Clementine Book One

Writing stories set in a much loved, previously established universe is always a highwire act. It’s hard to make everyone happy. Tillie Walden takes the challenge in Clementine Book One, as she adapts a graphic novel from a Walking Dead video game character. Her success or failure is probably dependent on how invested in the Walking Dead universe you are.

This story opens with a Black teenage girl with an amputated leg traveling alone through a zombie apocalypse. She clearly knows how to take care of herself. She’s also been through a lot of trauma and doesn’t trust people easily, though no one seems to trust each other in this world. We learn that it’s been many years since the apocalypse began and Clementine has lived in this world for most of her life. We see flashbacks of what happened to her before (likely parts of the video game) and it informs who she is today. Soon she comes across a religious community and reluctantly accompanies one young man on a quest he’s undertaken to meet others on the top of a mountain in the hopes they can survive there away from the living dead. As with most zombie stories, nothing goes as planned and mayhem ensues. There is a complete story in this book but another door opens at the end in the hopes that readers will want to see what Clementine’s next steps are.

Walden’s art and storytelling are clear and distinctive. She is able to create the appropriate mood and atmosphere for a zombie apocalypse. The book is in black and white, just like the original Walking Dead series, which does make it hard to tell some characters apart. Walden uses clothing and hairstyle to do most of this work and she’s successful most of the time. The book is mostly set at night, so everything is pretty dark. This makes depicting Clementine’s race particularly challenging. In general, if you liked Walden’s art previously, you’ll enjoy what she does here.

We’ve had a lot of tales told in the world of the Walking Dead. Focusing on the trials of a capable teenage girl is a good story to tell, but it’s not breaking much new ground other than the fact she is an amputee. Fans of Tillie Walden will be interested to see her working in someone else’s “playground.” Fans of the Walking Dead and the video game will get to see Clementine’s story move forward. Not all of them will be happy about where the story takes us, though. I am curious where planned books two and three go. Image Comics head and Walking Dead creator, Robert Kirkman, has picked a good property to launch his new Skybound Comet imprint at Image with. It will be interesting to see how well this imprint expands Image’s audience to include a younger crowd of comics readers. Clementine is rated for older teens and could go in most public library YA or adult collections. Whether it stands alone or if it has too much backstory for most teens will be the test of whether it is a hit or not.

Clementine Book One
By Tille Walden
Image Skybound, 2022
ISBN: 9781534321281

Publisher Age Rating: 14+
Related media: Game to Comic

NFNT Age Recommendation: Older Teen (16-18)
Creator Representation: Lesbian
Character Representation: African-American, Bisexual, Missing Limb, Prosthesis

Blade Runner 2029 Vol. 1: Reunion

The year is 2029. Twelve years ago, Aahna “Ash” Ashina was the LAPD’s greatest Blade Runner – one of the elite police detectives tasked with hunting down and killing any Replicant running loose on Earth. Yet Ash had a secret that would destroy her career were it discovered by her fellow cops; she was dependent on a rechargeable spinal implant to walk.

Ten years ago, Ash left the force and went on the run, acting as the protector and foster mother of a runaway girl, to honor the dying request of the Replicant clone of the girl’s biological mother.

Three years ago, Ash returned to a radically different Earth, where the manufacture of Replicants was outlawed after an attack on the Tyrell Corporation erased every record of every existing Replicant. Naturally this did nothing to stop the rich and powerful from ordering their own custom grown Replicant “servants” on the black market.

Two years ago, Ash rejoined the LAPD and the Blade Runners, joining the hunt for the last of the Nexus 8 Replicant models: the most human Replicants ever made. But Ash had a secret beyond her artificial spine. She had become part of the Replicant Underground, working to free the new Replicants who are born as both fugitives and slaves on Earth.

Now, Ash is relatively content, having found love with the Nexus 8 Replicant Freysa Sadeghpour. But a ghost from the past has thrown Ash’s new life into sharp relief; a ghost called Yotun, who is the only Replicant to ever escape Ash’s clutches in her old life and the leader of a Replicant terrorist cell out for revenge on the idle rich responsible for the creation of the latest Nexus 8 Replicants.

Fans of the Blade Runner franchise hoping for more of the same after Titan Comics’ excellent Blade Runner 2019 series will greatly enjoy this first volume of Blade Runner 2029. Michael Green, Mike Johnson and Andres Guinaldo, the creators on the first comic series centered around Ash’s adventures, have all returned for this second series and their respective contributions are as fine as ever. Green, who co-wrote the screenplay for Blade Runner 2049, continues to expand upon the setting of the original film, while slowly building up the elements he introduced in the sequel. Ana’s lover Freysa Sadeghpour, for instance, was a character in Blade Runner 2049.

