Conspiracy driven and backed up with dark, flawlessly executed panels The Black Monday Murders has a dense lore that is revealed in mouthwatering slivers by the detective work of Theo Dumas, a man steeped in noir and sprinkled with voodoo. While working a murder case in the financial district he strings together the horror he sees before him with the untold history of mysticism happening in the highest reaches of financial influence around the world. Said world, constructed by Jonathan Hickman, is a terrifying and sexy version of ours where insurmountable power changes hands in violent, archaic traditions of human sacrifice.
Get a big bite of Gert's particularly bitter brand of candy-coated violence. She's been trapped in Fairyland for almost thirty years, unable to age but free to murder and pillage. Ultimate "kitty-balls-tastic" escapism.
One of the Boys is the perfect execution of a novel about the notion of being a man, drugs, mental illness, familial love and loyalty, as well as what abuse does to a young mind. Magariel's debut novel, clocking in at 165 pages, has not a single unnecessary syllable. His deliberate writing has no mercy, so you have no choice but to stare directly into both the insidious nature of addiction and the purity that is a son's love.
When choosing a zombie (or vampire or were-person, etc.) genre book the first thing I want to know is how? The lore behind the magic or disease or both must be interesting and have something that resembles an original thought. So, of course the premise of Cannibal is more attractive than most because in this story, the "zombies" are living people - no moaning, no decomposition of brain or body - they just have to continue their lives while also craving human flesh. The messy web of relationships in this town would be worth reading on their own, an impressive trait considering how often interpersonal complexity is forfeited in graphic novels to have more panels for the biting or the fighting. Buccellato has managed to write an arc that is at once romantic, readable, disturbing AND about a zombie apocalypse.
This tale is one of longing, and long clawed tentacles. Farrah longs to push back against time, one of the many things inhibiting her acting career but in her efforts, finds herself intertwined - literally, internally - when she attempts to find refuge at a city beach. A visual feast and a screw you to the standard of beauty, Glitterbomb is quite satisfying.
Faith Herbert may have converted me to the tights-and-capes genre, if not opened my heart and reading queue to it. She's funny, positive, a detective, a genuine friend to those around her and a kickass telekinetic superhero. Great balance of per-issue action and backstory illumination - a feat I attribute to the clever, careful writing of Jody Houser.
Aside from a solid opening arc for the New Year in the universe, these women and their interactions feel intensely human - despite the fact that they're dealing with distinctly not-average-human situations. The Birds of Prey are the superhero detective group I wish I could be in, the one closest to what I picture my friends and I being in an alternate super hero world and it's rare to connect like that to any character, especially ones with super powers. Favorite of the 2017 DC Rebirth, hands down.
Solid detective story, update on a classic genre utilizing the modern relationship between media and power - with a little of the feminist struggle dropped in. Went down smoother than 3 episodes of Law & Order after a big meal. Love it, would absolutely read a follow up.
Lady Killer has everything I want in a comic: jaw dropping art, exactly enough gratuitous violence, and personality. The cathartic release of seeing Josie, the main character, take control of her destiny using some chef's knives, her powerful physique, and brilliance doesn't hurt either. All the caveats of the 50's world are present and the way Josie fits into them is quite unique in comparison to other fiction set in the period. It's her, the perfect wife, who has the secret life kept from an oblivious husband. It's her who premeditates instead of just reacting to dangerous situations, as some of her counter parts do. Her backstory is somewhat of a mystery that I can't wait to unravel in future volumes - how did she get into this bloody business, and where can it take her?
This book is gorgeous – just about every page leaves one gawking for minutes at a time before remembering that there is reading to do. A Seinfeld-like comedian finds himself on a tour of hell with a mysterious character - Kid Eternity. The rest is a disturbing and beautiful walk through Grant Morrison's nightmares.
