Category Archives: graphic novel

if i could buy the world a comic

Oodles of GNs…

The Escapistsby Brian K. Vaughan, etal 2007

I’ve steered clear of Michael Chabon’s Escapist series, cause pulp-era comics make me wanna run screaming from the room. But I’m glad I picked this one up at a co-worker’s insistence. The tale is more about the creative process of comic creators than the actual hero The Escapist, and is as delightfully meta as Grant Morrison’s Animal Man arc.

Bookhunter by Jason Shiga 2007

Chuckle-some saga of theft and the swift justice of the library police, featuring high-octane reverse-directorizing from the back of a speeding bookmobile, a duel with card catalog drawers, and other librarical action.

DMZ vol 4: Friendly Fire written by Brian Wood, with various artists 2008

The NY war zone gets worse, as journalist gone native Matt Roth digs into a massive civilian slaughter by US troops. The stories are brutal and gritty and full of truth. Nobody wins in this war, and further entrenchment and disintegration on all sides seem the only possibilities. Remind you of any other war?

The Arrival by Shaun Tan 2007

An arresting wordless woodcut-style that resonates with the feelings of the alienation and overwhelming disorientation of a recent immigrant, told with fantastical, real-seeming un-real illustrations.

The Last Musketeer by Jason 2008

How genius can you get- the Musketeers are immortal (and because it’s Jason, they’re anthropomorphized animals). In our century, Athos is a drunken wino, nostalgically longing for the days when he was a hero. And then he gets his chance when he stumbles upon invading Martians intent on destroying the world.

Zombies Calling by Faith Erin Hicks 2007

College students during finals begin turning into mindless, slobbering freaks. And then things get really bad when they turn into zombies. A hilarious, self-aware love-letter to the zombie genre. The survivors are led by a zombie film addict, who’s studied them and knows who survives. Allllll the cliches are thrown in, but the characters know it.

Skim written by Mariko Tamaki, art by Jillian Tamaki 2008

A Japanese-Canadian, would-be-Wiccan, arty goth girl deals with your average teenage angst in this above-average GN. Kim, nicknamed Skim, struggles with falling apart from her best friend, falling in love with her (female) English teacher, and falling into depression. The art is great, and topics like suicide, teen sexuality, and gender identity are handled multi-facetly rather than with typical “issue of the week” After-School-Special moralizing.

The Number: 73304-23-4153-6-96-8by Thomas Ott 2007

Noirish, wordless tale of a man who stumbles upon a number, dropped from the hand of a condemned man at the moment of his electrocution. The number seems to eerily reproduce itself in his surroundings. He sees it everywhere, and when he follows the sequence it at first appears to lead to good luck. But when he begins to let it control his decisions, his life soon spirals into disastrous circumstances.

Water Baby by Ross Campbell 2008

Anti-hero, rude-grrl, surfer Brody gets her leg chomped off by a shark. She’s impossible to pity, not only because she’s just as fearless as before, but because she’d pound your face in if you tried. Sick of her shark-infested nightmares, frustrating physical therapy, and her couch-surfing loser ex-boyfriend, Brody and her best friend, and said loser ex-BF set out on a furious road trip to get rid of the loser.

four out of five dentists recommend these GNs

And the winner is (or would be if there was a contest):  

The Five Fists of Science written by Matt Fraction, art by Steven Sanders 2006

This is THE, yes the, best comic I have read this year. Strong words, I know but the concept is absolute genius. Mark Twain and Nikoli Tesla team up to fight crime. With SCIENCE! Then we throw in crime-fighting via electricity, a man with a silver prosthetic hand (hence the FIVE fists), Tesla’s quirks, Twain bombasticness, a plot to enslave the world by demons, an alternate plot to bring universal peace by enslaving the world with robots. Oh yeah and the evil magicians intent on unleashing demons? That’d be Thomas Edison, Andrew Carnegie, JP Morgan, and Guglielmo Marconi (whose out-of-his-league involvement makes him a compulsive stress-eater, naturally). I was laughing hysterically from start to finish.

Other good ‘uns I read:

Dynamo 5 vol 1: Post-Nuclear Family by Jay Faerber 2007

The widow of a superhero gets a nasty surprise when she finds her husband’s well-used “little black book.” Then she finds his illegitimate children. So she does what any scorned wife would do- activates their powers and forms them into a superteam to carry on her husband’s work. Fun new series.

The Building Opposite vol 1  by Vanyda 2006

This is the kind of apartment building in Paris where everybody knows your name. Neighbors are neighborly and involved. And there’s a whole “maiden, mother, crone” thing going on for some reason.

House of Clay  by Naomi Nowak 2007

Gorgeous art that acknowledges then totally ignores traditional panel use. The scenes flow and dissolve into each other with dreamlike colors and the action moves from reality to imagination with little distinction.

Welcome to Tranquility vol 1  written by Gail Simone, art by Neil Googe 2008

Something’s rotten in the state of… well whatever superheroed land this takes place in.  Tranquility is a peaceful burb where retired supers of both the hero and villain variety can live out their post-crime fighting (or causing) years in peace. Think of it like Florida. But when a television crew descends to film the community, they arrive just in time for a murder. And then another. Pretty soon powereds are dropping like flies and the sheriff smells a coverup.

