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

Sunlight

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.

Sunlight
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,