I picked up the first single issue of this as an afterthought, mostly just because the title caught my eye, on my way out of the comic book store. Immediately after reading it I started searching for how to get the rest of the story. When I got my hands on it a week or two later, I was not disappointed. Every panel incited emotion and as the story unfolded, its depth was satisfying and (considering the title) surprising. Phenomenal writing and no shortage of legendary panels and pages to look at.
Gina Wynbrandt uses her medium to proclaim and cope with her world in this half autobiographical caricature, half desperate acid trip action movie. Someone Please Have Sex with Me communicates in big neon pastels what happens when the pop attitudes infiltrate an insecure teen mind and stay there. Every person can relate to the base emotions in it: insecurity, desire and desperation. If you didn't know this girl, you were her. If you aren't the demographic, her plight is one you must familiarize yourself with. This young girl is looking for answers to the emergence of her sexuality and finds (instead of any real information or validation) Justin Bieber, One Direction, and endless sexual images on the internet and elsewhere. Now, I have no issue with sexual images, but a sexual education they do not make. The dreamy illustrations cushioning the raw but silly stories with panels of the same qualities. Whether you're trying to ponder the nature of sexual development in modern culture or laugh at mean talking cats, this is an excellent book.
I recommend this book to anybody - it isn't often a book will make one belly laugh - but I recommend it even more so if you're trying to understand what it's like to live with depression and anxiety. Using adorable cartoons Allie Brosh tells of her own journey through depression as well as dog adopting and childhood cake obsession. She throws away the wistful poetic descriptions we often find about the subject of mental illness and replaces them with hilarious stories that are easy to relate to whether you struggle with it or not.
This book is the story of Henry, a wildly likable young Irishman in the early 1900's trying to survive poverty in Dublin. Shaped by one tragedy after another, he grows a thick skin and a razor sharp wit. Doyle has away of subtly nudging you to fall for his characters and Henry is, in my opinion, his most shining example of that. The story would be hard to believe but as he's thrown from one turbulent, dangerous situation to the next Henry's voice is consistently genuine and hilarious.
The connection between creativity and "madness" is one that has often been made, but Jamison puts it in black and white by analyzing the works and working patterns of iconic artists and writers throughout history. With just the right balance of data (graphs - yay!) and discussion she walks with these giants - Byron, Woolf, Van Gogh and many others - and posthumously diagnoses them with a fervent curiosity and a deep understanding of mental illness. I carried this book around with me for months. First reading it out of order, skipping to my favorite artists to get the skinny on their inner workings, then reading the others, then just reading the whole thing all the way through. To this day this book is always close by, waiting with an insight into the creative minds of my heroes.
After this book, I couldn't drive through a peaceful suburb without conspiring to myself about the entanglements and scandals there. Sarah is a perfectly apathetic anti hero representative of what happens when the transition from youth to adulthood takes too much out of a person, leaving a shell filled with static boredom and surrounded by ambient fear. She's so smart though, and funny. Her situation makes you feel for her, but she pulls no punches about the fact that she got herself there. All of his characters are like that, people that on paper should be boring if not outright annoying but end up being so honest, so real that you fall into them. You understand and grow to like them. And most importantly you absolutely have to know what's going to happen to them.
From the first words in this novel I felt Dinah, the woman whose life is chronicled in this book, speaking to me. Even when I wasn't physically reading it, that voice stayed with me. Dinah spoke with a voice so loud that it traveled thousands of years, but her words were so loving that by the time the sound reached my ears it was an ethereal whisper. One could describe it as a work of romance enriched and purified with a clever biblical veil but to me it's much more. Just on the subject of menstruation, my apathy and latent disgust with it was replaced with...charm? It's hard to explain, but that's what stuck with me most from this book: the biological connection I have with almost all the women who have ever lived. Diamant represented Dinah to me in such a way that reading about her life infused my life with a little grace; it brought to my attention that womanhood is a long, storied tradition to be proud of.
