solve the mysteries. The miseries and injustice of Holmes’s London is hinted at throughout the story, as well as the curtailed lives of women—from being committed to asylums for not following society’s rules to the strictures Enola’s brothers attempt to place about her own life. There are several somewhat graphic attempts on Enola’s life, but they are not depicted so brutally as to make the title inappropriate for most middle grade readers. The Enola Holmes series has always been odd in that it fits best in a tween or middle school collection and the graphic novel adaptation is the same.

Fans of the original series may or may not be interested in this new vision of Springer’s work, and fans of the movie adaptation are unlikely to recognize the more mature figure of Enola in Blasco’s colorful fantasy, but readers who have not yet encountered Enola Holmes and enjoy mysteries with plenty of atmosphere and codes to solve are likely to enjoy this. It will also appeal to some manga fans, due to the art style.

Enola Holmes: The Graphic Novel, Vol. 1
By Serena Blasco, Nancy Springer, Tanya Gold,
Andrews McNeel, 2022
ISBN: 9781524871321

Publisher Age Rating: 9-12 years
Related media:  Book to Comic

NFNT Age Recommendation: Tween (10-13)
Creator Representation: French