12 Graphic Novel/Comics Mini-Reviews
Since I've fallen down the graphic novel rabbit hole (I blame the phenomenal Saga series, which you should read right now), I've been furiously reading all that I can get my hands on. It's been great as I had a very busy summer work-wise, I can get my reading in via quick bits.
I thought I'd round up a few of my recent graphic novel reads for folks who may be dipping their toes into this format as well.
Lazarus #1 & #2 by Greg Rucka & Michael Lark
Lazarus has a very interesting premise: In a dystopian-type world, North America is ruled by a few crime syndicate families. The only jobs are through one of these families, with everyone else labeled "Waste." Each of these families has a Lazarus, an unstoppable, unkillable fighter, to protect them.
Volume One was interesting, though the premise had more than a few holes and the artwork of the few female characters was overly-sexualized. However, the second volume takes a different turn and while the world-building still has some issues (basically, I wanted more backstory to explain the "how"), it's so much more compelling and dramatic and introduces the point-of-view of characters living as Waste and hoping for jobs working for the Family.
Complex #1 by Michael Malkin
I've been using the Comixology app to find different comics that I might not otherwise come across--they have a bunch of first issues for free. Complex is one of those and I'm not sure what I think of it. It's kind of creepy, set in a "Towne" that's shrouded in mystery. Clearly, there's a conspiracy at work, but I'm not sure I felt engaged enough in the story to continue. If you like this sort of story, though, it may appeal to you.
Alex & Ada #1 by Jonathan Luna & Sarah Vaughn
Apparently, I really like artificial intelligence-type stories, because this is yet another one I've stumbled upon and really liked.
This is set in a near-future. Alex works for a Google-type company and all he ever wanted is a realistic android (stay with me). It's an incredibly melancholy look at the future. Alex is overwhelmed by his loneliness and separation from others. Ada--the fancy-schmancy android--enters, and maybe his life will change...
The artwork in this one is really intriguing, rather understated and moody--totally my jam.
The first issue of this one is available for free on Comixology.
An Enchantment by Christian Durieux
Apparently, I'm really into French graphic novels (what my college French class taught me are called Bande Dessinée) because even though I found the story in Christian Durieux' contribution to the Louvre series of graphic novels problematic, it was also captivating. The artwork is very painterly and there's a magical quality. It's called a graphic novel in verse, which seems apt.
Lucille by Ludovic Debeurme
Despite have an unnecessary attempted rape, Lucille Debeurme's Lucille is one of my new favorite graphic novels. It's also French, and is seriously weighty--something in the neighborhood of 600 pages. The minimalist artwork is perfect for this story of two young people struggling to fit in with their families and their peer groups. This story tackles a lot of heavy issues such as anorexia and alcoholism, and does so in a compassionate, compelling way. There's a sequel that I believe is in the process of being translated and I cannot wait.
Brain Camp by Faith Erin Hicks, Susan Kim & Laurence Klavin
Brain Camp is a silly, fun graphic novel that was probably a bit young for me, but is perfect for folks who love camp stories and all things weird. Basically, slacker kids are sent to a camp where they suddenly become a legion of smarty pants over-achievers. This is one tweens in your life will probably enjoy.
The Cute Girl Network by M.K. Reed, Greg Means & Joe Flood
The more I think about The Cute Girl Network, the more I want someone i know to read it so we can discussion whether or not it's full of misogynist Manic Pixie Dream Girl bullshit or if I was just having a bad day when I read it. There's an element of hipster sexism to it that bugged me, but it may be because I live in Portland, where that nonsense is omnipresent.
I did, however, love the depiction of skater girls and their badassery.
Fables (Various Volumes) by Bill Willingham et al
A twitter friend said that I might enjoy Bill Willingham's Fables series, but thus far my results of have been mixed. The artwork is amazing as all get out, and the world building is aces. However, the characters' problems just don't resonate with me. I want to try out some of the Fairest companions to this series, which focuses on the female characters of Fables.
If you like fairytale retellings (I'm hit or miss), these books may work for you.
A Game for Swallows by Zeina Abirached
A Game for Swallows was recommended by Nafiza for a good reason--it's a beautiful memoir with dramatic, memorable black and white artwork. There's something very accessible about the presentation of this graphic novel, so I definitely recommend it to folks who are wanting to check out the format for the first time.
Mystery Society by Steve Niles & Fiona Staples
Nafiza also recommended Mystery Society in her big post of graphic novel recommendations and I did really like the artwork by Fiona Staples, who illustrates the incredible Saga series. The story, however, was a bit lackluster for me. It's got a caper vibe to it, which is usually my jam, but I wish that it had been more fully developed. It's worth picking up for the art alone, however.
Drawing Words & Writing Pictures by Jessica Abel & Matt Madden
My husband brought this book about how comics and graphic novels are created home from work recently. (He works at an art college, so he comes across odd stuff, for sure.) It's geared toward aspiring comics and graphic novel creators, but it's great for those of us who'd like to know more about how these complex stories come together. Reading it has helped me understand more about why a story works and why it doesn't and I highly recommend it to anyone in an interest in this format.
Disclosure: Most of these were either borrowed from the library or purchased, but I did receive a review copy of the second volume of Lazarus.