Andres Guinaldo continues to capture the essence of the neo-Noir setting of Blade Runner. There is grit and grime aplenty, as befits the mean streets of Los Angeles. Yet there is also neon splendor and bright lights concealing the dark heart of the city’s underground, well rendered by colorist Marco Lesko. Suffice it to say the unique aesthetic of the movies is replicated perfectly throughout this book.

This volume is rated 15+ and I consider that to be a fair rating. There is nothing in Blade Runner 2029 that would be inappropriate for an older teen audience and nothing likely to upset fans of the original movies, which were rightly rated R for violence, nudity and sexual themes. There is nothing so overt in this collection, though there are some disturbing images of one body being impaled on rebar, a dissected corpse post-autopsy and some loose body parts in various Replicant labs.

Blade Runner 2029 Vol. 1: Reunion Vol. 01
By Michael Green, Mike Johnson,  ,
Art by  Andres Guinaldo
Titan Comics, 2021
ISBN: 9781787731943

Publisher Age Rating: 15+
Related media:  Movie to Comic

NFNT Age Recommendation: Adult (18+), Older Teen (16-18)
Character Representation: Indian American, Japanese-American, Lesbian, Mobility Impairment, Prosthesis,

Blade Runner 2019: Volumes 1-3

The original Blade Runner was not a big hit when it was originally released in 1982, yet it has gone on to become a classic of science fiction cinema and inspire a sequel, Blade Runner 2049. While not directly adapting the Philip K. Dick story Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep?, Blade Runner encapsulated the themes of Dick’s dystopian world, where the best of humanity reached the stars, only to poison the Earth and abandon the poor and the sick to a slow death on a dying world. Yet even that existence is preferable to the life of slavery forced on replicants; artificially made beings virtually indistinguishable from real humans.

Titan Comics’ Blade Runner 2019 is the first original graphic novel series set in the world of Blade Runner. Beyond being officially endorsed as canon to the films, the series is co-written by Michael Green, who co-wrote the script for Blade Runner 2049. That alone ensures a higher level of quality than one might normally expect from a film tie-in comic, even when that writer is an Oscar Nominee for his work on the film Logan. Green is an experienced comic book writer, as is his co-author, Mike Johnson, with whom he previously collaborated on DC Comics’ New 52 Supergirl series. This makes them an ideal team for adapting the world of Blade Runner into a comic book format.

Set in Los Angeles during the same time as Blade Runner, but with none of the film’s characters making an appearance apart from replicant magnate Dr. Eldon Tyrel, the first volume of Blade Runner 2019 quickly introduces us to Aahna “Ash” Ashina. Ash is widely considered to be the best of the LAPD’s Blade Runners; special detectives tasked with hunting down replicants who go into hiding on Earth. However, a lack of replicants to hunt and pressure from City Hall sees Ash temporarily reassigned to investigate the disappearance of Isobel and Cleo Selwyn, the wife and daughter of billionaire Alexander Selwyn. It soon becomes apparent that Ash’s assignment was due to more than a rich man demanding the best detective available, and Ash soon finds herself fighting to protect Cleo from an unexpected threat.

Green and Johnson’s scripts perfectly capture the themes of the original films and the reoccurring idea that the replicants and other artificial beings are more compassionate and noble than the fiendish organics that created them. Ash is a prime example of this, starting out with no sense of sympathy for replicants and unspoken envy of them, given her own dark secret. As a child, Ash was denied the right to follow her mother into the stars due to an unspecified spinal condition that renders her unable to walk without the aid of an implant that requires constant recharging. This makes Ash ironically dependent on the same technology she hates and leaves her needing to hide the truth of her disability from her coworkers in the same way replicants must hide from society.

The artwork flawlessly replicates the neo-noir theme of the films. Artist Andres Guinaldo boasts a gritty aesthetic that offers a detail-driven view of the future. The colors of Marco Lesko perfectly complete the pictures, with vivid reds highlighting moments of action and contrast with the cool blues and greens that dominate the larger narrative. Lesko also manages the neat trick of hiding neon shades in the background that hint at the splendor of the city center, even as the action largely takes place in the dimly lit shadows of the mean streets. Fans of the movies will be pleased, but the comics serve as a wonderful introduction to the setting for those who have not seen the films.

