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


When three adventure-seeking friends sneak into a remote, abandoned mine to go cave diving, an unexpected accident leaves them stranded—fighting for survival against the circumstances and themselves.

In Sunlight, Kevin, Carol, and Eva are allegedly fast friends, exploring and cave diving their way from one adventure to the next. When they get details on a flooded mine, they decide that exploring structurally unsafe tunnels while keeping their location a secret sounds like a great way to spend a day. After a night of clubbing, they slip away at dawn, escape an encounter with some creepy hunters, and manage for Eva to get injured before even reaching the mine. Deciding that a deep cut to the leg is nothing to worry about, they bandage her up and begin searching for an entrance to the flooded underwater maze they’ve selected for their day trip.

Rather than find an entrance, they accidentally make one when they fall through some rotten boards, 150 feet down a mineshaft and into some water—without injury, of course. Far from civilization and with no one looking for them, the trio intersperses their survivalist strategies with plenty of bickering, as well as some interludes of dreams and creepy hallucinations. As supplies dwindle, it will take all their combined survival knowledge—and a fortuitous dose of luck—for the three friends to ever see daylight again.

From French writer Christophe Bec, Sunlight presents itself as a survival-thriller, opening with desperate medical attempts to save at least one of the characters rescued from tragedy, the premise and opening tension do hold possibility of an engaging graphic novel. However, this promise falls apart as quickly as the friends’ plans for nice day of diving.

None of the elements set up by the opening feel realized as the story progresses. The emphasis on not telling anyone where they are going is as cliché as it is ill-advised. Considering their supposed experience with outdoor adventures, the characters make a series of bad decisions showcasing how unprepared and uninformed they are about survival. And even the friendships that are intended to be the bedrock of scenes feel strained, with the characters criticizing and insulting each other even before tragedy strikes. Info-dumps about survival techniques are interspersed with clunky bits of backstory as the story delivers little momentum or character development beyond the passage of time.

Despite these shortcomings, the story could still have delivered a somewhat enticing survival story about three people whose sense of adventure far outweighs their own preparedness, but Bec adds a further layer to the narrative by weaving in themes of predatory men and sexual assault. While there are moments when the depictions of sexually aggressive men ring painfully true, the social commentary is handled with the finesse of a sledgehammer, from wandering hands in the early club scenes to a sequence shoehorned into the final act that’s as unexpectedly uncomfortable as it is laughably introduced. When assault is also revealed as the central piece of a character’s backstory, the revelation and implications feel as though they are handled with only the most basic empathy and nuance of understanding.

Run through with choppy dialogue and flat, uncertain characterization—I recognize that some of the issues could possibly be matters of translation rather than Bec’s writing itself, but it’s hard to say for certain. Even with that allowance, any effective moments of storytelling are not enough for this Sunlight to escape the pit of its own flaws.

Bernard Khattou provides the art to Bec’s writing. The black, white, and grayscale palate does deliver some dramatic visuals along with effective use of light and shadow over the course of the story. Unfortunately, the art is inconsistent—one moment conveying the danger of the environment where our characters are trapped, and the next pulling the reader out of the story with facial expressions and bursts of emotion as subtle as the story’s thematic work. Khattou is clearly a skilled artist, and for the most part, the illustrations do their best to carry the story. Page to page, the art is often more enjoyable than the narrative, but when the art falls short it often coincides with the roughest elements of the script, further emphasizing the ways the comic doesn’t work. And the final nail in the coffin is the way the visuals treat the female characters. While not as gratuitous as it might have been, repeated views of undressed female bodies—coupled with the shoddy thematic work—come away feeling more exploitive than humanizing, despite the assumed best intentions of the creators.

Clover Press, the English language publisher, does not provide a specific age rating for this title. However, with strong language, graphic injury, and on-page sexual assault, Sunlight is clearly intended for an adult audience. It’s a stand-alone story aimed at fans of adventure-survival stories as well as thrillers with a slight paranormal edge. Unfortunately, fans of any of those genres or readers looking for comics in translation would be better served elsewhere. There are passing elements to appreciate in Sunlight, but from the flawed storytelling to the final, aggravating twist, the experience ultimately left me both disappointed and upset—neither of which is the mark of a good reading experience. These characters never should have wandered into an abandoned mine, and readers are better off giving this title a pass.

