Moon and Bá's Daytripper is a masterful novel by any metric

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Daytripper by Gabriel Bá and Fábio Moon Vertigo 2011, 256 pages, 6.7 x 10.2 x 0.5 inches (softcover) $12 Buy a copy on Amazon

I don’t think it would be too hyperbolic of me to say Daytripper is one of the best graphic novels I’ve ever read. It’s a big story told in small moments. The epic, emotional core is powerful and life affirming, but brothers Fábio Moon and Gabriel Bá get there through the lightest touch of character.

Without giving too much away (because there is so much to discover), the story is about Brás de Oliva Domingos, an aspiring novelist stuck writing newspaper obituaries. His life is both unique and unremarkable, and we meet Brás at a different age in each chapter. Theses ages are told in a non-linear fashion, and mostly feature life-changing moments. The twist is that these moments rarely seem life changing as they are happening, as is usually the case in real life. We live each day as if it is any other, only noting the important bits later.

For Moon and Bá, recognizing the personal is a matter of life or death. Brás spends most of the book pining for more in his life, always dissatisfied with where he is. It’s as if he’s constantly waiting for his “real life” to begin. Moon and Bá suggest that life isn’t the point when you finally find the success you’ve been craving, or when you finally meet the love of your life, or any number of other things. Read the rest

Mooncop – A story with existential pathos that we Earth-dwellers can relate to. Released today!

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Mooncop by Tom Gauld Drawn and Quarterly 2016, 96 pages, 6.6 x 8.1 x 0.6 inches (hardcover) $20 Buy a copy on Amazon

The great Moon colonization project was a failure. The few diehards who remain in their prefab pod-like houses are going back to Earth. That leaves the unnamed lunar police officer with barely anything to do as operations wind down. Author/illustrator Tom Gauld is in top form with his just-released Mooncop, telling a simple story with a deep layer of existential pathos that even we Earth-dwellers can relate to. Read the rest

Mighty Jack: a new series from Ben "Zita the Spacegirl" Hatke

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Ben Hatke's Zita the Spacegirl trilogy was one of the best kids' comics of the new century (and it's headed to TV!), and he's been very productive in the years since, but his new series, Mighty Jack feels like the true successor to Zita: a meaty volume one that promises and delivers all the buckle you can shake a swash at, with more to come.

Nimona – A modern medieval world where the bad guys are good and the good guys often aren't

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Nimona by Noelle Stevenson HarperTeen 2015, 272 pages, 6 x 9 x 0.7 inches (softcover) From $8 Buy a copy on Amazon

A few years ago, I had the good fortune of discovering Noelle Stevenson's comics through an interview she did with Danielle Coresetto of the webcomic Girls with Slingshots. I read Nimona when it was available in full online and fell absolutely head over heels in love with the comic, blasting through it from start to finish in one sitting. When I revisited the site a few months later to show it to a friend, I was delighted to find out that it had been picked up by HarperTeen and was to be published later that year – no one deserved a publishing deal more than this incredibly talented illustrator and writer.

The graphic novel is set in a fresh fictional world of Stevenson's imagining, inspired by the medieval fantasy scene but infused with science and technology. The titular character, Nimona, is a shape-shifting young girl who has foisted herself upon her favorite super-villain, Ballister Blackheart, as his sidekick and general mischief-maker. In a Despicable Me-esque fashion, the moral and big-hearted Blackheart has dedicated his life to grand (and mostly failed) schemes against the Institution of Law Enforcement & Heroics, a shadowy corporation with shadowy motives that ousted Blackheart years before. Nimona herself is brash, mischievous, and reckless – and in a split second, can turn into a rhino to smash through a steel door, or into a dragon to fly off with a massive chest of gold. Read the rest

Big Trouble in Little China continues, in comic book form, with John Carpenter still at the helm

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Big Trouble in Little China Vol. 1 by John Carpenter (author), Eric Powell (author) and Brian Churilla (illustrator) BOOM! Studios 2015, 128 pages, 8.6 x 10.2 x 0.4 inches (softcover) $11 Buy a copy on Amazon

(Do I really need to give a spoiler alert for a movie that came out in 1986?)

