Addams’ Apple: The New York Cartoons of Charles Addams

Addams’ Apple: The New York Cartoons of Charles Addams. Pomegranate, 2020. 9780764999369. 160pp including an index, a preface, and a forward.

This is a really nice, geographically-themed collection of Addams’ single panel comics. Most are black and white, but there are a few color pieces, too. There aren’t many Addams Family strips — it’s a chance to explore the range of his style, and to see just how great a cartoonist he was. The man has a lot of fun with perspective, his ink washes are amazing, and his sense of humor surprised me in a few instances. This would make a great gift, or be an amazing discovery on a library shelf.

 

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Graphic Novel Review: Lupus by Fredrik Peters

Lupus by Fredrik Peters. Translator: Edward Gauvin. Top Shelf, 2019. 9781603094597. 392pp.

This non-epic science fiction story starts with Lupus on a long, drug-fueled interstellar fishing trip with his friend Tony. In a bar Lupus meets Sanaa, a sad-looking but radiant woman who asks him to take her with them. They do. Saying much more about the plot would ruin the story, which involves going on the run, hiding out, alien biology, and folks not sure what they want or need from each other. It’s intense in moments yet relaxed for long stretches, and I loved the way the whole thing unfolded.

This is a mammoth black and white graphic novel originally published as four separate books in France. I’ve read and enjoyed Peters’ books that have been translated into English in the last few years, but this is my absolute favorite. His inks remind me of Doug Tennapel’s old black and white comics — they have incredible energy, they’re beautiful to look at, and they absolutely serve the story. I hope you like this book as much as I did.

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Aster and the Accidental Magic by Thom Pico and Karensac

Aster and the Accidental Magic by Thom Pico (story and script) and Karensac (story and art). Translated by Anne and Owen Smith. Random House Graphic, 2020. 9780593124178. 224pp.

Aster and her family just moved to the country. Her older brother gets their online game working, but then has to leave for a few weeks in the city. As he departs he warns Aster about monsters. The news is full of stories about emergency measures during the crow migration, which Aster’s mother is hoping to help with her Robo-Bird project. (They’re not normal crows, and humans have messed up their reproductive cycle, causing them to become violent and destructive.)

Forced to go outside and explore by her dad, Aster meets a granny with woolly dogs, one of the old shepherds who protect the mountain. Aster gets one of the woolly dogs for a pet, names him Buzz, and their  adventures together begin. In the first, they meet a trickster god who grants wishes. (All does not go well of course, but it’s pretty funny.) Monsters make an appearance as well as the crows. That’s just the first half of the book. The second half involves a magical fox and the seasons, and of course the granny and her dogs.

This book reminds of both Adventure Time and Luke Pearson’s Hilda graphic novels, though it’s very much its own thing. Recommended for kids and comic lovers everywhere.

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Graphic Novel Review: Infidel by Pornsak Pichetshote, art by Aaron Campbell

Infidel by Pornsak Pichetshote, art by Aaron Campbell, Colorist / editor José Villarrubia, Letterers & design by Jeff Powell. Introduction by Tananarive Due, afterward by Jeff Lemire. Image, 2018. 9781534308367. Collects #1 – #5. Publisher’s Rating: Rated M / Mature.

Aisha and her fiancé Tom move into a cheap apartment with his mom and daughter, Kris. His mother is manipulative and seems more than a little racist toward Aisha, who is a muslim. But Aisha defends Tom’s mom and wants to give her a chance. The building was the site of a bombing / murder and it still hasn’t been repaired. Aisha is having terrifying visions that are clearly more than that, with terrible results. Then others start to see things, too.

The opening pages are scary and geek friendly. I won’t spoil the former, but I will say there’s a SARLACC pit bundt cake that looks terrific. Campbell’s art has a spooky vibe that’s exacerbated by Villarubia’s colors, especially when the creatures appear. Great book. Terrifying.

 

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Graphic Novel Review: The House by Paco Roca

The House by Paco Roca. Translator: Andrea Rosenberg. Fantagraphics, 2019. 9781683962632. 132pp.

Three siblings — José, Carla, and Vicente — return to their father’s place in the country with their families, after his death. As they work to fix it up, they remember him.

My favorite thing about the book is the way everyone’s memories occur in panels alongside and sometimes with moments in the present. It feels just as natural as the conversations and relationships in the book.

I’m a huge fan of Roca’s work, and I’ve read everything by him that’s been translated into English. This is right up there with Portugal as my favorite. It’s quiet, touching, and entirely adult in the best way possible.

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Graphic Novel Review: The Phantom Twin by Lisa Brown

The Phantom Twin by Lisa Brown. First Second, 2020. 9781626729247. 206pp.

Conjoined twins Isabel and Jane working a sideshow until a surgeon tries to separate them. The operatin fails and Jane dies. Isabel can still see her though; she’s a ghost who’s always with her sister, no matter what.