I realize the book is much more than this, that it speaks to many other subjects than just my plumbing's ancient mysticism but the prose is rich and clear and Dinah's life is an epic for any person in search of a good story.
As you read you can tell that Lev spent a lot of time sitting back thinking, "Okay, but what would that actually BE like?" The effort put into making magic feel real and plausible is what makes this trilogy special.
#1 - The Magicians
In this book we're introduced to Quentin Coldwater, the young man at the center of the trilogy, and the world he lives in. Very similar to ours, but with a secret magic world moving and working beneath the surface. He learns that there is a school where magic is taught, a revelation for him after a life of reading about the Chatwins, a family that discovered a magical land a la the Narnia books. Be sure to have the second book at hand, the ending of The Magicians
#2 - The Magician King
In this installment, things get a little grittier. Quentin in sent off to Brakebills South, that reads like magical basic training/torturous boot camp. Meanwhile, Grossman switches perspectives to a female counterpart that we met in the first book, who has since descended into a frantic and deeply flawed search for the magical world. If the first book's purpose was to dip the reader's toe into the magical world, this book's is to sink you to the depths - and it does so quickly and without mercy.
#3 - The Magician's Land
In the final and third book of the series Quentin has done his coming of age. Having been a king and a professor, he gives magical crime a try and as can be expected he runs into a lot more trouble than he signed on for. When I started this book, I was a bit worried Grossman was stretching the narrative, but it didn't take long for everything to come together in a great show of adventure and humanity.
John Dies at the End is the only book I've read that is considered horror - and it is terrifying. Wong takes the shadow in your peripheral vision, that primal fear of something so close but still unseen, and builds a universe around it. His ability to keep up his casual sarcasm and realist language on this incredible quest is impressive and makes all the fantastic events and places very real and very scary.
When there are no good guys in a story, are the bad guys really bad? The voices in The Lie weave a complicated web of manipulation and general assholery that sucks you in until you look up to find yourself suspended in the eye of a hurricane of callous deceit. Kultgen presents these characters under an unforgiving bare light bulb of truth. The vulgar playboy, the dinky best friend of said playboy, and the socially ambitious debutante all expose themselves with each turn of the story. The amazing feat in this book is that in the midst of all these acidic personalities the author somehow manages to focus a piercing light on one thing: humanity, in all its treacherous glory.
This collection was the first book of Roddy Doyle's I read. It took about a day to finish and by the end of that day I had a deep interest in Doyle - a few novels later he was my favorite author. The collection's theme is based in race and immigration in Ireland at the time of its release - 2007 - but for me it was less about the subject matter and more appealing due it's honesty. I could feel that some time recently this man sat to write these stories as a way to express his journey in understanding his people and community. An effort I greatly respect and one that is difficult to approach with as much compassion as Doyle does in all of his writings. The two standouts are probably the title story, a revisiting of the main character in one of his most successful novels The Commitments and The Pram, a playful and eerie peek into the life of a Polish nanny in Dublin.
I LOVE this effort to introduce evolutionary science early. The illustrations are fun and convey a concise summary of the human evolutionary story. In the back is an awesome two page infographic spread with more information to help parents answer questions and satisfy curious minds.
In this book Isabelle and her dog Pickle travel through the seasons. Every page they walk is illustrated beautifully to represent the different times of year. The illustrations are thoughtfully, seamlessly blended with the sounds of Vivaldi's four seasons. Even as an adult it's incredible to go through and hear the different seasons as well as see them - it's also an introduction to (or reminder of!) how music can truly transport us to a different place, time or season.
This colorful, fantastically illustrated book is an effort to introduce kids to the very different ways all the creatures of the world see things; at once celebrating the variety and the continuity of life.
Stories that feature cats always catch my eye, but this one is special. With dreamy illustrations, Kang tells the story of Papillion, a cat that is so fluffy (not fat) that he floats about like a feather. This becomes problematic when he finds himself outside with nothing to keep him from floating high above the treetops. His journey is one that is guaranteed to delight readers big and small.