Super Spy  by Matt Kindt 2007

Sepia toned art highlights the atmospheric and tense vignettes of WWII spies. The inter-connected, non-linear stories tell the larger tragedies of spies from every front. Almost no one makes it out alive.

Shooting War  written by Anthony Lappe, art by Dan Goldman 2007

Ambitious, and all too possible projection of our decades-long war in Iraq. A shock journalist who’s a magnet for mayhem visits Baghdad and finds more than he expects, including an entrenched military that has lost sight of not only their objectives, but their humanity.

Moomin vol 2  by Tove Jansson 2007, originally serialized 1953-59

Light-hearted good fun. The lovable Moomin family (who I believe are supposed to be trolls, but look more like hippos who walk on hind legs) bumble their way around the Finnish countryside, having mini-adventures, playing pretend, and generally enjoying life.

i’ve always relied on the kindness of comics

Queen & Country vol 8: Operation- Red Pandawritten by Greg Rucka, art by Chris Samnee 2007

Rucka consistently writes solid espionage and presient politics. This round, a hostage situation triggers Tara’s PTSD as she deals with the aftermath of her lover’s death.

Jack of Fables vol 2: Jack of Heartswritten by Bill Willingham, various artists 2007

Jack heads to Vegas. Pretty amusing, but I’m ready for Willingham to get back to Fables.

Nextwave: Agents of H.A.T.E. vol 2: I Kick Your Facewritten by Warren Ellis, art by Stuart Immonen 2007

This series cracks me up- a madcap send-up of classic superhero comics that’s like a low-rent version of SHIELD, complete with over-the-top villain, inept superheros, and ridiculous foes.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Season 8 vol 1: The Long Way Homewritten by Joss Wheden, various artists 2007

A fun look at the slayer universe post-Sunnydale. We get to see what the slayers have been up to, introduces new villains, and checks in with our favorite characters. The writing and dialogue are just as snappy as the TV version, and the plot-lines promise lots of fun to come. Makes me wish the show was still showing weekly.

War Fix  written by David Axe, art by Steve Olexa 2006

A semi-biographical look at a boy who grows up inundated by war images in the media, which results in an addiction to violence and a career as a war reporter.

Chance in Hell  by Gilbert Hernandez 2007

Gilbert’s second solo project is the story of an orphan girl growing up in a slum, traumatized by the brutality around her, but also somewhat protected by her fellow residents.

The Clarence Principle  written by Fehed Said, art by Shari Chankhamma 2007

Strange story of a post-suicide down-the-rabbit-hole style purgatory with individually tailored hells.

Southland Tales, vol 1: Two Roads Diverge & vol 2: Fingerprints  written by Richard Kelly, art by Brett Weldele 2006

Picked this up because of the interesting Ben Templesmith-ish and wasn’t aware until halfway through that these volumes (with a third) constitute a prequel for a film from the Donnie Darko director. Somewhat nonsensical tale of time-jumping, apocalypse, and destiny. But enjoyable.

tippecanoe and comics too

Embroideries  by Marjane Satrapi 2005

My second go-round for this winsome tale with the feel of an afternoon family gathering. Satrapi captures the universality of women’s friendships as she transcribes an afternoon’s gossip with her Iranian friends and family. Her characters feel like women you’ve known for years as they swap tales of love and sex, marriage and divorce.

Run Far, Run Fast  by Timothy Decker 2007

Little tale of a girl on the run from the black plague in an engaging blend of woodcut and charcoal styles.

Street Angel vol 1: The Princess of Poverty  written by Jim Rugg and Brian Maruca, art by Jim Rugg 2005

Hilarious! Yet another re-read. How could you not love a book that mixes skateboarding, ninjas, astronauts, pirates, and an Aztec god? Awesome.

Blue Pills: A Positive Love Story  by Frederick Peeters 2008

Great biopic. Deals honestly with the complexities of a relationship with an HIV-positive partner.

Scott Pilgrim vol 4: Scott Pilgrim Gets It Together  by Bryan Lee O’Malley 2007

This great entry in the hilarious series features the absolute best line ever- “If your life had a face, I’d punch it.

Skeleton Key vol 1: Beyond the Threshold  by Andi Watson 1996

Story with lots of potential (I may pick up others) but the art is clunkier than I was expecting from having enjoyed Watson’s later clean-lined work.

Ex Machina vol 6: Power Down  written by Brian K. Vaughan, art by Tony Harris

Vaughan must never sleep. How else could he keep three stellar series running at top caliber? This issue which features a power-outage that mysteriously affects The Machine’s abilities.

Iron West  by Doug TenNapel 2006

Genius! Cowboys and robots, can it get any better than that? TenNapel’s smart dialogue and wry expressions make the tale an enjoyable one.

comics make the heart grow fonder

Edmund and Rosemary Go To Hell: A Story of Our Times with (Hopefully) Some Hope for Us All  by Bruce Eric Kaplan 2007

A very New-Yorkery tale from a New Yorker cartoonist about discovering you’re not going to go to hell, because you’re already there.