Isabel tries to get used to her prosthetic limbs as she finds a new way to make a living. She no longer fits in with the other members of the sideshow, but when she goes to a tattoo parlor with the tattooed lady, she meets an artist who thinks she’s pretty great. A romance develops. He gives her prosthetics which help her to create a new act. All doesn’t go according to plan, though it wraps up nicely.

Brown’s other books include Goldfish Ghost by Lemony Snicket and Long Story Short, in which she retells classic books in three panel comic strips.

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Kids Graphic Novels

Don’t Worry, Bee Happy by Ross Burach. Acorn (Scholastic), 2019. 9781338504927. 48pp.

Cute bees, a grumpy frog, and three short stories make this a great comic for early readers. My favorite is Best Friends Picture Day in which they try to convince Froggy to smile.

 

Dewdrop by Katie O’Neil. Oni Press, 2020. 9781620106891. 40pp.

O’Neil’s picture book is about a kind axolotl preparing a cheerleading routine while trying to help her friends. It’s a simple story in which she encourages them to see their strengths and embrace their creativity. The drawings are adorable.

Drew and Jot: Dueling Doodles by Art Baltazar. KABOOM!, 2019. 9781684154302. Over 100 pages.

Baltazar (DC Super Pets, Tiny Titans) is one of my favorite kids comics artists. If you ever see him at a con, go check out his crayon drawings, they’re amazing. And so is this graphic novel about a young comics artist named Andrew. His new friend Foz draws comics, too. As they plan a crossover for their characters, Drew and the evil Doctor Danger, the characters jump books all on their own. Then Andrew’s sister starts drawing in his notebook, and things get really out of hand as her alter ego, Bombastic Fantastic, takes over.

It’s fun, Baltazar excels at drawing fun comics in the kids’ style, AND there’s a giant poop monster.

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Graphic Novel Review: Grass by Keum Suk Gendry-Kim.

Grass by Keum Suk Gendry-Kim. Translated by Janet Hong. Drawn & Quarterly, 2019. 9781770463622. 480pp.

This is the story of Lee Ok-Sun, a Korean woman who was kidnapped when she was fifteen. She was forced into sexual slavery as a comfort woman in the service of Japanese soldiers in Manchuria during World War II.

In present day she lives in the House of Sharing in South Korea’s Gyeonggi Province, a nursing home for former comfort women, where the author gets to know her. Granny Ok-Sun talks about her life as child — she was so poor she once tried to feed her little brothers the bark of pine trees. Eventually her parents gave her up for adoption to a couple with a restaurant who said they’d send her to school. Instead she was treated as a slave, and eventually ran away. She was working in a tavern when she was kidnapped.

Keum Suk Gendry-Kim shows Lee Ok-Sun’s time as a comfort woman in detail, and it’s horrible, but the focus is always on Lee’s survival and humanity. She always had friends, and even managed to laugh once in a while. After the war she made a life for herself in China and returned to Korea for the first time in fifty-five years in 1996.

For me personally, I wish my mother-in-law were still alive to tell me a little more about her life under Japanese occupation in Korea, especially about the extreme hardships she endured. (I do know that her elder sister married very young to avoid being forced to become a comfort woman herself.) Thanks to Lee Ok-Sun for sharing her story, and to Gendry-Kim for her amazing storytelling and delicate touch.

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Graphic Novel Review: Naomi: Season One by Brian Michael Bendis and David F. Walker, art by Jamal Campbell

Naomi: Season One by Brian Michael Bendis and David F. Walker, art by Jamal Campbell. DC Comics, 2019. 9781401294953. Collects #1-#6. http://www.powells.com/book/-9781401294953?partnerid=34778&p_bt

Nothing much happens in the small town where Naomi lives, but Superman just had a fight there yesterday. And, unbelievably, she missed her chance to see him. Adopted herself, she is obsessed with Superman, and the fact that the news didn’t even report the incident. Talking to her friends, she hears about a superhero event around the time they were born, which has become something of an urban legend. This leads her to Dee, the local car mechanic who seems to know something about it. And of course this puts her on the path to finding out out who she really is and where she’s from — an entertaining start to what feels like it’s going to be quite a hero’s journey.

This YA graphic novel feels like it hit the sweet spot between longtime DC fans and folks who don’t read superhero comics. I can’t imagine anyone who loved any of the better Marvel universe movies, child or adult, wouldn’t enjoy it.

 

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Graphic Novel Review: Ripples: A Detective’s Diary by Wai Wai Pang

Ripples: A Detective’s Diary by Wai Wai Pang. Peow, 2017. 9789187325298. 150pp.

Thirteen-year-old Luke Phelps is missing. Each page in this graphic consists of field notes from a Big City Police Department notebook. The pages show what Detectives Kylie and Pan find, plus what they learn in their interviews. All entries are time stamped. It’s very smart and well designed, and the resolution isn’t scary or horrific. I loved this as an adult — I’ve never seen a graphic novel like it — and I would have loved it as a kid when I devoured innocent mysteries.

Worth noting: even the copyright page is brilliant. (I’m including it in the review, too.)

 

 

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