From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. Gibbons's masterful skills as writer and artist energize this coming-of-age story set in a slightly skewed world full of familiar frustrations and temptations. Young teen Lel doesn't see anything desirable in what mainstream society offers; he just wants flashier clothes, his own Hover to ride and membership in an elite gang. So he and his buddy Bok join the Originals, a gang with whom they engage in small-scale violence against rival gangs and bask in the acceptance of their peers. Alas, this doesn't last. Lel and Bok begin drifting apart once Lel starts spending time with a girl named Viv and selling drugs for a high-ranking Original. But when another needy gang wannabe carries the violence too far, Lel is faced with making adult decisions. Lel isn't a vicious sociopath, doomed to make selfish choices; he is, however, immature and still wrapped up in his fantasies. Although the story sounds familiar, it feels fresh. Gibbons, who's probably best known as the Watchmen
artist, presents an outstanding example of art and layout with this work. The double-page spreads that put readers in the middle of a teen party or a gang rumble are particular standouts. Gibbons deftly captures Lel's world, as Lel experiences the excitement of the unknown and the emptiness that comes with violence.
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The 1960s British Mod movement provides the inspiration for Gibbons' graphic novel. There's a twist, though, for The Originals
portrays an alternative future in which gangs ride floating "hovers" instead of scooters and gather in seaside towns protected by giant weatherproof domes, while still wearing sharp Italian threads, taking uppers, and hanging out in dance halls. The story centers on Lel and his pal, Bok, and their initiation into the Originals, the coolest gang in town, which ushers them into a world of glamour, gals, and violent street clashes. The portrayal of youth culture is largely familiar, but Gibbons' subtle, futuristic touches lend freshness, and the Mod milieu, informed by Gibbons' own adolescence, seems authentic and exciting. Sharp black-and-white artwork, as stylish as the Mods themselves, imparts a 1960s feel while veering from documentary realism to op-art effects, and Gibbons' skill in his first major scripting effort drives the narrative briskly. The illustrator for some of comics' best writers--he drew Alan Moore's epoch-making Watchmen
(1987)--has learned well from such collaborators. Gordon FlaggCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved