Arresting visual spectacle and superb fight scenes: Netflix’s One Piece reviewed

What would you say is the most successful comic-book series in history? If you’re thinking Tintin you’re not even close. (Curiously enough, even the now largely forgotten Lucky Luke scores higher.) If you’re thinking Peanuts, you’re getting warmer. And if you named Asterix, good try but that’s only number two. No, the hands-down winner, with total sales exceeding 516 million, is a Japanese manga called One Piece. One Piece? Me neither. It’s quite unusual these days to chance upon a massive cultural phenomenon – the series has been going since 1997, with 1,093 chapters so far – of which one has never once even heard. But this, I suspect, will

Identity politics is in retreat in Hollywood

‘Diversity is woven into the very soul of the story.’ If those words of praise from a rave review in a left-leaning journal sound to you about as inviting as a cup of cold sick, then my advice would be to stay well clear of The Sandman. Neil Gaiman’s epic graphic novel series (launched in 1989), set in the world of dreams, was relentlessly inclusive long before it became the norm. ‘I wanted to change hearts and minds,’ Gaiman has said in an interview. ‘I had trans friends and still do, and it seemed to me that no one was putting trans characters into comics. And I had a comic.’

War between Heaven and Hell: The Absolute Book, by Elizabeth Knox, reviewed

Ursula Le Guin once described speculative fiction as ‘a great heavy sack of stuff, a carrier bag full of wimps and klutzes’. By this definition, Elizabeth Knox’s genre-hopping fantasy The Absolute Book must count as oversized baggage; but it trundles along winningly, even if it’s a trifle stout at 640 pages. Taryn Cornick is our girl. She is a scholar whose debut book, a study of libraries, is the toast of the literary circuit. But she is also the recipient of an unlucky inheritance: an elusive manuscript, nicknamed the Firestarter, last spotted in the library of her grandfather’s ancestral pile. From these Borgesian beginnings, the story orbits into wider and

A dazzling fable about loneliness: Piranesi, by Susanna Clarke, reviewed

Susanna Clarke is a member of the elite group of authors who don’t write enough. In 2004, the bestselling debut from a cookery book editor seemed to promise an unfailing fountain of the creative imagination: Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell, a three-volume reworking of Britain’s military tussle with Napoleon, but with added fairies, felt like Jane Austen brewed up with spells and a dash of the Brontës’ Angria sagas. A short story collection, The Ladies of Grace Adieu, set in the same eerie territory, followed, and since then — silence. Piranesi is a publishing event, therefore. Austere and classical, it has no fairies but plenty of magic. The title character