By Christophe Bec
Art by Bernard Khattou
Clover Press, 2022
ISBN: 9781951038274

NFNT Age Recommendation: Adult (18+)
Creator Representation:  French,

Love: The Mastiff

The Mastiff is the fifth book in Frederic Brremaud’s wordless Love series, which follows the adventures of a mastiff surviving in the Australian outback after his owner succumbs to a deadly snake bite while out hunting. The mastiff is forced to flee when a pack of wild dogs finds his owner’s body, he comes across a variety of other snakes, and subsequently has a run in with the wild dogs. Besides focusing on the mastiff’s journey, many pages follow the story of a platypus mother who is living near a pond where the mastiff eventually takes refuge. 

Previous volumes followed a tiger, a fox, a lion, and a dinosaur. The reader gets to see the types of challenges and interactions each animal might face in a typical day as well as short asides to highlight other animals’ behavior. The author and artist do not shy away from the natural processes of life, including death, territorial disputes, and reproduction. For example, in The Tiger, although the tiger is unable to capture a monkey, a python is shown strangling one of the monkeys from the back of the group and slithering off with it still in its coils. In The Lion, male lions fight over a lioness and her cubs. 

There is no text throughout this series. Instead, the artist includes lots of details and multiple panels per page to convey movement and emotion. It’s like watching a nature documentary but in the form of a book, giving the reader lots of time to analyze the backgrounds and flip back and forth to examine cause and effect. I personally loved the animal side characters and how well they are incorporated into each of the volumes. 

Although the publisher has this series rated as All Ages, parents should be aware that death, blood, and violence are found in every volume. I imagine that the conversations spawned by reading it as a family would be engaging and informative. And since there is no shared storyline, each volume is standalone. Back matter includes sketches in all the volumes. The Mastiff also includes three pages about climate change and global warming, the effects felt in Australia, and ten suggestions to fight global warming. 

Love: The Mastiff 
By Frederic Brremaud
Art by  Federico Bertolucci
OtherMagnetic Press, 2021
ISBN: 9781951719173

Publisher Age Rating: All Ages
Series ISBNs and Order

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

Women Discoverers: Top women in science

The cover of this collection of biographies shows a background of mathematical equations and a line-up of women with varying skin tones, dressed in clothing from an astronaut suit to historical gowns, but all with the same slim silhouette and of roughly the same height.

This sets the stage for a series of overviews of twenty women in the sciences, which manage to be largely similar, despite their different backgrounds and areas of study. The collection is oddly unbalanced, starting with approximately 20 pages on Marie Curie, giving a rapid overview of her life, relationship with Pierre and other romantic entanglements, and ending with her daughter Irene continuing her work. This is followed by several more contemporary scientists, with an overview of their lives and accomplishments in text accompanied by a thumbnail image and a single graphic panel showing them with other scientists in a lab or involved in their scientific work.

Several shorter comics, about ten pages each, profile Ada Lovelace, Hedy Lamarr, Rosalind Franklin, and Mae Jemison. Lovelace’s narrative is bracketed by a modern teacher introducing her to high school students and ends abruptly with her losing “everything” at gambling and then dying. Most of the narrative with Hedy Lamarr is given over to her personal life, including a full page on her husbands. Franklin’s narrative focuses heavily on her unsuccessful struggle for equality, emphasizing that she was most accepted and happy during her work in Paris. Mae Jemison’s story is upbeat, the only prejudice shown in her family huddling around a televised report of Martin Luther King’s death and a class of smiling white children playfully tossing a paper ball at her head. There are no sources cited or back matter. The longer comics all include what appear to be quotations from primary source material, but also fictional dialogue.

