EVEREST IS WHAT showbiz types call a "multi-hyphenate": a big, profitable rock with crossover appeal on bookstore shelves, Imax screens, and TiVo queues. Add graphic novels to the list with this month's new English translation of the Japanese manga work The Summit of the Gods (Fanfare, $25). It's a five-volume, 1,500-page epic of mountaineering noir, an illustrated take on an award-winning Japanese novel, Kamigami no Itadaki, about an Everest climber who discovers what may be Mallory and Irvine's legendary lost camera. Summit has been big in Japan for close to a decade, thanks largely to the huge adventure cachet of artist Jiro Taniguchi, whose comic oeuvre includes adaptations of Jack London stories and the journals of hunter and naturalist Ernest Thompson Seton. The first, 300-page volume hits Amazon and your local comic shop in July, and arts publisher Fanfare plans to release the next four installments quarterly. Reading right to left, Japanese style, takes a few pages to master, but the story is engrossing in a strange, Krakauer-meets-Kafka kind of way: Taniguchi's black-and-white panels ooze existential anxiety as a crew of haunted climbers face down their demons at 26,000 feet and grapple with thugs trying to steal the prized camera in Kathmandu's back alleys. Think of The Summit of the Gods as a Watchmen for rock jocksall the gritty tension and high-adrenaline heroics, but, thankfully, fewer glowing blue butt shots.
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