Slush Pile: Shiniest Jewel, Yellowstone Legends & Myths, Science Fiction Classics, Band of Innocence

The Shiniest Jewel

The Shiniest Jewel cover
The Shiniest Jewel
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by Marian Henley
Springboard Press, 176 black-and-white pages, hardcover, $21.99 US

The art is simple: unvarying thin lines, no shading, plenty of white space, making for flat images. It’s the story that drew me to keep reading, and then I noticed just how expressive the characters are and how powerful the simple imagery can be.

This memoir tells how the author adopted a child from Russia when she was almost 50 years old. It opens with her telling her parents over Christmas, through the obstacles that arise, and the life changes she makes, until she journeys to Vladivostok to bring home her new son. There is a man in the picture, her boyfriend Rick, who has two unusual factors. He’s over a decade younger than she is, and he lives in Nashville, while she lives in Austin.

But there are striking images, especially while she’s coping with being patient in the face of a system much bigger than any individual person. At the same time she’s struggling to aquire a child, her father is stuck in the hospital, illustrating a generational cycle of life and demonstrating, with her mother, true marriage.

The Shiniest Jewel directly tackles the questions so many women deal with: home, marriage, kids, parental care. Even though Marian faces situations I’ve never encountered, it’s all very real.

Yellowstone’s Hot Legends and Cool Myths

Yellowstone Hot Legends and Cool Myths cover
Yellowstone’s Hot Legends and Cool Myths
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by Robert Rath
Farcountry Press, 64 color pages, $6.95 US

This slim, digest-sized book would make a lovely souvenir for a kid visiting Yellowstone National Park. Tall Tale Tom shares 10 myths and legends about the area in styles ranging from softly shaded colored pencils to dramatic bold ink lines. All are easy to read and suit their respective material, whether native legend or tall tale or ghost story. Narration is colloquial, replicating the experience of attending a particularly good theme park.

The book, while entertaining, also respects its material and the many groups who are connected to Yellowstone. It’s surprisingly good, especially for an educational project.

Science Fiction Classics

Science Fiction Classics cover
Science Fiction Classics
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edited by Tom Pomplun
Eureka Productions, 144 color pages, $17.95 US

With this, the 17th volume in the anthology series, Graphic Classics goes full-color. And it’s a good choice for the science fiction topic, which works better with a full palette of shades available.

The longest story in the book is an adaptation of H.G. Well’s War of the Worlds illustrated by Micah Farritor. I was praising the color, but this one is told with a faded palette, sepia-like, that reinforces the setting of more than a century ago. The emphasis on using as much of the original text as possible limits the image possibilities, so anyone familiar with the story has likely already seen a more impressive version, visually. The Martians here aren’t that menacing; the reader is kept remote from them. Instead, the focus is on the more personal emotions of the narrator. Although the ending is somewhat abrupt, it’s a good introduction to the story for a younger audience. And I think that’s the ideal reader for these books: those found in the school/library market.

A short story by Jules Verne, “In the Year 2889″, is illustrated by Johnny Ryan in a big-nose style that resembles The Jetsons. It’s a sketch of future history told from the past, which means it says more about Verne’s time than ours, making it funny. Roger Langridge draws Athur Conan Doyle’s “The Disintegration Machine”, a Professor Challenger story. That’s the standout of the book, since Langridge’s clear caricature style is hilarious.

Also included are “The Bureau d’Echange de Maux” (which I found horror more than SF), drawn in a well-chosen smudgy woodcut style by Brad Teare; Stanley Weinbaum’s “A Martian Odyssey”, space adventure with art by George Sellas; and E.M. Forster’s “The Machine Stops”, illustrated by Ellen L. Lindner. The last, although candy-colored, is the most disturbing in the book in its story of a civilization where everything is moderated by machine and touch is forbidden.

Band of Innocence

Band of Innocence cover
Band of Innocence
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written by Robert Agnello; illustrated by Lou Manna
On the Lamb Productions, 136 black-and-white pages, $24.97 US

A flip-through shows art reproduced from pencils, giving an unfinished look to the art, and lettering done in Comic Sans, which screams “unprofessional” to me. The writer is well-meaning, talking about spreading compassion and being inspired by the innocence of children, but the result shows that good intentions don’t automatically make for good comics.

There are these gods that represent things like fire and nature. They choose pure children to give their powers to in order to save the world. At this point, computers could have written this premise, it’s so generic and predictable. I couldn’t read any more, especially since some of it looks like it was reproduced on a photocopier with an inconsistent darkness setting.

All of the above books were reviewed based on preview copies provided by the publishers.

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2 Responses to “Slush Pile: Shiniest Jewel, Yellowstone Legends & Myths, Science Fiction Classics, Band of Innocence”

  1. El Santo Says:

    The title for “Band of Innocence” looks pretty cheap, too. It looks like something I could’ve churned out in Photoshop in about 3 minutes. (And it probably was.)

  2. Graphic Classics on Sale » Comics Worth Reading Says:

    [...] are $6, with Horror Classics and Robert Louise Stevenson at $5, and the two newest (color) books, Science Fiction Classics and Louisa May Alcott, $9. I’ve also reviewed the Oscar Wilde and Gothic Classics volumes. [...]

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