Part I of August’s Graphic Novel Reads was a bit slim, but hopefully Part II will make up for it. I hope you find something of interest. If you do, please let me know.
Green Lantern Green Arrow (1970-71/2001) Dennis O’Neal, Neal Adams (DC)
These socially conscious stories hold an important place in comics history and rightfully so. Although I remember The Amazing Spider-Man #96 (May, 1971) as the first “drug” issue, Green Lantern (also starring Green Arrow) #76 was there first (April, 1970), beginning a long line of stories dealing with drugs, poverty, racism, political corruption, and much more. While Neal Adams’s art still impresses 45 years later, the stories, unfortunately, come across as very dated and heavy-handed. Yet anyone at all interested in comics history must read this volume. (trade paperback, color; teens and up)
Rasputin Vol. 1: The Road to the Winter Palace (2015) Alex Grecian, Riley Rossmo (Image)
I’ve been impressed with Riley Rossmo’s art ever since the superb (but woefully under-appreciated) Green Wake, and interested in the story of Rasputin after delighting in Petrograd from Philip Gelatt and Tyler Crook, so Rasputin was on my radar quite early. Grecian’s supernatural retelling of the story of the Russian faith healer/friend of the Tsar is an enormously compelling read, made even more so by the gorgeous work of Rossmo. I look forward to seeing where this series will go next. (trade paperback, color; adults)
Tim Ginger (2015) Julian Hanshaw (Top Shelf)
Previously discussed here.
Concrete, Vol. 1: Depths (1986-87, 1999-2000/2005) Paul Chadwick (Dark Horse)
Ron Lithgow is a man whose brain was removed by aliens and placed in a rock-like body standing seven feet tall. If this sounds like a wacked-out space adventure, it’s not. Beyond its initial premise, Concrete contains almost no science fiction elements, other than the physical and emotional problems presented by having a 1,000-pound body made of rock. Chadwick takes the reader through humor, sadness and social commentary without a heavy (dare I say it, concrete?) hand. Other than a few references, this black-and-white comic from the 80s does not feel dated in the least. If you missed this comic back in the day, you can catch up on all the Concrete tales in seven trade paperbacks from Dark Horse. (trade paperback, black-and-white; teens and up)
Amulet, Vol. 1: The Stonekeeper (J 2008) Kazu Kibuishi (GRAPHIX)
A brother and sister slip into a strange world after moving with their mom into the home of their great-grandfather, who left behind many secrets and odd mechanical devices. That’s really all you need to know about this wonderful book, one that I hope to explore with subsequent volumes very soon. (trade paperback, color; all ages)
Saint Cole (2015) Noah Van Sciver (Fantagraphics)
I met Noah Van Sciver last year at SPX, knowing nothing about him or his work. I picked up his collection Youth is Wasted and enjoyed it quite a bit. Van Sciver is at his best writing and drawing stories about young, often directionless people trying to understand life according to traditional standards of American society, which exactly what we have here in Saint Cole. Joe is a 28-year-old worker at a pizza joint and has a wife and infant child he’s attempting to support. It’s hard to support a family on that kind of money, especially when you drink most of it away. When Joe’s mother-in-law moves in, it’s even harder.