All three volumes of Blade Runner 2019 are rated 15+. I consider that to be a fair assessment. There’s no overt nudity in the artwork, apart from one cover depicting an exotic dancer in the middle distance, though there are several shots of Ash’s bare back that serve only to showcase her implant. Of larger concern is the book’s violent content and some detailed and disturbing images of people being shot and blood being shed. There is nothing that would be inappropriate for older teens, however, and indeed the comics are more restrained in what they show than the films.


Blade Runner 2019: Volumes 1-3
By Michael Green, Mike Johnson, and Andres Guinaldo
Titan Comics, 2019
Vol 1 ISBN: 9781787731615
Vol 2 ISBN: 9781787731929
Vol 3 ISBN: 9781787731936
Publisher Age Rating:  15+ Only
Related media:  Movie to Comic

NFNT Age Recommendation: Adult (18+), Older Teen (16-18), Teen (13-16)
Character Representation: Indian American, Prosthesis, Wheelchair User,

In Waves

The graphic memoir has become an increasingly important genre for the comics medium. With his graphic memoir In Waves, A.J. Dungo is joining the likes of Art Spiegelman, Alison Bechdel, and Tom Hart. It’s heady company to be in, especially considering that Maus, Fun Home, and Rosalie Lightning are all different kinds of survivors’ stories. Dungo’s first-person narrative—when it is a first-person narrative—tells of his survival even as Kristen, the love of his life, slowly succumbed to cancer. Combined with tales from the history of Hawaii and the history of surfing, it’s an odd story, but that’s okay. Comics is an odd medium, and some of its best work is done in the service of strange tales, strangely told.

In Waves is Dungo’s first book and began as an art school project focused on two major figures in the history of surfing: native Hawaiian Olympic swimmer Duke Kahanamoku and surfboard innovator Tom Blake. The project’s ambitions expanded naturally when he decided to incorporate his partner Kristen’s story into the existing narrative. The results are eccentric, but overall quite moving. It’s a slow-paced story whose moments seem to come and go like tides. From the beginning, the reader knows that Kristen will not survive this story, but that does not lessen our attachment to her, nor does it reduce her significance. And while his inclusion of Blake and Kahanamoku’s stories in a book about a loved one is an unusual choice, it adds a pleasing ebb and flow to the narrative. Dungo and Kristen were both surfers, so learning about the sport’s royal Hawaiian origins and its many developments fits into their story more naturally than one might expect. There’s a sorrow to both of these men’s triumphs, and to surfing itself, and a kind of parity in the way that these great surfers used their boards to escape their worldly problems. Using this same technique, surfing is everything to Kristen and “her boys” as well, and the narratives flow unexpectedly naturally between the past and present. The result is an emotional portrait of different times, flowing together into one. Adding in the visual influence of Hokusai—the Japanese artist most famous for The Wave—this book is an elemental experience rather than a plot-driven one.

In Waves has its limitations. Dungo sketches his historical figures carefully from photographs, but his contemporary characters have sparse facial features. He sometimes seems aware of this problem, as he often draws the backs of his characters’ heads. This can limit their emotions as well as make it easy for readers to confuse different characters, and it minimizes the impact of the fact that his primary characters are largely Asian American. Even so, his art is patient and directed, with monochromatic pages skillfully dictating mood and pacing through color, panel structure, and design. His words are largely dispassionate, but somehow a passionate mood infuses everything his characters say and do. As a result, this book transcends both its apparent limitations and ambitions. In its words, pictures, and silences it has much to say. It is a book that one person could read many times, and never quite get the same meanings from twice.

Death is a part of life and history, and every library—public, school, or otherwise—serves people of all ages who have lost loved ones. This is a very valuable book for any collection because it speaks honestly and accessibly about loss but not just about loss. Dungo is describing loss as part of a living tapestry. It isn’t the end, but it can’t be discarded. This book is a significant graphic memoir and is highly recommended for all libraries and is unusually accessible for such an artistically-rendered story. That said, In Waves is most appropriate for libraries with teen and young adult comics collections, though it wouldn’t look out of place in an adult collection. Other than the fact that it is a book about a loved one’s death, there are no content warnings attached to this book.

In Waves
By AJ Dungo
ISBN: 9781910620632
Nobrow, 2019
Publisher Age Rating: Teen+

Browse for more like this title
Character Traits: Characters with Disability Japanese, Hawaiian or Pacific Islander
Creator Highlights: Own Voices, BIPOC Creator

Woman World

At the start of Woman World, a genetic defect wipes out all male humans within a few generations. Then a series of natural disasters devastates the planet. From the ashes rises a new civilization: one made up only of women.

