by Willow J. Wilson and M.K. Perker

Publisher: DC Comics/Vertigo

Format: Hardcover, black and white, $24.99

ISBN: 978-1-40121-140-0

Reviewed by: School Library Journal


This well-crafted magic-realist graphic novel set in modern Cairo delivers one of the more impressive debuts in comics in recent years. Shaheed, a young and confused Lebanese American, travels to Cairo both to shun his American side and to seek out his Muslim roots. He meets Ashraf, a drug smuggler who sells him a hookah stolen from Nara, Cairo's local crime boss. But it is more than simple drug paraphernalia; it's also the home for Shams, a powerful djinn with a philosophical outlook on life. Shaheed finds himself wrapped inside a dangerous plot as Nara scours the city looking for Shams, hoping to use the djinn’s magic to further his own greed. This fantasy brings a surprisingly touching message to the action-driven plot. A large part of the tale focuses on Shaheed and how Shams pushes him to see a side of Islam that rejoices in compassion over violence. Wilson uses her experiences as a journalist in Egypt to portray a city filled with well-rounded and realistic characters. Secondary plots that involve an Egyptian journalist, an American tourist, and an Israeli agent broaden the story, but do occasionally distract from the heart of this otherwise tight tale. Perker's black-and-white art uses thin lines and light shading to create pristine, realistic drawings that fill the characters with life and personality. Living in a world that mixes the realistic with the fantastic, these characters will draw in fans of Neil Gaiman's "Sandman" (DC Comics) and Bill Willingham's "Fables" (Vertigo), while Wilson’s pulling from non-Western sources gives a unique take on modern fantasy. –Matthew L. Moffett, Pohick Regional Library, Burke, VA