The art, although depicting a wide variety of women in different time periods, has a strong similarity. The women are all shown with the same slim figure and average height. Only Marie Curie is shown to age, with her lightening hair, stooped posture, and a few wrinkles. The backgrounds are also similar, with Curie and Franklin shown against tree-lined avenues in Paris and a few sepia-toned war scenes, Jemison in darkened, indoor areas until she blossoms in the sunny, outdoor spaces of California, and Lovelace in groups of indistinguishable people. It’s ironic that, despite the introduction claiming that the purpose of the book is to bring to light hitherto overlooked female scientists, the five women given the longest profiles are already well-known and their comics focus more on their personal lives than on their scientific achievements. Even Curie’s longer comic is taken up with images of her wedding and later romantic entanglements, while Lamarr’s is mostly a series of images of her in provocative period gowns and bathing suits, with a success of husbands, and later as a recluse in Florida. Her inventions outside of the frequency-hopping idea are not referenced, but her plastic surgery is. Rosalind Franklin is, ironically, erased from her own comic, which transitions from her work with DNA to showing the male scientists laughing about her and her ideas at a pub, and then to their awards, overlooking Franklin completely with a brief mention of her later work before her early death. The comic ends with the belated and posthumous recognition of her work, shown in plaques and a statue. Jemison is depicted in the most upbeat fashion, with an emphasis on her hard work and early achievements and ending with her inspiring girls at a science camp.

The aim of the book is worthy, but it is far from the only reference on the subject and it is poorly designed. The translation is rough, with frequent exclamations, choppy sentences, and the occasional typo. Readers interested in graphic interpretations of women in science will do better to explore Primates by Jim Ottaviani, selected Science Comics that emphasize the contributions of women, like Dinosaurs: Fossils and Feathers, or, for lighter fare, Corpse Talk from DK.

Women Discoverers: Top Women in Science
By Marie Moinard
Art by  Christelle Pecout
NBM, 2021
ISBN: 9781681122700

Publisher Age Rating: 12 years and up

NFNT Age Recommendation: Teen (13-16)
Creator Representation:  French
Character Representation: African-American, American-Austrian, British, French

The Grande Odalisque

The Grande Odalisque opens with Carole and Alex mid-heist, busy stealing a painting from the Musée d’Orsay in Paris under the cover of night. What seems like a familiar story of elegant thieves takes a turn right away when Alex loses focus as her boyfriend breaks up with her via text message, missing her cue, and Carole has to fight off security guards and a guard dog. Still, after they pull it off, the women are offered a bigger job from their armless underworld contact Durieux, stealing a painting from the Louvre. Thus begins the  adventure that will consume the rest of the book as it bounces around the globe.

Carole brings more talent on to the team in the way of Sam, a motorcycle-driving “ChessBoxing” champion (it’s exactly what it sounds like, a combination of chess and boxing) who lost her girlfriend in a car crash the year before. The last fact is really just mentioned to soften Alex up to Sam joining the team, as Alex doesn’t think they need help. The group also enlists the aid of Clarence, son of the French ambassador to Mexico who is an arms dealer and drug smuggler. He will ultimately help them with their plan to steal “The Grande Odalisque” by Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres, but not before he gets himself kidnapped in Mexico by drug cartel that has a price on his head and the women having to save him.

Award winning French author/illustrator duo Jérôme Mulot and Florent Ruppert team up with Bastien Vivès (an Angouleme prize winner himself) for this book, splitting writing and illustrating credit equally between them. The artistic style in this book is one that relies on disjointed pencil lines and a watercolor softened approach. It’s sparse in details, and faces are very loosely constructed; so while it is clearly an artistic choice, it doesn’t always aid the storytelling. There are some reality-bending moments that you’d expect from something like a Fast and Furious movie where suddenly the laws of physics don’t matter and logic is tossed out the window. This book aspires to be a sexy, fast-paced thrilling adventure, but it doesn’t always stick the landing.

The storytelling comes in waves as some pages are wordless and others drive exposition right at you. For as light and witty as parts of this book try to be, there is plenty of violence from start to finish and some rather somber moments throughout. This isn’t a realistic book by any stretch, but there are some absolute leaps in logic that pulled me out of the story. If the art was more detailed, I think the authors may have had an easier time convincing me to follow the story. This book felt like it was straddling a line poorly as it aspired to be a high-impact, blockbuster crime story, but wrapped in the trappings of a low budget, independent art project about relationships. Those two things felt completely at odds throughout the reading.

Fantagraphics has previously published work by Mulot and Ruppert and has a back catalog of translated foreign titles. They aren’t afraid to take a big swing when it comes to publishing books that are underground or risqué. This book isn’t necessarily pushing the boundaries of taste (even if there is mild nudity and some coarse language), but has an unsettled feeling to it. The women feel like they are being written by men and without much nuance. Characters’ motivations are convenient for the story if they exist at all.

