Without a shadow of a doubt, readers will enjoy this hero’s backstory.

SHADOW OF THE BATGIRL

The story behind Batgirl.

Cassandra Cain is trained to kill. Raised by a criminal mastermind, she knows only how to fight and execute. One day she freezes in the face of one victim’s desperation for her to pass on a message to his daughter. Not wanting to return home, she is found on the streets by noodle shop owner Jackie Fujikawa Yoneyama, who gives her a free meal. Cassandra also finds solace in the Gotham Public Library, where, having been raised with little conversation, she learns to comprehend language by listening to librarian Barbara’s storytimes about Batgirl. Fascinated, Cassandra begins to understand her life before, with her villain of a father, and to envision the life she wants to lead in the future, as a hero. This is an excellent introduction to Cassandra’s backstory and her journey to becoming Batgirl. The detailed illustrations and meticulous coloring add emotion and effectively convey movement. Dark memories and moments are shrouded in blue and purple while Cassandra’s safe, comforting spells are brightened by shades of yellow and orange. Cassandra’s sweet, touching story includes themes of self-discovery, relationships, family, and personal choices, and there’s enough action to keep readers interested. The cast of characters is diverse in race and ability; Cassandra has mutism, she and Jackie are Asian, and red-haired Barbara uses a wheelchair.

Without a shadow of a doubt, readers will enjoy this hero’s backstory. (Graphic novel. 12-17)

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4012-8978-2

Page Count: 208

Publisher: DC

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2019

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Entertaining for fans of villain backstories and Disney classics alike.

EVIL THING

A VILLAINS GRAPHIC NOVEL

From the Villains series

A chronicle of Cruella De Vil’s descent into Dalmatian destruction.

The only child of Lord and Lady De Vil, Cruella was enamored by high society life from a young age. She idolized her cold, demanding mother and loved her caring father, despite his giving her less extravagant gifts. Both parents wanted her to distinguish herself, though they intended very different meanings by that word. While young Cruella believed that servants and others from less privileged backgrounds should know their places, Anita, her less socially lofty best friend, was an exception. But as she grew up and married, she had to face the question of what it really meant to possess wealth, beauty, and happiness. Framed as a memoir, this story vividly expresses Cruella’s personality. Valentino does a solid job of establishing the cast of characters, and fans of the animated film will enjoy connecting the threads. While there are moments of softness that evoke readers’ empathy, Cruella unapologetically wields her power to behave cruelly. She is ultimately fueled by her desperation for maternal validation, jealousy, delirium, and a perhaps-cursed pair of earrings. Jovellanos’ art deftly captures a range of emotions, specifically in showing how Cruella’s face is transformed in response to her whims. Using a color palette of muted reds, blacks, grays, and whites, the illustrations express a fitting tone for a Cruella tell-all. Characters read as White.

Entertaining for fans of villain backstories and Disney classics alike. (Graphic fiction. 12-16)

Pub Date: Sept. 28, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-368-06816-1

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

Review Posted Online: Aug. 16, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2021

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BEOWULF

Pairing art from an earlier, self-published edition to a newly adapted text, Hinds retells the old tale as a series of dark, bloody, chaotic clashes. Here Grendel is a glaring, black monster with huge teeth, corded muscles and a tendency to smash or bite off adversaries’ heads; the dragon is all sinuous viciousness; and Beowulf, mighty of thew, towers over his fellow Geats. The narrative, boxed off from the illustrations rather than incorporated into them, runs to lines like, “Bid my brave warriors O Wiglaf, to build a lofty cairn for me upon the sea-cliffs . . . ” and tends to disappear when the fighting starts. Because the panels are jumbled together on the page, the action is sometimes hard to follow, but this makes a strongly atmospheric alternative to the semi-abstract Beowulf, the Legend, by Stephen L. Antczak and James C. Bassett, illus by Andy Lee (2006), or the more conventionally formatted version of Michael Morpurgo, with pictures by Michael Foreman (2006). (Graphic fiction. 12-15)

Pub Date: April 1, 2007

ISBN: 978-0-7636-3022-5

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2007

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