This book was so heartwarming, I died and then came back twice and my heart was still warm. Pup and Bear touches on the existence and necessity of kindness to and teaching of young ones who may or may not "belong" to us, using soft but rich illustrations as well as, of course, wonderful words.
There is a portion of my heart that is always going to fall for a story about a girl and her cat, but the adorable Mr. Fluffernutter and his human really have a great lesson to teach. Being friends sometimes means compromise, and that's okay.
A Small Blue Whale is the kind of story I wish was around when I was young - but I'll settle for reading it again and again now, to whomever will listen. Friendship is hard won and beautiful and this book is anchored in that fact: the only way to have a friend is to be a friend. (p.s. can Lisa Mundroff illustrate my walls? So pretty!)
A book with this many great puns is too good not to love. Bonaparte and his friends remind us that even when we're falling apart, our loved ones (as well as our own indomitable will!) can always pull us together.
It seems silly that no one's thought to write a novel about technological apocalypse from the perspective of the Amish. I'm glad David Williams is the author who got there first. When the English Fall ("English" in this context referring to anyone who isn't Amish), his first novel, is written as the diary of an Amish man called Jacob. Jacob's struggles in the community of his father and his deep respect for and protection of his wife and daughter lay out an uncommon, positive representation of a life steeped in religion. With that, he succinctly exemplifies that religion is often challenged in righteous ways, and often by religious people. I commiserate with Jacob and his people as they wait to find out what the world has actually become. Their informational disconnect reflects the disillusionment that some of us feel: do I know what's really going on? What is coming? Is it even for me to know? Tapping into these anxieties may be easy, as they float so near the surface in today's climate, but Williams navigates them via Jacob with grace, contemplation, and hope instead of the usual panic.
Quick's ability to build characters that are both realistic and surprising is what gives the protagonist David Granger the agility with which he gets under your skin. He is the embodiment of that person at the party that always makes racist/sexist/homophobic/discriminatory comments, based on archaic ideals that make everyone uncomfortable and unintentionally hurts feelings. If you don't have one, you've heard a story with one in it. This book, in all its well-written, perfectly-paced, heart-wrenching-but-hilarious glory did not resolve my issues with family I morally disagree with. It did make me think about them compassionately; it reminded me that they've had lives and still have layers. Granger's layers are revealed as mysteries from his past, and he talks of the past and present and future as if you were right in front of him, hearing his last words.
Throwing away (and decimating with evidence) antiquated notions of testing animals on how well they perform human tasks and the (ridiculous) assumption that animals are 100% reactionary creatures, he lays out how evolutionary science - as well as extensive and meticulous study of both wild and captive animals - guides scientists to a better understanding of how animals function in and process the world around them. He highlights how the hubris has slowed understanding by always trying to prove a hierarchy that situates humans at the top and tells story after story of animals being underestimated by the humans who study them. An excellent balance of anecdotal and empirical evidence, the reading of the book feels like sitting a room with your favorite nature show host. Even in the spots where translation is obvious, his sassy comments and deep love of his subject show through.
I had too much to say about this book to just do a paragraph, so I have a few bullet points to avoid rambling.
- Wonderful prose, even in the darkest moments of the book.
- El Akkad's research and understanding supports every brushstroke of the story: the Bouazizi Empire and how the war came to be, the disappearance of the coasts, the roll of recruiters in a war torn republic and the misinformation that physical and ideological separation fosters.
- Intimate portrayal of the radicalization of an American into a terrorist, as well as how it's done on a wide scale. Homes and families destroyed by war leads to young anger, which is channeled back into the same war - we see it, but have we really felt it? This book brings home that faraway cycle in a way that sinks into your bones.
- He lays out a family and a character that is beautiful and pure and representative and - most importantly - American. Showing how regardless of race or language or geography the right set of conditions will turn a child into a soldier, killing and dying in the name of a cause they don't understand.
