As promised, May continues to be an out-of-control month for graphic novel reading. If you missed Part I, you can find it here. Now let’s continue…
The Disappearance of Charley Butters (2015) Zach Worton (Conundrum Press)
While filming a video, a metal band discovers a long-abandoned cabin filled with notebooks from a reclusive painter. The cabin is also filled with the same image painted hundreds of times. Travis, one of the band members, becomes obsessed with who this painter – Charley Butters – was and what happened to him.
Like several of the other Conundrum Press books, The Disappearance of Charley Butters contains a slower pace than many American graphic novels. I found this refreshing in many ways, but a bit frustrating in others. For instance, the mystery of what happened to Charley Butters is compelling, but I found too much of the book focused on the band members’ relationships with one another. This is important in establishing who these guys are and how Travis connects with the mystery, but it seemed to go on for too long. I also didn’t realize when I started that this is only the first volume of the story. Had “Volume One” been included in the title, I think my expectations would’ve been different, but I’ll definitely read the next volume. (black-and-white; adults)
The Flash Chronicles, Vol. 1 (1956-59/2009) Robert Kanigher, Carmine Infantino, Joe Kubert, Frank Giacoia, Joe Giella (DC)
Thanks to my friend Jess for recommending these stories! The early Silver Age DC books were mostly unchartered territory for me, a heavy Marvel reader as a kid, so it’s fun to explore the things I missed in the DC universe. These early (1956-59) Flash stories are somewhat goofy, but charming and fun as we learn how Barry Allen gets his powers of super speed, yet is almost always late for dates with his girlfriend. Don’t look too closely at the science and you’ll have a good time! (color; ages 8 and up)
Towerkind (2015) Kat Verhoeven (Conundrum Press)
Upon a first read, I know I’m probably missing a lot, but this is a graphic novel worth reading multiple times. It involves people (mostly children) from multi-ethnic backgrounds living in high-rise low income apartments in Toronto on the brink of a catastrophe. Some of the children display supernatural abilities… That’s all I’m going to tell you.
Verhoeven’s art style is one of bold strokes, having the appearance of having been drawn quickly, almost with a sense of urgency, which serves the story well. Her use of panel choices and pacing are also exceptional. Of all the titles Derek and I discussed on the Conundrum Press spotlight, Towerkind is my favorite. Re-reading this one might bump it up to five stars. (black-and-white; teens and up)
Moose (2013/2015) Max de Radiguès (Conundrum Press)
Joe is a high school kid who’d rather walk through the snow than take the bus to school. Part of the reason for walking is Joe’s wish to get closer to nature, but the bigger reason is to avoid a sadistic bully named Jason. Moose is highly effective and disturbing in both its storytelling and focus on bullying. Translated from the French. (black-and-white; adults)
The Adventures of Drippy the Newsboy, Vol. 1: Drippy’s Mama (2015) Julian Lawrence (Conundrum Press)
Based on American writer Stephen Crane’s neglected novel George’s Mother, Lawrence’s Drippy’s Mama is the story of Drippy, a newspaper delivery boy (who’s actually got a drop of water for a head) living with his mom. Mom wants to keep Drippy on the straight and narrow and as far away from the Forbidden Zone as possible, but Drippy’s drunken friend Harry can be quite persuasive.
Drippy’s Mama begins with a take-off of an old Carter Family song called “Jimmy Brown the Newsboy” and like most Carter Family songs, deals with the trials and tribulations of getting by in the midst of hard times. The book also harkens back to the days of underground comics in it’s art style and tone, containing lots of comedy as well as deeper themes. This is the first book in a proposed trilogy. (black-and-white; adults)
Don’t Get Eaten By Anything: A Collection of “The Dailies” 2011-2013 (2015) Dakota McFadzean (Conundrum Press)
McFadzean has been drawing a four-panel daily comic strip for the past five years for his website. This segment from 2011-2013 consists of several autobiographical strips as well as comics about aging, death, ghosts, monsters, facial mutilation, and more. Sound depressing? It’s anything but that. Although some of the strips get a bit repetitive, McFadzean’s strips provide a wealth of insight into the human condition. (color; adults)
Monster, Vol. 1 (2008/2014) Naoki Urasawa (VIZ Media)
I don’t read all that much manga, but I found this first omnibus-sized volume of Monster a compelling, quick read that makes me want to explore the other volumes. The first of nine volumes, this initial book tells the story of Dr. Tenma, a brilliant Japanese surgeon working in a German hospital in 1986. Tenma makes a fateful decision to operate on one patient instead of another, thinking he’s done the right thing in operating on the patient who was presented to him first. Yet Tenma’s decision has dire consequences he could never have imagined.
Some of the elements of Monster you may be able to guess, others you probably won’t. Urasawa creates a high level of suspense and tension with a compelling story and some wonderful art. (Black-and-white with some color; teens and up)
Doom Patrol, Vol. 1: Crawling from the Wreckage (1989/2000) Grant Morrison, Richard Case, Doug Braithwaite, Scott Hanna, Carlos Garzon, John Nyberg (Vertigo) (2x)
I originally read this volume early in 2014 and decided to re-read it in preparation for continuing the series. I love the weirdness of the original Doom Patrol from the 60s. For its time, it was quite odd, but nothing like what Grant Morrison cranks out here with his late 80s-early 90s tales. Morrison clearly has a purpose beyond just stacking weird on top of weird and I’m eager to explore his themes and worldview in this series. (color; teens and up)