Koko Be Good: complex and satisfying graphic novel about finding meaning in life

Jen Wang's Koko Be Good continues publisher FirstSecond's amazing run of thought-provoking, challenging graphic novels for adults. It's the story of Koko, a "free spirit" in San Francisco who trades on her manic energy and good looks to bumble by in mooched accommodations, borrowed clothes, and sponged meals. Then she meets Jon, a driven young man who is about to sell everything he owns to move to Peru, where his girlfriend is working in the remote orphanage her mother grew up in.

Jon isn't sure about his move, but he feels he needs to be. He quit his band after finishing college (they're now becoming an indie sensation, which puts some urgency into his choice to succeed at something other than music), and now he's not sure what his life is for or what it will come to.

When Jon meets Koko (she steals his tape recorder after a raucous performance at the Zeitgeist in the Mission), he finds himself subject to her withering scorn and tough questions. But the interrogation isn't one-way -- in the process of criticizing Jon's do-gooder ambitions, Koko comes to realize how empty her own life is.

The two of them enter into a struggle to find meaning and happiness -- to be "good" -- and embark on a difficult journey that involves a huge cast of minor characters all engaged in their own existential battles.

All the above makes the book sound moody and brooding, but it's anything but. Koko Be Good brims with manic energy and comedy, a complex story engagingly told with ingenious layouts and lovely art.

Koko Be Good


  1. Seeing as it’s not available for two weeks, is there another you would particularly recommend checking out from FirstSecond’s collection? For the uninitiated who probably only has the opportunity to read one in the immediate future.

  2. Oh. My. God. Thanks so much for sharing this! Ten years ago I fell in love with a very imaginative and beautifully drawn online comic called Strings of Fate which went unfinished after just a few chapters. I loved the style, and always wondered where the creator got to! Turns out this is her! Yay! I am so buying this. And stalking her XD. Her style is so fun and warm!

    1. Ah! Glad I am not the only one to remember Strings of Fate. It was gorgeous, and I am sad it eventually got taken down (Though I don’t know how the author intended to write her way out of the Prawn Invasion). I recognized the art-style here right away.

  3. When was the last time the Zeitgeist had live music? Or am I thinking of the Kilowatt? It’s all starting to fade…

    Return to me O Youth!

  4. I did not know Jen Wangs, but I do like the themes.

    In another graphic style, a story about the complexity of living, but with some darker overtones, Locals, by Bryan Wood and Ryan Kelly (Onipress). _Locals_ is a compelling graphic novel about a nomadic girl searching for she-doesn’t-even-know, and we follow her from one city to another, over twelve years.

  5. An early commenter wondered what books to published by first second would be recommended by other readers. My favorite is Gus and the Gang, a Western/romance/crime/buddy comic by French artist Christophe Blain (translated to English, necessarily, as I don’t know a lick of French.) Comics as a medium would justified by that publication alone, as far as I’m concerned.

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