Being a compendium of some of my most popular graphic novel reviews from the past year, from The Encyclopedia of Early Earth to RASL
Afterlife with Archie: Escape from Riverdale
More than a silly gag -- the creators really do play out a grim, tense, serious zombie story here, albeit leavened with some comeuppances for Riverdale's most annoying recurring characters.
Saga, Vol. 3
It's been nearly a year since the publication of volume two of Brian K Vaughan and Fiona Staples' spectacular Saga comic; but at last, volume three is at hand.
The Cartoon Introduction to Statistics
Tackles both the task of providing a grounding in statistical concepts (mean/median, standard deviation, null hypothesis, random sampling, confidence intervals, etc) and explaining in clear and exciting ways why you'd care about any of this stuff.
The Gettysburg Address: A Graphic Adaptation
Nuanced history of the issues of race and slavery in America, weaving together disparate threads of military, geopolitical, technological, legal, Constitutional, geographic and historical factors that came together to make the Civil War happen at the moment when it occurred, that brought it to an end, and that left African Americans with so little justice in its wake
The Return of Zita the Spacegirl
In The Return of Zita, Hatke wraps up the three-book story arc so neatly and beautifully that I could have been happy if he'd left it off there, but (without giving away spoilers), it's clear by the last page that there's more to come.
What If?: Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions
XKCD creator Randall Munroe has announced that Houghton Mifflin will collect his amazing What If? science columns into a book called What If?: Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions, to be published in September 2014. It will include in-depth answers to questions that he hasn't yet answered online, as well as expanded and updated versions of his previous columns.
Hyperbole and a Half: Unfortunate Situations, Flawed Coping Mechanisms, Mayhem, and Other Things That Happened
Reprints many of Allie Brosh's best-loved pieces, and, excitingly, includes some all-new work which I can't wait to read. Brosh is unlike anyone else in the field today, an Internet-era treasure, an unexpected wonder of the 21st century. I
The Encyclopedia of Early Earth: A Novel
A deceptively simple, lyrically told set of interlocking stories of creation, hubris, magic and destiny. It's pieced together from bits of the Old Testament, a little Greek mythology, and some of this and that, told as a series of stories that nest and dovetail with one another in a way that is at once unpretentious and straightforward, but also complex, meaty, and ultimately very satisfying.
DMZ The Deluxe Edition Book One
Large, beautifully produced, gorgeous hardcover collects the first 12 issues of the comic -- the equivalent of the first two trade paperback collections.
Ted Marx is a physicist, and he's a genius. That's what he's been told all his life, ever since he started skipping grades in elementary school. It's only natural that he'd be recruited directly out of grad school and into a world-famous physics institute, but once he reaches it, he flames out. Ted Marx appears to have had all his significant physics insights while he was still an adolescent, and whatever well he visited for those insights has run dry.
Fictional account of the lives of some of the (real) Templars who escaped the king's roundup; in this telling, they become badass ronins who wander the land, determined to clear the order's name and reclaim its treasure. What flows out of this is a classic caper story filled with glorious and horrible swordfights, skullduggery, torture, romance, banditry, piety, bravery and treachery. I came to this not knowing much about the Templars and caring about them even less, but found that once I picked the (massive) book up, I couldn't put it down. This is some great and exciting storytelling.
A self-published epic from Jeff Smith, albeit one that's much darker than Bone. Rasl, the main character, is a art-thief on the run from his past. Specifically, he's running away from his former career as a Tesla-obsessed Defense Department physicist who discovered something in Tesla's notebooks that led him to believe he had it in his power to create the ultimate weapon -- or the end to war altogether
Witch Doctor, Vol. 1: Under the Knife
The travails of Dr Vincent Morrow, a metaphysical epidemiologist who specializes in tracking down and eradicating transdimensional pestilences, ably assisted by Penny Dreadful (a possessed former art students whose internal demon feeds on pandimensional horrors) and Eric Gast, a paramedic who's learning the metaphysics trade.
The Sandman Omnibus Vol. 1
A Wrinkle in Time: The Graphic Novel
L'Engle's charm and gift was in her ability to marry the abstract with the numinous -- to infuse stories about math and physics with so much heart, heartbreak, bravery, sorrow and joy that they changed everyone who read them. Larson does a brilliant job of capturing this crucial element of L'Engle's style.
This One Summer
Rose and Windy are a pair of adolescent girls who are "summer friends," meeting every year in a lakeside cottage-town where their families rent adjacent summer places. This year, Rose and Windy's lives are in the liminal state between girlhood and adolescence, something they're both painfully aware of, but unable to readily admit.
The Glorkian Warrior Delivers a Pizza
My six year old literally howled with laughter as I read this to her at bedtime, and kicked her legs in the air, and thumped the pillow -- tears of laughter rolled down her cheeks. After reading this to her twice at bedtime, I had to declare a moratorium on further bedtime reads because it wound her up too much to sleep.
Delilah Dirk and the Turkish Lieutenant
Set in 1908, this volume opens with the hapless Lieutenant Erdemoglu Selim reporting to the sultan about the new prisoner he's just gotten through questioning: a woman adventurer who claims to be the daughter of a British diplomat, skilled in many of the world's swordfighting techniques, fearsome fighter and adventurer, and expert escapologist. The Sultan is contemptuous when the Lieutenant reports that she's allowed herself to be imprisoned for the express purpose of breaking out and stealing some of his valuable scrolls, but he's alarmed when she does break out.