- Firsthand accounts and histories of the war bookend the chapters, providing a small portion of governmental perspective.
Bonus: favorite prologue of the year.
Hardened veteran of war, sheriff in a desolate mining town, single mom. This is Sheriff Clara Bronson of Copperhead. Clara is tied up in misconceptions when she arrives that are unraveled quickly in this town of many species, all of which used to be adversaries. Faerber deals in charming, gritty characters perfect for fans of Firefly, Saga, westerns, space westerns, mysteries, and above all - a strong female lead.
Sachar is already a household name, but this gem deserves some love. Each chapter chronicles some shenanigan in the life of a different character, all set at Wayside School. Instead of 30 or so rooms next to each other as intended, all the rooms are stacked up on each other making it into a strange skyscraper. The 13th floor may not exist, and the teachers tend to disappear. As a kid, I read these Sideways Stories until my copy fell apart.
I read this book so hard - talking out loud to myself, lots of audible gasping, gushing to confused friends, the whole shebang.
A chapter in I was being challenged, educated and transported. Generations of people have lived and died on the Matilda, a ship sent from a dying planet (referred to as "The Great Lifehouse") into the stars in hopes of finding a new home for the human race. The building of the ship's layout and operation is intricate but clear - both in technical and social terms. Strict hierarchy is greased with religious fanaticism and physically defined by the alphabetized levels of the ship. Resources are divided ruthlessly, attributing all abuses and hypocrisies - there are a lot - to The Heavens' will. The story follows Aster, a healer and field worker born into the lower deck slums of the ship with a voracious mind, and the people close to her. Soloman touches on everything in this book, but most succinct are her musings on gender with situations both intensely familiar and completely unknown to me. Like any book worth its paper, An Unkindness of Ghosts posed questions that my mind is still chewing on.
Though Elegy (Greg Rucka, 2011) is considered the making of modern Batwoman, Hydrology is where we can see her in full superhero mode, going about her superhero business. If you're unfamiliar with her history, no worries - this is the first volume after DC's New 52 reboot and her origins are weaved in, at once informing the new reader and honoring the continuity of the much beloved Elegy run. Visually, J.H. Williams III does his usual magic, but this time he also shoulders the writing, along with Haden Blackman. The result: every page of Batwoman: Hydrology is an action-packed feast as well as stimulating on a structural level.
In the first two volumes of this run, Brian Azzarello (Joker, 100 Bullets) overhauls Wonder Woman's origins from a Disneyesque take on mythological stories to a real, tangible story - one that, like Diana, you will have to find out from the Queen Hippolyta herself. Diabolical and visually stunning, Zeus' relations and offspring are more than a group of intimidating God-looking soap opera characters; they show their differences from each other as clearly as their difference from humans, making for a much more dynamic cast of characters. Though she's the most famous female superhero in history and has been written by legends for decades, Azzarello's Wonder Woman is the one that extends the strongest effort to relate to myself as a female trying to figure sh*t out. The entire six volume run is fantastic, but Blood and Guts are required reading.
The Hunting Accident is the true story of Matt Rizzo, born on the West Side of Chicago in 1913. At 18 he found himself blinded and arrested after a botched armed robbery, placed in Statesville prison right next to infamous murderer Nathan Leopold. Told from the perspective of his son Charlie who learns his father’s story only after getting into some similar trouble as a teenager, The Hunting Accident is a moving account of a strange life; one that hooks into the mind, pulling it forward into the unbelievable truth with a stimulating mix of fact, embellishment, poetry, and confession. Blair's illustrations move fluidly between reality and day dream, often conveying not only movement and actions but visual representation of emotion.
Bonus: insight into one of the biggest murder trials in Chicago history.