Then: wacky hijinks!

Despite its grim beginnings, this is a silly, sometimes sweet look at a post-apocalyptic—and post-man—world. Here, a village bands together under a flag bearing an image of Beyoncé’s thighs. (As we later discover, the neighboring villages also chose parts of Beyoncé’s body as their standards.) Within that village live women of a variety of ages, races, and body types. There’s the grandmother who is the only one who can remember real live men, and her granddaughter who scavenges through the ruins for pieces of the old world. (Her most prized discovery: a DVD of Paul Blart: Mall Cop.) There are single women and women in relationships, women writing poetry and women who have decided to be naked all the time. Together, they live a cooperative, generally peaceful existence.

In Woman World, men are remembered with a fond wistfulness, a lost part of human culture. But women don’t spend too much time missing or wondering about them: they’re busy living their lives. (That said, a lot of the jokes do involve people making incorrect assumptions about what the old world was like.)

The stakes are generally low in this slice-of-life comic. Conflicts arise from arguments, anxiety, and the occasional unrequited love. There is also concern about the future of the human race: surviving sperm banks are an option for women who want to have children, but they won’t last forever, and other methods are still experimental. But in the meantime, everyday concerns revolve mostly around relationships, romantic or platonic.

The book Woman World is a print collection of the popular Instagram webcomic of the same name. The art is grayscale, with a few full-color pages sprinkled through the book. There are usually three to five panels per page. Some pages can stand alone as one-off jokes, while others are part of continuing plot arcs. The characters’ faces are simple but expressive, while their distinctive body shapes, hairstyles, and outfits make them easy to tell apart. Shading indicates different skin and hair colors. One character has a prosthetic leg, and one has surgical scars; some have piercings or wrinkles or other visible differences that make them easy to distinguish while also making the world of the comic richer and more interesting.

As far as content, there is no violence and no on-page sex, just some kissing. There is frequent nudity, but it is never sexualized, and no genitals are drawn in, just triangles that are understood to be pubic hair. A small number of swear words appear, generally as part of a joke.

Woman World may portray a post-apocalyptic civilization roughing it in the wilderness among the ruins of our world, but it’s actually a rather relaxing read. The characters usually mean well, and no one gets hurt. Just women of all kinds supporting each other and going about their business, with some jokes thrown in. Hand it to anyone looking for a gently funny stand-alone read.

Woman World
by Aminder Dhaliwal
ISBN: 9781770463356
Drawn & Quarterly, 2018

Sci-Fu

Old school Hong Kong action movies, Brooklyn B-Boys, giant space robots, the power of music, and the importance of friends and family are slammed together in an all-ages remix, Yehudi Mercado’s new stand-alone graphic novel Sci-Fu. It’s a premise that demands examination. Kung fu movies have been occasional fodder for comics, but it’s a difficult genre to emulate in a static format; creating a musical story in a silent medium is similarly challenging. A project with audacious ambitions like these is bound to have some eccentricities, but as is true for all creations worthy of the name, its successes far outshine its shortcomings.

The book’s plot centers on adolescent African-American hip-hop DJ Wax coming of age and dodging bullies in 1980s Brooklyn. Along with wannabe MC Cooky P, Wax dreams of proving himself to his ice cream vending uncle Rashaad and his ruthlessly brainy little sister D. He also wants to attract the attention of a pretty Hispanic girl known as Polly the Pirate, both for her eyepatch and her nautical flair. After he embarrasses himself by penning a cheesy love song to Polly, Wax redeems himself with his sick skills on the wheels of steel, creating a beat so perfect that his whole building is transported into deep space. On Discopia, a planet inhabited and run by robots, Wax takes part in a weaponized rap battle, and begins training in Sci-Fu, a martial art that turns the music of the spheres into skills to pay the bills. However, as he gains power and fame, he begins to alienate his friends and family from Earth in the pursuit of his DJ dreams, making mistakes that might end with Wax accidentally selling out both friends and the whole human race!

