Pirate’s Daughter

Aella is disappointed that her mother is leaving on another adventure, leaving Aella behind again. So she decides to take out a small boat to do some fishing on her own, accompanied by a small crab monster named Nix. After falling asleep and having a disturbing dream about demons, Aella awakens to find herself much farther away from the island than she expected to be. When she finally rows back into town, she discovers that the Church of the First Light has come looking for the worst demon of all time, Xir.  

When Aella sneaks into the inn to speak with one of the knights, Bashir, about leaving the island on their ship, she finds herself facing some dangerous family secrets and a crazed captain who tries to kill her. A battle ensues and Aella discovers that she can summon demons with her blood, which she uses to break up the fight and start the killing. After the fighting ends, Aella learns that her mother is a notorious pirate from legend and her crew is made of powerful mages, assassins, and other legends that are meant to protect Aella. Together, they sail away with the captive Bashir to find the prophet who foretold the return of Xir. 

The visuals in this story are stunning. There is so much detail in the backdrops and characters that a reader could spend a large chunk of their time just looking at the illustrations. The color enhances the art and does a great job connecting the panels and expressing the large-scale plot that will be continued over two follow up volumes. The author provides enough back story and world building to provide context without it becoming an info dump of exposition. Although there is an ensemble of characters, each one is given enough space to start developing with room to grow over future volumes. This would be an excellent addition to any teen collection. Adults will also enjoy this story for both the illustrations and the story. 

Pirate’s Daughter Vol. 01
By Mairghread Scott
Art by  Pablo Tunica
Skybound Comet, 2022
ISBN: 9781534321298

Publisher Age Rating: 12+

NFNT Age Recommendation: Older Teen (16-18), Teen (13-16)

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

6 Sidekicks of Trigger Keaton

In 6 Sidekicks of Trigger Keaton from Image Comics, a Hollywood icon is murdered and it’s up to his previous costars to find the person responsible. The only problem is that almost every person who knew him hated his guts with every fiber of their being.

Trigger Keaton, famed martial artist and Hollywood superstar, is adored by fans and despised by everyone unfortunate enough to cross his path. Keaton’s film career is made up of thinly-veiled copies of real shows and films from the 80s and 90s. The man himself is larger than life but also uncomfortably familiar—crass, sexual, blunt, and utterly assured of his own superiority. Burning bridges across the decades of his career, he leaves behind a set of ruined actors who thought Keaton was their path to a stardom, learning only too late the damage he would do to their lives.

Years later, Keaton’s unexpected death is ruled a suicide by authorities. However, those who once portrayed his sidekicks believe differently and they are not inclined to let a murderer walk free, no matter who the victim is. As these six worn out actors wade into the mire of Hollywood secrets, trigger a stuntman war, and face off against gangs and assassins, they will have to confront their own pasts if they want to answer the question—who killed Trigger Keaton?

By now, Kyle Starks has carved out his distinct brand of comics storytelling, and 6 Sidekicks is an excellent showcase of his abilities. The comic is initially a murder mystery—one where allies and enemies alike have good reason to be suspects. Against the sleazy Hollywood backdrop of social politics and shattered dreams, the environment is ripe for secrets and betrayal. And in true Starks fashion, a healthy dose of absurdity colors the familiar landscapes. Ninjas strike without warning. The stuntman guild declares war on those who offend them. And a simple murder investigation has the chance of turning into a martial arts battle at a moment’s notice. Picking up a Starks comic promises comedy and mayhem, and 6 Sidekicks features no shortage of either.

But the story is not only action sequences punctuated by crass jokes from its now-deceased title character. Through a mix of flashback and present-day narrative, we watch the path of each of Keaton’s previous sidekicks from their youthful optimism to the fallout of sharing a screen Hollywood’s most offensive star. The story balances its comedic tones against real characters who must face the demons of their pasts if they wish to once again take hold of their futures. The result manages to be heartfelt while also charging headlong into the fray.

Regular collaborator and co-creator Chris Schweizer provides the art for Starks’s words, and his distinctive, cartoony style is as much a part of this book as the writing. With visual humor, exaggerated action sequences, and an ideal blending of maturity and whimsy, Schweizer’s art brings each stage of the madcap adventure to life through car chases, dramatic confrontations, and a wealth of supplementary material to round of the world of Trigger Keaton’s notorious career.

Image Comics labels the title Mature, and with the language, violence, and other suggestive or offensive comments, it’s a comic clearly aimed at adults. Keaton is never to be admired, but it doesn’t stop him loudly inflicting himself on anyone in his orbit. And even when Keaton falls silent, you don’t have a stuntman war without a few key injuries along the way. However, for anyone who might be a fan of Starks from his Rick and Morty work or his past independent comics—or any reader who’s a fan of adult-oriented action comedies—Starks and Schweizer know the sort of stories they want to read, and 6 Sidekicks allows the two to showcase their abilities in true form. Absolutely worth adding to your collection for any readers who would enjoy historical parody, fast-paced mystery, and lots and lots of punching.

6 Sidekicks of Trigger Keaton
By Kyle Starks
Art by Chris Schweizer
Image Skybound, 2022
ISBN: 9781534320086

Publisher Age Rating: M

NFNT Age Recommendation: Adult (18+)

Evolution, Vol 1: Origins of a Species

Evolution is based on a simple premise (however scientifically questionable it may be): what if the evolutionary process went on offense? Instead of the commonly understood slow change to adjust to new environmental conditions, the evolutionary response to extreme climate change and pollution becomes a rapid transformation of humanity to adjust to the state of the world. But it’s still a subtle change (at least initially), and one which tries to keep itself secret. The story focuses on three people who have become aware of the situation, in different ways.

Dr. Abe Hurley (in Philadelphia) has dedicated his career to the issue. He lost his position at the CDC over his focus on it, and at the beginning of the story is making his living at a free clinic under an assumed name. Sister Hannah (in Rome) encounters the disease when a man commits suicide in her church—and later realizes that she is also transforming. Claire (in Los Angeles) finds herself involved with the evolution via a film producer who is an old family friend.

The first physical manifestation is witnessed by the doctor in the form of a child who has grown gills to eliminate asthma attacks. He theorizes that the disease is a viral infection, like the common cold. As the story proceeds, other sightings are far more extreme, grotesque whole body transformations which artist Joe Infurnari illustrates in fanciful (and gross) ways. There is a continual shuffling between the three characters, which is greatly facilitated by colorist Jordan Boyd’s different color palettes for each of their story arcs.

Hurley sees the evolution as a threat to humanity, as “us versus them.” The other two are just trying to cope with changes in their lives, following their investigations where they lead. They are a diverse group of characters, and it will be interesting to see where the story goes. The End of the World scene that opens the series does not foretell a positive conclusion. This is a graphic horror story that earns its Mature rating with rough language and horrific images.

Evolution, vol 1: Origins of a Species
By Joseph Keatinge, Christopher Sebela, Joshua Williamson
Art by Joe Infurnari, Jordan Boyd
ISBN: 9781534306561
Image-Skybound Comics, 2018
Publisher Age Rating: M

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