Elmore is a porcupine, covered with prickly quills that make it a little difficult for him to make friends. Though he enjoys solitude, he does long for some company. While talking with his uncle about the issue, he has a brilliant idea: to make quill pens for all of his forest peers! The critters love their new pens, and write him wonderful notes. Elmore understands that the forest critters are only afraid of the quills because they are new and unfamiliar. His lovely idea introduces his quills to his potential friends in a positive light.
Bonus: Hundred Acre Wood-reminiscent illustrations that make me warm inside.
Ewing's poetry is addictive and sharp, perched gracefully in the doorway to abrasive. She writes about Chicago as if she was in the dirt when the first settlers came. As if her observations come from the distant past, situated in a corner of the city where you can see past now, far into the hazy future. pg 18 and pg 72
Yes, this book is as fun as it looks. August & Charlie zoom around town together in a robotic dog suit saving people from peril and will win you over in no time - especially if you enjoy cat jokes and bickering genius types a la Pinky and the Brain. The real star, however, is their loyal servant and sidekick: a sentient litter box robot. Ian Boothby (Futurama, The Powerpuff Girls, The Simpsons, etc) writes snappy, hilarious dialogue and provides the page-turning how're-they-gonna-make-it-out-of-this-one quality of any good action comic, taking care to weave in lessons on friendship and acceptance along the way.
The Power, in all its gruesome, cathartic beauty is, like many books, a vision of the lessons we hope, hope, hope we will never have to learn in earnest. Perspective switches from one well-crafted, dynamic character to the next as the world realigns itself around them and as they try to realign the world. Alderman's fourth novel, written as she was mentored by Margaret Atwood, is defined by a grandeur and precision that exists alongside a distinct lack of ego - the absence of that ego allowing questions and theories that have never been pondered to unfurl and take root.
Disclaimer: Be prepared for a few hours of slack-jawed, mindblown uselessness after finishing this book.
Pulled from one volume of an early 70's DC horror pulp series, Vaughn (Alex + Ada) surrounds Deadman with a small cast of truly 3 dimensional characters and a foreboding, very haunted gothic mansion. Berenice, a human who has the ability to see spirits and her cohort Sam, a non-binary antiques expert unravel the mystery of Glencourt as Berenice's boyfriend is off somewhere being blonde, writing a novel and appearing occasionally to be mysterious and broody. Unabashed gothic romance with the added bonus/pain of a satisfying but creatively open ending, leaving this bookseller to wonder....what's next for Deadman?
Rowan Black, like many great protagonists, has a very, very long history. This history is revealed in mysterious slivers, as she tries to lead a life very anchored in the present as Detective Black of the Portsmouth Police. Said life is interrupted when a crazed man requests her by name in the middle of a hostage situation, claiming to know her true identity. The rest is, as they say, spoilers. This character, in the hands of a pro like Rucka, has endless potential both as a hard-boiled female detective and a supernatural entity with eons of friends and enemies. Also, I dare you to look at Nicola Scott's art in this book and not buy it.
Vol. 1 The Faust Act - Cohesive and clear world building, without sacrificing dialogue. I was immediately drawn to the the protagonist fangirl, Laura, as well as her partner-in-sleuthing Cassandra and closed the first volume with a ravenous need to open the second.
Vol.2 Fandemonium - This volume is where Laura's voice and struggle are crystallized, and her every line either cuts you to the bone or sends you cheering.
Vol. 3 Commercial Suicide - With the base plot heartily established, there is room to have a bit of fun switching artists and fleshing out supporting characters. This kind of volume could have very easily been subpar, a victory lap, but instead Gillen took the opportunity to deepen character bonds and buttress the mythos.
Vol. 4 Rising Action - This volume rips you from the cozy world building of the previous and thrusts you into the, well, Rising Action. The self awareness that has been subtly steeping throughout the series blossoms and serves as the comedic relief for the implosion of every thread of plot since page one. Combined with incredibly colorful and engaging panels, the fourth volume of The Wicked + The Divine is an instant favorite and I will be waiting with baited breath for the next installment.