“Have you paid your dues Jack? Yessir, the check is in the mail.” After shaking the pillars of heaven and defeating Lo Pan, Jack Burton drove off into the night with a monster sneaking up on him from the back of his truck. That’s sadly where this incredible movie ended. It joined the ranks of other cult '80s movies bold enough to tease a sequel that would never come to be. Thankfully much like Lo Pan was in the film, this story isn’t quite dead yet.

The comic picks up right where the movie ended with Jack driving his semi, the Pork-Chop Express, in the rain monologuing into his CB. From there it spirals into ninja punching, demon spewing, and Jack Burton awesomeness. What makes me especially happy is that this is a true extension of the story, as the film's director John Carpenter is back, working with the Goon’s Eric Powell, with Brian Churilla doing the artwork. It’s an awesome creative team up. Comic Jack is a caricature of his Kurt Russell counterpart, which seems oddly fitting and adds to the zaniness of the world.

Fans of the movie will definitely be into this comic. Read the rest

Margaret Atwood's new comic book is "bonkers"

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Margaret Atwood, author of The Handmaid's Tale and Oryx and Crake, has completed her first graphic novel, Angel Catbird, with Johnnie Christmas and Tamra Bonvillain, about a superheroic anthropomorphic winged feline. It's bonkers, but...

...to Atwood, it isn’t strange at all. Before she a venerable elder stateswoman of literature and the winner of the Booker Prize and the Arthur C. Clarke Award, she told me, she was a comic book fan who grew up devouring superhero books about heroes like Superman, Batman and Captain Marvel. “I’m a child of the ‘40s and that’s when superhero comics were really, really big,” said Atwood. Nor is she a stranger to making her own sequential art; she wrote and illustrated a children’s book called Up in the Tree in the 1970s, and published an intermittent series of autobiographical strips called “BookTour Comix” on her website. “I’ve been making my own comics since I was little,

A wonderful quote: “I’m so old. Why do anything that isn’t fun?” Read the rest

Awkward Zombie – From the webcomic that parodies video games of all kinds

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Awkward Zombie: We're Going To Be Rich by Katie Tiedrich 2012, 164 pages (softcover) From $10 Buy a copy on Amazon Or $19 from Level Up Studios

Awkward Zombie is one of my favorite webcomics. Creator Katie Tiedrich writes a comic that focuses on parodying video games of all kinds, with the occasional strip drawn from poking fun at her own life. Fans of video games will find a lot to laugh at here. We’re Going to be Rich! collects the first 100 comics originally posted to Tiedrich’s website, Awkward Zombie, and is available in softcover or special edition hardcover format.

In this first volume, Tiedrich primarily writes about Nintendo games like Super Smash Bros and various entries in the Legend of Zelda series, with other games popping up occasionally. If you’re a fan of those games you’ll likely love every panel, as Tiedrich has a great ability to point out the funny logical problems present in these games. One of my favorite such comics makes a joke about the potential difficulties with surfing in Pokemon. Even if you’ve never played a particular game she’s referencing, the jokes tend to be broad enough to understand by more general video game fans. You may have never played World of Warcraft, but if you’ve played any role-playing game you may understand the humor in a large character trying to fit into stolen armor that logically should be much too small for them.

Tiedrich’s art stye is perfectly suited to the sort of sideways world parody she excels at. Read the rest

Bone is possibly one of the best fantasy series ever told

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Bone: Coda (25th Anniversary Special) by Jeff Smith Cartoon Books 2016, 136 pages, 6.4 x 8.9 x 0.5 inches (softcover) $13 Buy a copy on Amazon

If you haven’t read Jeff Smith’s Bone series, just stop. Stop reading right now, mid sentence, and go pick up his masterpiece. It’s wonderful. Quite possibly one of the greatest fantasy stories ever told. Once you’ve read that and fallen in love with Smith’s humor and characters, then you can appreciate this follow-up that gives you a reason to revisit the Bone Brothers.

If you aren’t familiar with the Bone series, this coda won’t interest you. It’s a companion piece that includes interviews of Smith, an oral history by comic historian Stephen Weiner, and early illustrations of the Bone characters. I found it compelling to hear that Bone was a story that almost wasn’t. But through determination, some luck, and careful maneuvering, Smith was able to get the comic off the ground. It’s great inspiration for any independent artist out there.

