American Widow by first-time graphic novelist Alissa Torres with art by Sungyoon Choi [Villard; $22] is the author's story of her life as the wife of immigrant Eddie Torres and as his widow in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks which took place exactly one day after her husband started his dream job at Cantor-Fitzgerald in the World Trade Center. Be warned: this book is often raw, often angry, and often so emotionally charged that it leaves the reader physically drained.
The storytelling is reflective of the chaos, uncertainty, and pain Torres experienced as a new wife, a new widow, and even a new mother. She was seven-and-a-half months pregnant when Eddie died. But the occasionally erratic pace of the story connects the reader with its teller. It's a story that will stay with you.
Choi's art is good, though I would have liked more variety in the distance between the "camera" and the scenes, and in her faces. It often seemed like every character had the same basic nose, which was jarring on a couple occasions. As I said, it's good art. But it's not as good as the story deserved.
American Widow has been rightfully praised in both comics and mainstream circles. It earns five Tonys.
Warning: the old man who writes this column is about to start yelling at clouds. You should still heed him.
First strike is that this book is based on a video game and no one has ever been able to convince me that video games aren't dumb and an utter waste of any even borderline sentient's time. Spare me your angry or concerned responses. As far as I'm concerned, it has all been downhill since Pong.
Second strike is that I had to go to Wikipedia to get any clue as to who most of the characters in this manga were and what were their relationships to one another. Maybe that's attributable to the third strike against this book.
Third strike is that there are dozens of short stories in this manga, stories created by seemingly dozens of creators, and not one of the terrible things is long enough to sustain a satisfying plot, joke, or character interaction.
Fourth strike - yes, it's that bad - is that the potentially most interesting thing about this series, that it appeared to be a courtroom drama or comedy, is largely ignored. Oh, there seems to be some sort of rivalry between the hero and the prosecutor, and we get a glimpse of a case here and there, but that's it. The closest thing to a moment of legal drama in this book came when I asked my attorney if I could sue Del Rey to get compensation for the time I wasted reading this chum, as in "fish refuse or scraps discarded by a cannery."
ZERO: Burn your money before buying any comic receiving this rating. It doesn't *necessarily* mean there's absolutely nothing of value here - though it *could* - but whatever value it might possess shrinks into insignificance before its overall awfulness.
ONE: Buy something else. Maybe I found something which wasn't completely dreadful in the item, but not enough for me to recommend it when there are better comics available. I only want what's best for you, my children.
TWO: Basic judgment call. I found some value, but not enough to recommend it. My review should give you enough info to decide if you want to take a chance on it. Are you feeling lucky today, punk? Well, are you?
THREE: This denotes something I find perfectly respectable. There are better books out there, but I wouldn't regret buying this item. Based on my review, you should be able to determine if it's of interest to you. Let the Force guide you.
FOUR: I recommend anything earning this rating. Unless you don't like the genre, subject matter, or past work of the creators, I believe you'll enjoy this item. Isn't it uncanny how I can look right into your soul that way?
FIVE: Anything getting this rating is among the best comicdom has to offer. You should buy/read this, even if the genre/subject matter doesn't appeal to you. It's for your own good. Me, I live for comics and books this good...but not in a pathetic "Comic-Book Guy" sort of way.
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