Libraries considering adding this title should keep it with their adult graphic novels or 18+ section. If you don’t have a big community of readers asking for European comics, it is okay to pass on this one.

The Grande Odalisque
By Jérôme Mulot, Florent Ruppert, Bastien Vivès
Fantagraphics, 2020
ISBN: 9781683964025

NFNT Age Recommendation: Adult (18+)
Creator Representation:  French
Character Representation: Bisexual, Lesbian,

The Disney Bros.: The Fabulous Story of Walt and Roy

This comic book biography reflects upon the career and major achievements of Walt Disney with an emphasis on the partnership between him and his brother Roy. While the subject and format will appeal to children, this particular treatment explores the complexities of the Disney empire as a business and cultural entity along with coverage of milestones in Disney’s career. Beginning with Walt Disney’s frustration at losing control of his character Oswald the Rabbit to Universal studios, the book follows Disney’s creation of his own studio with Ub Iwerks and brother Roy, the success of Mickey Mouse, the first full-length animated feature, Snow White, ventures into TV, and the eventual construction of Disneyland. A flashback portrays Disney’s childhood in Missouri and the abuse he endured from his father. Topics such as labor disputes in the Disney studio and Disney’s testimony before the House Committee on Un-American Activities give this book a complexity that will go over the heads of most young readers. However, adults and teens will find these aspects eye-opening as they shed light on lesser-known aspects of Disney as a businessman.

The full-color illustrations are done in a classic comic-strip style with rectangular frames of varying sizes and traditional speech bubbles. People are drawn in a caricature style with exaggerated features. The characters are expressive, with clearly shown emotions that depict Disney and his colleagues as three-dimensional characters. However, some of the individuals are difficult to tell apart, particularly Walt Disney and Ub Iwerks. This can create a bit of confusion near the beginning of the story. Otherwise, the book is well-illustrated, allowing the reader to be immersed in the studio environment, and the surroundings of old Hollywood.

In his foreword, Nikolavitch expresses the challenge biographers face adapting their subject to the graphic novel genre. Much of the subject’s life can be cut out, giving these biographies a choppy feel. However, Nikolavitch avoids that problem by focusing specifically on Disney and his brother Roy as businessmen. While this biography takes an episodic approach, it moves smoothly from event to event. Nikolavitch manages to fit a lot of nuance about Disney’s persona, business relationships, and cultural impact into a relatively short book. The reader is challenged not merely to learn facts about Walt and Roy, but to reflect upon the way they conducted their business and why it matters. Of particular impact is the post-script essay by Jarrett Kobek on the sociological impact of the phenomenon that is Disney. 

Disney fans and non-fans alike will be intrigued by this realistic look at a cultural icon. The temptation in a biography of a person like Walt Disney is to take a nostalgic approach, elevating the subject to a god-like status. This book does none of that, yet it does not demonize him either. It is certainly limited in scope, focusing only on his career, yet it does that in a candid and balanced way. Readers are left to consider how Walt Disney succeeded despite obstacles, where others did not. They are also clearly shown how his success was not achieved without the help of many key individuals working at his side, especially his brother. This book will be a great addition to nonfiction graphic novel collections for upper middle grade readers, teens, and adults. 

The Disney Bros.: The Fabulous Story of Walt and Roy
By Alex Nikolavitch
Art by  Felix Ruiz
NBM ComicsLit, 2020
ISBN: 9781681122663

NFNT Age Recommendation: Adult (18+), Older Teen (16-18), Teen (13-16), Tween (10-13)
Creator Representation:  French,

Knights of Heliopolis

Knights of Heliopolis by Alejandro Jodorowsky

Deep within the mountains of northern Spain lies a hidden temple. Here, the secret order known as the Knights of Heliopolis labor to shepherd the destiny of humanity and guide them towards enlightenment. As selective as they are secretive, the Knights of Heliopolis make up for their lack of numbers in divine power, having mastered true and holy alchemy and acquired the secret of long life.

Set in an alternate 18th century, the story opens as the ten Knights of Heliopolis on Earth are preparing to induct a new member to their order, a youth known to them only as Seventeen. After Seventeen completes the final trial to secure their place among them, Seventeen’s master, Fulcanelli, reveals the secrets that made it necessary for him to hide Seventeen’s identity and origins from the rest of the Knights. For Seventeen is Louis XVII, the secret child of Marie Antoinette and King Louis XVI of France!