But the best part about this book is that there’s a new Bone story to be had! The brothers and Bartleby are still in route back to Boneville, when in true Bone fashion things go awry. It’s not a long story, or a deep one, but it’s a reminder about everything that was so great about this series. It’s a little heartbreaking that Smith makes a point to define coda as “the concluding passage of a piece or movement, typically forming an addition to the base structure.” Hopefully we’ll see more from this world, but for now this is a pretty good sendoff. Read the rest

The US sics its robot drone army on Canada’s water supply in "We Stand on Guard"

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We Stand on Guard by Brian K. Vaughan (author), Steve Skroce (artist) and Matt Hollingsworth (artist) Image Comics 2016, 160 pages, 7.3 x 11.1 x 0.6 inches (hardcover) $17 Buy a copy on Amazon

You know those cheeky jokes about the United States invading Canada? No one is laughing in Brian K. Vaughn’s We Stand on Guard, an extremely tense, often brutal, military sci-fi thriller with an obvious political point to make.

Some 100 years in the future, an allegedly Canadian drone strike on the White House destroys it, killing the president. The US responds with everything it’s got while Canada screams false flag attack, an excuse for the US to come after Canada’s precious water resources (which, surprise, the US is plumb out of). The US deploys its immense drone arsenals, including giant, stompy mecha robots, and “hoser ships,” aerial tankers that fly over Canada sucking up all of her water. The story in the book revolves around a group of Canadian guerilla fighters trying to repel the US occupation.

While the subject matter is intense and the pacing of the book rarely lets you catch your breath, there is levity, too. There are plenty of insider Canadian jokes, a character from Quebec whose French dialog is never translated, and an ongoing bit about Superman having Canadian roots (he was co-created by Canadian artist Joseph Shuster). And while there is plenty of action, with everything from skirmish combat to giant, all-out battlefield hellfire, this is a very dialog-driven book and a book that is chalk full of interesting speculative tech and a believable near-future world. Read the rest

Building Stories – Chris Ware's magnum opus includes 14 lavishly presented stories in different formats, all in one box

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Building Stories by Chris Ware Pantheon 2012, 260 pages, 11.7 x 16.6 x 1.9 inches (hardcover, softcovers, boxed) $31 Buy a copy on Amazon

Chris Ware is renowned as the kind of comic artist who makes you expect more from the genre. For nearly three decades, his unfussy, formalized style has given birth to cult strips such as Rusty Brown and Quimby The MouseM. Despite his style being modeled after the simplicity of Tintin in order to express emotion in as universal a way as possible, his style is a vehicle for the minutiae of human struggle. Building Stories is no different.

Largely comprised of strips previously published in national newspapers, but also featuring unreleased material, Building Stories is Ware's magnum opus – 14 lavishly presented stories in one beautifully designed box, itself adorned with extra strips and illustrations. The separation of the stories into physically distinct objects is intended to allow the reader to acquaint themselves with the characters in any order they choose.

Revolving around the lives of the inhabitants of an apartment block in Chicago, his pet themes of social alienation, excessive rumination and the pervasive feeling of being railroaded by mundanity are all present and correct. A number of archetypes populate the building – the lonely old lady, the bickering couple, the single young woman, but Ware imbues each with its own identity.

Arguably the most prominent character is the young woman who has a prosthetic leg, observed at various unassuming yet pivotal moments in her life, whether she's summer house sitting, lying awake at night thinking of her newborn child, or trying to overcome her anxiety in a writing class. Read the rest

The White Donkey – From the online comic series about the existential crisis of a military experience

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The White Donkey: Terminal Lance by Maximlian Uriarte Little, Brown and Company 2016, 288 pages, 7 x 10.5 x 1 inches $15 Buy a copy on Amazon

Maximillian Uriarte served four years in the Marine Corps infantry and went on two combat deployments to Iraq. While on active duty, he created an online comic strip, Terminal Lance, which grew from a small following to being published in official armed forces publications. In The White Donkey, which he calls his “thesis project,” he tells a story about the existential crisis of the military experience and what it means to enlist during a time of war. Subjects like hazing and PTSD are covered in the course of the story as he explores what might drive a Marine to suicide.

We follow Abe, a young, white middle-class kid who enlists after high school for want of a direction, trying to find something better to do with his life. He makes a friend in another “grunt,” Garcia, who’s there because there are no better paths for him. The contrast is stark. Garcia: “I didn’t have shit else going for me, you know? I was with the wrong crowd a lot, I’d probably be in prison by now if not here.”

