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Trotsky: A Graphic Biography

Rick Geary

Hill and Wang, $16.95/hardcover

Proving once again that graphic novels are the best way to familiarize or re-familiarize yourself with key people and events in history, Trotsky pencils a vivid portrait of Leon Trotsky and the influential events preceding, surrounding and following the Russian Revolution of 1917. Yes, the formation of the Soviet Union, which brought the downfall of the Tsarist autocracy, also brought tremendous casualties. As Geary begins the narrative: "To many, [Trotsky] was the heroic St. George, slaying the dragon of capitalist repression. To others, he was the ruthless and satanic purveyor of bloody rebellion, the cold, detached theorist gone mad with power. In truth, he fitted neither of these images ... " Well-researched and creatively illustrated, Trotsky finds the balance between these polar opinions, presenting the facts minus judgment or praise. — Matthew Schniper

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The White Garden: A Novel of Virginia Woolf

Stephanie Barron

Bantam Books, $15/paperback

In The White Garden, Denver author Stephanie Barron not only writes about Virginia Woolf, but she writes as Virginia Woolf. Presumptuous? Perhaps. But then this is fiction, and Barron presumes a lot when she speaks for people who have lived before her — a challenge she also takes on in her bestselling Jane Austen mystery series. All in all, though, the premise works. Landscape designer Jo Bellamy travels to England to research the White Garden (developed by Woolf's friend and lover, Vita Sackville-West). During her time there, Jo happens upon what seems to be Woolf's diary — dated after the writer supposedly committed suicide. Chock full of love affairs, wartime conspiracies and bits of a new Woolf manuscript (penned by Barron herself), this tale certainly makes for a more interesting demise for the celebrated early-20th-century author. — Kirsten Akens

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Masterpiece Comics

R. Sikoryak

Drawn and Quarterly, $19.95/hardcover

Wittier than the old Classics Illustrated comic books and not nearly as annoying as those "Shakespeare for Beginners" offerings, R. Sikoryak's satirical retelling of the Western canon through 20th-century comic characters is actually pretty ingenious. "Blond Eve" opens with Blondie and Dagwood as young Edenites and Mr. Dithers as God; "The Crypt of Bronte" re-imagines Wuthering Heights as an EC horror comic; and Beavis and Butthead get their existential Beckett on in "Waiting to Go." Sikoryak even does Dostoevsky's Crime and Punishment, recasting Raskol and the pawnbroker as Batman and the Joker. AWOL among more than a dozen masterfully rendered comic icons are Disney characters (possibly due to the Big Mouse's reputation for litigation). But no matter — we still get Peanuts and Kafka, as well as an inspired Bazooka Comics parody featuring Dante's Inferno Joe. — Bill Forman

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