This is a matter of great import, as the Knights of Heliopolis’s gifts include the power of prophecy. Their dogma speaks of the coming need for a warrior who must balance both the masculine and feminine aspects of themselves—along with body and soul—to save the world from the Knights’ greatest mistake, a would-be emperor now known as Napoleon, who has corrupted their guidance and teachings in a bid to make himself into an immortal god-king that will rule the Earth forever! In addition to their royal lineage, Seventeen is also of great interest due to being intersex (within the text referred to by the historical term “hermaphrodite”).

The Knights of Heliopolis is an interesting graphic novel that is hard to pin down into a single genre. It is a work of alternative history and includes several historical figures among its cast, yet it is far more fanciful than most alternate history works. Yet those fantastic elements and the Alchemy employed by the Knights are based on real-world mystic traditions. It also draws upon several literary works, most notably The Man in the Iron Mask. Throw in a little bit of science-fiction in the fourth and final chapter (as the Knights are revealed to have acquired their knowledge from ancient aliens) and you have a book whose setting is both familiar in many respects yet uniquely its own beast.

The script by Alejandro Jodorowsky is more concerned with mythology than character development. The Knights do not get much in the way of personality apart from Louis XVII. Even then, their chief conflict centers around their belief that they are destined to destroy Napoleon yet love him as a fellow mutant manipulated by fate. Thankfully, the story is engaging, and the ideas put forth intriguing.

The artwork by Belgian artist Jérémy is simply stunning. Intricately detailed and beautifully colored, Jérémy does a fantastic job of depicting the various period costumes as the story progresses from the French Revolution through World War II. The action sequences are well-blocked and even the static conversations seem eternally active.

Knights of Heliopolis is rated for audiences 17+ and that is a fair rating. The book is full of sex and violence and does not shy away from the gritty details of both. There is full frontal nudity of men and women, several sexual assaults and severely grisly deaths and dissections. This book is not for children or the faint of heart, but it is memorable and well worth reading if you are a fan of alternative history tales.

Knights of Heliopolis 
By Alejandro Jodorowsky
Art by Jérémy
Titan Comics, 2021
ISBN: 9781787736085
Publisher Age Rating: 17+

NFNT Age Recommendation: Adult (18+)
Creator Representation: Belgian, Chilean, French
Character Representation: French, Bisexual, Intersex

The Golden Age, vols. 1-2

Volume 1 of The Golden Age opens up in a kingdom that looks and feels very much like medieval France. Tilde’s king father passes away, leaving a starving peasantry and bickering nobility in her care. However, the night before her coronation, her younger brother and the barons rise up against her and usurp her throne. The barons believe Tilde when she says she wants to return more power to the peasantry, so they opt for backing a young child who will be controlled by the devious Vaudémont, the court advisor. Tilde goes on the run with two of her trusted knights, seeking a potential loyal baron on the peninsula. While fleeing, she discovers the lost Treasure of Ohman, a vast sum of gold that may help her turn the tide against her brother and the barons, and vol. 1 leaves off on a decimating cliffhanger

As vol. 2 opens, we see a large military force laying siege to the castle. There’s been quite a time jump, and a young woman, Tilde, fights against her brother, who is now a spoiled teenager. Tilde has used the considerable treasure she found in vol. 1 to pay the mercenaries for fighting against the castle, and the coffers have run dry. The only thing left is a chest that shines brightly and burns Tilde to look at it or try to open it. What’s worse, other forces are now marching on the castle from the Peninsula, wanting to secure their independence outside of the crown, ready to pin Tilde against the castle wall or ally with her—whichever will deliver their desires. Tilde is singularly focused on regaining her throne, and it just might destroy her faster than her grumbling mercenaries or any threats from the Peninsula. She must come to terms with what is best for her kingdom and make some difficult decisions in the battle against her brother and the barons.