Abe’s privilege is shown by his encounter with an Iraqi policeman who tells him: “I have met many of your type over the last few years, coming here to fulfill some personal conquest, but you never stop to think about how arrogant you are. Read the rest

How to Talk to Girls at Parties – Neil Gaiman at his best

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How to Talk to Girls at Parties by Neiman Gaiman (author), Gabriel Bá (illustrator), and Fábio Moon (illustrator) Dark Horse Books 2016, 64 pages, 6.9 x 10.5 x 0.4 inches $12 Buy a copy on Amazon

How to Talk to Girls at Parties is an adaptation of the Neil Gaiman short story of the same name, originally published in his collection Fragile Things. As adaptations go, this one tells the story pretty exactly as it was done by Gaiman. Two teens named Enn and Vic go to a party with the intention of picking up girls. Vic is handsome and confident, while Enn is shy and awkward. Enn doesn’t know how to talk to girls, and this becomes the central problem of the story. His attempts to seem cool and desirable are both humorous and relatable to anybody who has ever tried talking to a potential love interest. As the night moves on, it becomes clear that something is amiss at this party, but exactly what is unknown to Enn, and a little ambiguous to the reader.

I really like this book. At first glance it might seem like an odd choice for a comic – the story doesn’t reach the heights of some of Gaiman’s other work, for example. But it’s short and sweet and so unique. The story is Gaiman at his best in terms of information release and character moments. You’re never completely ahead of the plot and it is so easy to sympathize with Enn’s awkwardness. Read the rest

Video: Why Alan Moore's Watchmen is "unfilmable"

Kristian Williams created this compelling video essay analyzing why Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons's Watchmen was "unfilmable" without, well, ruining it.

"If we only see comics in relation to movies then the best that they will ever be is films that do not move," Moore once said.

Read the rest

Dark Night – Paul Dini's chilling autobiographical Batman tale

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Dark Night: A True Batman Story by Paul Dini (author) and Eduardo Risso (illustrator) Vertigo 2016, 128 pages, 6.9 x 10.4 x 0.5 inches $14 Buy a copy on Amazon

Batman the Animated Series was perhaps the cartoon of my childhood. I remember watching it when it premiered, and followed it through its entire run. While I’ve loved the movies, and the comics, Batman for me will always be the voice of Kevin Conroy, and the Joker will always be Mark Hamill. I owe my love for Batman to this wonderful show that Paul Dini helped create, which is why I was so struck to read his chilling autobiographical Batman tale.

Like myself and many others, Dini too was hugely influenced by Batman through his childhood. The beginning of the book establishes how comics became a coping mechanism for Dini as he navigated through the world with social anxiety. His lonely but successful life is thrown upside down one night when he was mugged and beaten within an inch of his life.

Dini’s story is all about coming to grips with a world that can be cruel, dealing with demons, and finding a way to overcome. It’s a Batman story that doesn’t take place in the Batman universe. I found it tremendously moving, the artwork beautiful, and I highty recommend it. – JP LeRoux Read the rest

Kickstarting an indie graphic novel about John Brown and Harper's Ferry

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Wilfred Santiago and Sanlida Cheng are comics pros who've worked for the likes of Marvel, DC and Fantagraphics, but for "Thunderbolt: An American Tale," their dramatization of the life of John Brown and the militant abolitionist uprising at Harper's Ferry, they've decided to go indie and take it to Kickstarter. Read the rest

Sex Criminals Volume Three: in which a dirty caper story becomes something much, much more

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The first two volumes of Matt Fraction and Chip Zdarsky's Sex Criminals were a dirty romp: a pair of lovers who discover that they can stop time at the moment of orgasm start robbing banks to save a local library from demolition, and run into a posse of other time-stopping fuckers who are set against them. But in volume three, Three the Hard Way, the story transcends the sex and the jokes to take a hard, wet look at what humans do when we do sex.

Saga Volume 6: Proof that awesome, weird, sexy space-opera can be produced to a schedule

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Brian K Vaughan and Fiona Staples' comic Saga blew the lid off comics when they started publishing it with the creator-friendly folks at Image, producing two graphic novels' worth of material in as many years; but then there was the long drought while we waited for book three (spoiler: worth the wait), and since then, they've hit a driving, relentless annual schedule, culminating in the publication, last week, of Volume 6, which is all that we've come to love from the series and then some.

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