With an obvious love for the intersection of hip hop and Hong Kong action movies (Wax faces down robot crew Five Deadly Dangers in a reference to The Five Deadly Venoms, a noted favorite film of the Wu Tang Clan), the story attempts to thread the needle between ‘derivative’ and ‘homage.’ It usually succeeds, though it does run the risk of coming across as ‘Scott Pilgrim, Jr’ at times. The characters and the fast-paced story are largely comprised of tropes familiar to most casual fantasy and sci-fi fans. However, with a cast comprised almost entirely of people of color, this book stands out from others in this genre by placing black and Hispanic characters in main roles. The plot is also not as tightly scripted as might be expected—there’s a character who accidentally comes along for the ride and ends up disappearing into her apartment for the rest of the novel—and some challenging action sequences require more than one reading to follow. However, the storytelling is fast-paced and fun, and the art is vibrant, with a neon graffiti-inspired palate that brings Sci-Fu’s unearthly urban landscapes to life. The book also successfully brings music into its story, with credible rhymes and a visual shorthand that makes it clear who’s singing or rapping throughout. Plus, the uncle faux-swears by screaming out the names of exotic ice cream flavors. What’s not to love?

This is a great book for introducing younger readers to kung fu movies and priming their future selves as readers of books like Ed Piskor’s multi-volume graphic history Hip-Hop Family Tree. There is a lot of sci-fi fisticuffs throughout, but Mercado uses the old Saturday morning cartoon cheat of only “killing” robots, so violence will not be a big concern to most readers or parents. A good buy for librarians looking to add action, color, and fun for the tweens (ages 10-13) who like to peruse the children’s comics section, and especially recommended for urban libraries. Also great for fans of action action-comedy and deft rap lyrics.

Sci-Fu
by Yehudi Mercado
ISBN: 9781620104729
Oni Press, 2018
Publisher Age Rating: Tween

Characters: Black, Latinx

Creator Traits: Mexican American

O Human Star. vol 1

Through his groundbreaking work in robotics, Alastair Sterling helped pave the way for the AI revolution. Unfortunately for him, he died unexpectedly before he could see his work completed. That is, until 16 years later when he woke up in a robotic body matching his former self and containing all of his memories, but with no idea how he got there. His only hope at finding answers in a world he no longer recognizes lies with his former research partner, Brendan Pinsky.

Author/cartoonist Blue Delliquanti first developed her comic in 2010, and began posting pages online as a webcomic in February 2012. Soon after, Delliquanti made a name for herself as a queer author championing the LGBTQ community, who used her own experiences to create comics people could turn to for guidance. A successful Kickstarter campaign brought O Human Star to print.

In O Human Star, right off the bat we’re given brief glimpses into the true nature of Al and Brendan’s relationship. It has a real foundation to it. Through flashbacks, we see the strain caused by Al’s slight discomfort with his sexuality, which is still evident 16 years later. Delliquanti also includes the transgender community through Brendan’s robotic daughter Sulla, who brings a fun, playful energy to the graphic. Delliquanti very seamlessly writes about how Sulla was originally born a boy, but decided she wanted to be a woman because that’s how she identified, so Brendan made that change for her, no questions asked. The lack of discussion speaks volumes and shows the progress their society has made on transgender issues.

O Human Star also dives headfirst into issues of morality, ethics, and the argument of what can versus what should be done with the human psyche posthumously. In their world, robots aren’t just pre-programmed beings, but direct copies of someone’s actual mind. So while Al may seem human, he’s not. The entire story also takes place within a couple of days. While Delliquanti packs a lot of information into those few days, the story never grows boring. It forces us to ask ourselves: at what point are lines crossed and when do issues of ethics come to play? Or have those lines already been crossed?

Phenomenal writing aside, the art propels it to another level. The entire graphic novel is illustrated in two color palettes to signify the time period. The present tense is illustrated in blue tones, while flashbacks are drawn in red. The flashbacks are never out of place nor disrupt the flow of the story, but give the reader further insight into who Al and Brendan were 16 years prior. In a couple scenes, both tones are used to sharply contrast one another and fully draw the reader in. The limited use of color also forces the reader to focus on the characters and story without getting lost in the background and what’s going on around them. Delliquanti is also great at putting in subtle markings on her characters, such as the line of circuitry on Al’s hands, to distinguish between human and robot. It’s so faint yet effective that the reader can always tell the difference, especially since robots work so hard to look human. Delliquanti also skillfully draws faces in a way that show more emotion than any line of text ever could. Many times the panels don’t even need text to convey the emotion Delliquanti wants us to experience and allow the story to shine.

O Human Star is meant for mature audiences due to sexual content and male nudity. While the progression of Al and Brendan’s relationship is tastefully done and none of the sexual imagery is gratuitous, it might be too graphic for some audiences. The issues Delliquanti writes about are important and necessary, though. It’s important for people to see themselves in literature because it gives them something tangible they can positively relate to, and O Human Star does just that.

O Human Star, vol 1
by Blue Delliquanti
ISBN: 9780990995609
Independently published, 2015
Publisher Age Rating: Mature