It's time for the graphic novel review roundup!
(By Eric Anthony Glover and Arielle Jovelianos, Abram ComicArts, $24.99)
As I read this graphic novel, I kept getting fooled — thinking I was reading one thing, while it kept turning out to be another. The story takes place in a future where interplanetary space travel is possible but extremely dangerous. A crew of four women travel to an exoplanet in search of a rare plant that could "save a lot of lives." But disaster strikes, leaving only two alive on the hostile planet's surface — and both in a ruthless race to the remaining shuttle, which seats only one.
The art is of the cartoony variety popular today, and the lack of shading and texture put me in mind of animated shows like "Star Trek: Lower Decks." That further made me think I was probably reading a young adult novel (or possibly one aimed younger). Only to discover I was wrong. "Black Star" broaches some serious, adult themes that left me thinking at the end.
'Dracula: Vlad The Impaler'
(By Roy Thomas and Esteban Maroto, IDW Publishing, $15.99)
This story was originally published in the tiny, short-lived Topps comics line in 1993, but make no mistake: It's created by two veterans of the biz who are on very familiar ground. Writer Roy Thomas came into his own as Stan Lee's right-hand man at 1960s Marvel Comics, who wrote tons of comics in every genre, co-created The Vision, and wrote a Dracula origin story. Another of Thomas' career highlights is bringing Robert E. Howard's Conan the Barbarian to comics in 1970, and some of those stories were drawn by Spanish artist Esteban Maroto.
So when Thomas wrote "Dracula: Vlad the Impaler," it was his second stab at an origin story for the bloodsucker, after almost 30 acclaimed years in the business. And he was teamed with a highly regarded artist, with whom he had a long working history. Either that sells you, or it doesn't. (It sold me.)
'The Batman's Grave'
(By Warren Ellis, Bryan Hitch, Kevin Nowlan and Alex Sinclair, DC Comics, $39.99)
There's an awful lot of Bat-content out there, not all of it good. This one, however, ranks a full four Batarangs. The villain is sort of an anti-Batman, a man whose criminal parents were killed by cops when he was a kid, who trained all his life to bring down the Gotham City justice system. That means he targets Commissioner Gordon and Jeremiah Arkham, among others. But that's not the best part. No, the best part is this is a story of Batman the detective, who must bring all his formidable skills to bear on a puzzling case that doesn't seem to make sense.
The downside to "The Batman's Grave" is that over 60 women and nonbinary individuals have accused the writer of sexual misconduct as of last summer. That's awful stuff, should it be true, and I have no intention of whitewashing it here. Nor does DC, which has dropped Ellis from some future projects and stopped hyping his older ones.
But if you can separate the artist from the art, then "The Batman's Grave" is well worth your time.