The story of siblings fighting over the throne is one that has been told countless times, and this version doesn’t offer much of a variation from the trope until the very end of volume 2. There are some glaring holes in exposition and world-building—the cliffhanger from volume 1 isn’t expressly explained in the opening of volume 2, which leaves a disconnect between the two narratives. There’s also a secret society of women living in the forest that Tilde and her retainers discover in the first volume that is sort of “resolved” with one throw-away line in the second. The climax comes on very quickly and the resolution even quicker still, with several pages of textured colors and sparse text meant to give the reader some satisfaction that falls short of its intention.

While there could have been more attention paid to the characters and settings in the world, the art is absolutely stunning in this set of graphic novels. Full page and double page landscapes are common, and they are packed with beautiful details and interesting colorings. Much of volume 1 takes place in the forest of the kingdom, and Pedrosa’s imagination with color and wilderness design definitely transports the reader to this fantastical setting. There are many scenes that draw on Pedrosa’s experience with Disney, and many readers will probably see parallels with the era of Sleeping Beauty and the Sword in the Stone movies. 

This is highly recommended for any high school library collection with budding artists or a partnership with their art department. Public library readers may be drawn to the illustrations, but might be overall disappointed with the story. While there is some violence and bloodshed, and many characters die on page, there is nothing else that would make this an inappropriate selection for young adult/teen readers.

The Golden Age, vols. 1-2
By Roxanne Moriel, Cyril Pedrosa
Art by Cyril Pedrosa
First Second, 2021
Vol. 1 ISBN: 9781250237941
Vol. 2 ISBN: 9781250237958

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

Guerilla Green

Guerilla Green

Guerilla Green opens with author and narrator Ophélie Damblé on the Paris Metro to Boulogne-Billancourt, surrounded by people on their phones who are slowly driving her crazy. She snaps, begins handing out seeds (and green advice) to those around her and makes a dramatic exit by quoting Green Guerilla icon Ron Finley, “Let’s plant some @#*%!” Just like that, you are in the headspace this book will occupy. It swings between history lessons on green guerillas around the world, indignation at the state of the world we are in today and actions you can take today to start changing your city. It is a call to action book that uses the graphic novel format to reach out to a broader audience and soften the grim reality it’s trying to bring attention to.

Damblé’s entry into the world of guerilla gardening started when she was approaching age 30 and, having spent a decade in public relations, decided it was time for a life change. She saw friends her age fleeing from the city to the countryside, but she wanted to stay and put in the work to make Paris more beautiful and livable. She shares her research on the notion of rebellious gardening beginning in the 17th century through to today with examples of people and groups around the world continuing this work. Over the next several chapters we get lessons on topics including how to clean up your city, civil disobedience for the greater good, how and where to garden, saving biodiversity and her hopes for the future.

While she does admit that some of these acts and works might seem pretty big, Damblé makes the argument that every movement and change has to start somewhere and it can start with one person. This book is her pitch for each of us to become that one person. Any one of us can start to make a positive change in our city and help the planet by doing a little digging. She’s giving you an outline on how to get started and at the end of the book there is even a list of both French and English resources to keep reading and a list of websites to check out to stay motivated. There are interstitial breaks after each chapter titled “Ophélie explains it all” with a real life photo of Ophélie and friends from that chapter. Ophélie then elaborates on some of the facts from that chapter and any of the details she feels could use more context. These were helpful sections and I could appreciate that they were set aside to give them more serious weight.

The art by Cookie Kalkair feels reminiscent of Noelle Stevenson’s work on Nimona and Lumberjanes (which was also published by BOOM! Box) and the art is the saving grace of this graphic novel. It’s lighthearted, whimsical, and helps with the rather uneven pacing of the storytelling. The earnestness of the message was undercut at times with some curmudgeonly jabs at younger readers and an unspecified rival’s book, as well as some ill-advised references to historic figures like Rosa Parks. The pacing also varies wildly throughout the book and reading feels stilted as such. While there are some pie-in-the-sky ambitions in Guerilla Green, the hope it exudes, that we can all make a difference, is undeniable. The militaristic mindset, some of the history lessons, and the nature of the topic makes this book better suited to high school teens and older readers. Younger readers may have trouble with context for some of the biggest planetary issues addressed. Big city dwellers will also have more familiarity with some of issues addressed, but that doesn’t mean that it can’t be enjoyed by those with the luxury of a backyard.

Guerilla Green
By Ophélie Damblé
Art by Cookie Kalkair
BOOM! Box, 2021
ISBN: 978-1684156634

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