Futurama Adventures  by Matt Groening, etal 2004

Reminiscent enough of the hilarious cartoon series to be mildly amusing.

Thunderhead Underground Falls  by Joel Orff 2007

Winsome woodcut-style rumination on love found too late and the hidden cost of enlisting in the army.

Batman. Snow  story by J.H. Williams III and Dan Curtis Johnson, art by Seth Fisher 2005

Picked it up assuming that Williams’ name on the cover meant I’d be treated to some of his stunning art and page layouts. Ah well.

John Woo’s 7 Brothers, vol 1  created by John Woo, script by Garth Ennis, art by Jeevan Kang 2007

A story of magic, genetic destiny, and the end of the world. Excellent. The plot, characters, and dialogue are all top-notch. And the art is fantastic, kind of like a blend of Francois Schuiten and Yoshitaka Amano (who incidentally does the covers.)

The Three Paradoxes  by Paul Hornschemeier 2007

Superbly plotted, quietly reminiscent biopic tale of going home again, intercut with scenes of the frustrated artistic process. The use of cartoonish art for the childhood flashbacks is especially effective. One of my favorite comics in quite a while.

it’s all geek to me

Essex County, vol 2: Ghost Stories  by Jeff Lemire 2007

Moving meditation on loneliness and growing old, filled with reminiscence and regret, big dreams and betrayal.

Manhunter, vol 2: Trial by Fire  written by Marc Andreyko, various artists 2007

Kate learns she’s the latest in a long line of Manhunters and someone is tracking all the old ones and killing them.

Robot Dreams  by Sara Varon 2007

It’s a classic tale: dog builds robot, dog and robot go swimming, robot rusts and spends a year abandoned at the beach. Cute wordless story.

DMZ, vol 3: Public Works  written by Brian Wood, art by Riccardo Burchielli 2007

Undercover journalist Maddy digs deep into the conspiracy and corruption of a New York turned war zone.

Flight Volume 4  directed by Kazu Kibuishi 2007

Favorites: Kazu Kibuishi, naturally- wonderful, magical story about window dioramas.  Newly discovered: Michael Gagne and Lark Pien. Graham Annable, as always. I recently discovered his YouTube movies- the man is a comic genius. Clio Chang offers a wonderful twist to Red Riding Hood. Ryan Estrada’s character has a very un-zen encounter with his spirit animal. Andrea Offermann has a style vaguely reminiscent of one of my favorite artists- Francois Schuiten. The most compelling is Sarah Mensinga’s fable of a girl who locks herself in a magic box to escape her grief. Great art too (similar to Tara McPherson). The award for funniest definitely goes to Scott Campbell for “Igloo Head and Tree Head.” Hilarious!

girls just wanna have GNs

Strangers in Paradise, vol 19: Ever After by Terry Moore 2007

The final chapter of the SIP saga- one of my favorite series. Moore writes the most believable characters, and lovingly illustrates them.

Checkmate, vol 1: A King’s Game  written by Greg Rucka, art by Jesus Saiz 2007

I gave it a try because I’m a huge Rucka fan, but I couldn’t hack it. Seems like a slick story for someone who knows 30 years of backstory necessary to enjoy a DC/Marvel comic.

Fallen Angel, vol 2: To Serve in Hell  &  vol 3: Back in Noire  written by Peter David, art by J. K. Woodward, both 2007

Mysterious little vignettes set in a mysterious city, featuring- you guessed it- a mysterious woman with mysterious powers. All mocking aside, I enjoy this series, even if I don’t know what’s going on.

Invasion of the Mind Sappers  by Carol Swain 1995

Weird little semi-enjoyable alien invasion/teenage alienation story from the creator of the much more effective Foodboy.

Villains, vol 1: Thick as Thieves  by Adam Cogan and Ryan Cody 2006

Finally someone is putting the focus where it belongs- on the supervillians. Reprehensible loser blackmails a post-prison supervillian into teaching him the biz. Let the double-crossing commence.

Manhunter, vol 1: Street Justice  written by Marc Andreyko 2005

Excellent start to a series with the most rounded character treatment since Morrison’s Animal Man. Frustrated with the system’s failures to stop supervillians, public prosecutor Kate Spencer doesn’t turn bitter- she turns vigilante.

Garage Band  by Gipi 2005/US 2007

Gipi superbly captures the teen garage band experience- the arrogance and insecurity, the way boys talk to each other, the consuming conviction that they will be stars, the postures and facial expressions of rocking out. You’d never even know he was talking about Italy.

Shortcomings  by Adrian Tomine 2007

A compelling story of relationship disintegration overlaid by a subtle and realistic portrait of racism and prejudice.

The Louche and Insalubrious Escapades of Art d’Ecco  by Andrew & Roger Langridge 2006

Chuckle-worthy absurdity, with broadly winking nods to everyone from Munch to Marx (Karl & Groucho). And yes, I had to look up definitions for both “louche” (disreputable or sordid in a rakish or appealing way) and “insalubrious” (unpleasant, run-down, unhealthy).