Van Sciver has the uncanny ability to create situations that are dark, grim, hilarious and powerfully substantive. This Ignatz Award-nominated book shows Van Sciver at the top of his form. You won’t see the ending coming, but you’ll think about it for a long time. I haven’t told you much about the book only because I hope to devote a complete post to it soon. (trade paperback, black-and-white; adults)
Johnny Boo Meets Dragon Puncher (J 2015) James Kochalka (Top Shelf)
I love James Kochalka’s ideas. His Dragon Puncher books are silly, over-the-top fun, and as long as you’re okay with that, you’ll be in for a good time. If you’re not familiar with the series, Kochalka takes actual photographs and draws characters around their faces, the main character being Dragon Puncher, who has the face of Kochalka’s cat. Kochalka and his son also appear as characters as well as another of the author’s comic creations, Johnny Boo. I like the other books in this series better, but a kid approaching Johnny Boo Meets Dragon Puncher will no doubt have a silly, fun time. (hardcover, color; all ages)
Miss Fury: Sensational Sundays, 1944-1949 (2011) Tarpé Mills (IDW/Library of American Comics)
There’s so much to like about the Miss Fury comic strip – its gorgeous art, the fact that its creator was a woman at a time when female comics creators were extremely rare, the exquisite fashion detail, the risqué atmosphere – but there’s also some disappointment. Maybe a large part of that disappointment comes from my expectations of the book being something different from what’s actually presented. As a costumed avenger, Miss Fury (at least in costume) doesn’t appear all that much. Even her alter ego, Marla Drake, is often absent for long stretches. Although the book delivers quite a bit of action and adventure, there’s just as much melodrama and soap opera mixed in. Again, it could be that I was expecting one thing and got another. I plan to reread this book again, so maybe I’ll feel differently after another read. If for no other reason, you should read the book’s introduction about the very interesting life of Miss Fury‘s creator, Tarpé Mills. (hardcover, color with some black-and-white pages; teens and older)
Last Man, Vol. 2: The Royal Cup (2013/2015) Bastien Vivès, Michaël Sanlaville, Balak (First Second)
The first volume of Last Man was such a fun read, picking up Last Man: The Royal Cup was simply a foregone conclusion. The second volume picks up where the first one left off: 12-year-old Adrian and his hulking partner Richard Aldana are set to compete in the local fighting tournament, hoping to win riches and enough food to be comfortable for the rest of their lives. If you’d like to know more, you can read my review of the first book, but if you haven’t read the first volume, nothing in the second will make much sense. I highly recommend both books (the third of six will be out in October from First Second). (trade paperback, black-and-white; teens and up)
Finding Gossamur, Vol. 1 (J 2013) David A.Rodriguez (Th3rd World Studios)
Young Denny has the unique ability to solve any problem, regardless of its complexity. As part of an entrance exam for admittance to a school for the gifted, Denny solves what was considered to be an unsolvable theorem. The bad news is, that solution has opened up a door into another world, one of danger and strangeness, and both Denny and his sister find themselves trapped in it.
Rodriguez’s story is wonderfully spun out, but it’s not your typical simple fantasy/adventure tale. Maybe that’s why Finding Gossamyr has such a devoted fan base. Another reason is no doubt Rodriguez’s jaw-dropping art. This gorgeous hardcover edition includes loads of great extras as well. Highly recommended. (hardcover, color; ages 10 and older)
Long Tail Kitty: Come Out and Play (J 2015) Lark Pien (Blue Apple Books)
The first Long Tail Kitty book (titled simply Long Tail Kitty) appeared in 2009, and since I didn’t read it, I don’t have anything to compare this second book to, but I’m sure it’s not necessary to have read the first volume.
Long Tail Kitty: Come Out and Play is a collection of stories about Long Tail Kitty and his pals. The stories are cute and colorful with the characters poking fun at each other without ever getting mean-spirited. Friendship is the focus of the book and while I don’t want Pien to ever get pedantic in her stories, I can’t help but think that some opportunities here went unexplored.
Invisible Republic, Vol. 1 (2015) Gabriel Hardman, Corinna Bechko, Jordan Boyd (Image)
Gabriel Hardman is rapidly becoming one of my favorite writers. In 2843, a reporter named Babb discovers a secret journal containing information related to a recently overthrown dictator of a colonized moon. It’s a story no one else knows about, a story Babb desperately needs to resurrect his dying career, yet has the potential to create unimaginable havok, and not just for one remote moon.
The description that some critics are giving Invisible Republic – Breaking Bad meets Blade Runner – is far too simplistic. Comic Book Resources gets a lot closer: it’s more like All the President’s Men meets Battlestar Galactica . However you look at it, Invisible Republic is immediately compelling, nearly impossible to put down after the first page. Look for a complete review soon. (trade paperback, color; adults)
That’s it for August. Let me know what you enjoyed…