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Graphic Novel Friday Spotlight: Shadows, Empire, Heavenshields, Bibles, and More


Every Friday, Omnivoracious will turn the spotlight on one or more graphic novels, with future installments also including news, relevant links, and interviews. You can let me know who or what you'd like to see featured by commenting on this post.

Three Shadows by Cyril Pedrosa (First Second) - A rich allegory in which a man and his son embark on a journey to save their family, while haunted by three shadows. Their trip takes them to many strange places, and although the underlying symbolism is at times obscure, the emotional pay-off is definitely worth the experience.

The Manga Bible: From Genesis to Revelation by Siku (Doubleday) - To me, there's something crazy about trying to render the Bible in graphic form to begin with, given that the rich texture of the language provides much of its power. A manga Bible seems perhaps even crazier, given the stylizations of the form. The results, though, seem much weirder than even that, which I mean as a compliment. Either the Bible was always odd or Siku has chosen to dramatize the stranger bits. I'm not sure the standard manga approach really adds anything new to the experience, but it's a worthy experiment that manga fans in general should consider checking out.

Heavenshield by Ryu Blackman (Tokyopop) - I like this new manga because of the premise: "In a post-meteor age, humans and human-like reptile descendents have struck a delicate peace accord based on a dark new religion called Sancrosanct. So when a psychotic general escapes prison and plots a military coup, the government hires saucy racer girl Sepulveda Ramos and her dysfunctional crew of mercernaries" to stop him. This is pretty trippy stuff.


Tonoharu (Part 1) by Lars Martinson (Pliant Press) - Earnest and lovingly detailed, this account of a Western English teacher living and working in Japan has a quiet and telling power to it. The little details of Western-Eastern culture clash and the precision of the accompanying artwork combine to make this more than a graphic novel gloss on a topic already dealt with in nonfiction and movies. A gem of understated storytelling that belongs on any bookshelf.

A People's History of American Empire by Howard Zinn with Mike Konopacki and Paul Buhle (Metropolitan Books) - Somehow this graphic novel version of the famous left-wing history text seems much less subtle than the original. Which is to say, it's powerful but shrill, gives a voice to the voiceless but no real greater context. It was always going to be controversial, and I recommend it for giving another side of history, but this version needs to be balanced with something more, er, balanced. Still, from the standpoint of adapting a written text to an illustrated medium, the creators have done an excellent job. It may just be an example of a type of book better suited to the capabilities of text alone.

Comicsheavenshield   Comicsmangabible


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>> "These books are simply not manga."

Does that mean they are illegally labelled according to retail marketing laws (of typical Western countries)? Can one buy them, read them, and bring them back the next day for a refund?


That'll take some pondering, to be honest. If a book is marketed as manga and in the manga section of brick-and-mortar bookstores, and in a manga format, what is your general reader likely to call it, and where are they likely to find it? Not to mention, the one book is called the MANGA Bible. I totally understand what you're saying, and I agree to an extent, but I'm not sure that your solution makes things any clearer for the person wanting to purchase one of those two books. Does that make sense?

Thanks very much for the thoughtful comment.


A friend just pointed me to this blog, mentioning its reviews of graphic novels on Fridays. Some interesting recommendations here. Very cool.

I have one nitpick about this week's. Those two 'manga' you comment on aren't actually manga. Both are published and conceived all in English. I'm one of those old fashioned folks (ie those over 20 or so) who think along the lines of manga = comics from Japan. No more, no less. These books are simply not manga. They're part of a trendy marketing gimmick of labeling non-Japanese books by a Japanese name.

I first heard of that Manga Bible from Anime News Network's review. Upon further inspection I find that the artist of it lives in England and so I'd say more of a British comic. I've never heard of the TokyoPop book before, but it sure looks like one of their many original graphic novels. That's my argument, by the way, that these are better labeled graphic novels than manga.

Now I'm not saying these are any better or worse than manga. There's good and bad in everything. It's just a misnomer that they are being labeled manga. Some might argue otherwise, but that's my take. I like to say I now know how my English teacher felt about that Alanis Morrisette song that changed the popular definition of irony. Especially considering your comment on something for manga newbies, I thought I might toss in my two cents. Hope you don't mind my little quibble of politics and semantics.

One extra note, looking up that Bookslut comics column and finding Robin's top ten made me quite happy. I noticed a number of favorites. Notably the obscure manga Clover of which Dark Horse has since announced a new version and translation.

Hey--thanks for the comment! I had Robin Brenner do something like that for a guest slot of my Bookslut comics column. I'll incorporate a link to that column in the next update.


Hi Jeff!

I've been a fan of you and your work since City of Saints and Madmen.

I have an idea/request for you, based on this post. Some of us in our mid 30's were a bit too old to get on the GN/Manga/Anime bandwagon early, but are curious now that its becoming more and more common.

What about a column that acts as a primer for those of us who would like to get started reading them?

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