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Facing the demands of the holiday season (parties, shopping, eating, etc.) led me to read comics almost exclusively for the past few months. The format is fantastic if you don’t have a lot of time to devote to a longer novel—you can satisfy your cravings for great stories that can be read in a short amount of time, and the visual format provides its own unique pleasures. Here are some recent selections you may enjoy…
Dear Creature by Jonathan Case
This promising debut tells the tale of Grue, an endearing sea monster who is trying his darnedest to clean up his act and stop eating horny teenagers. Speaking in iambic pentameter and hounded by a chorus of crabs, Grue comes ashore to rescue the woman who has been sending him bottled messages…
Love & Rockets: New Stories 4 by Jaime & Gilbert Hernandez
Another year, another great installment of stories from Los Bros Hernandez. Gilbert gives us some vampire romance, but maybe he’s a couple of years late? Jaime really delivers by bringing Maggie and Ray’s on-and-off-again romance to a satisfying conclusion, but not before some dramatic twists. If you haven’t spent some time in Jaime’s world, you’re really missing out. Over several decades he has developed a cast of complex characters who love, fight, work, and mature in very real ways.
The Death-Ray by Daniel Clowes
In this reprinted story we meet Andy, a shy high-schooler who finds meaning in his life when he discovers that smoking a cigarette gives him superhero-like strength(!). With his new powers and a terrifying weapon, Andy and his best friend Louie set out to teach bullies and wrongdoers a few lessons.
Level Up by Gene Luen Yang and Thien Pham
Dennis Ouyang wants nothing more than to be a video game expert and hang out with his friends. However, a group of bossy (but cute) angels has a different idea, and they push him through college to fulfill his father’s wish that he become a gastroenterologist. What happens when he pushes back?
Yeah! by Peter Bagge and Gilbert Hernandez
Bagge (known for his comically misanthropic Hate! comics) teamed up with Hernandez (renowned for his magically realistic Love & Rockets stories) in 1999 to make this short-lived series intended for pre-teen girls (not the usual audience of either artist). This reprint follows the spaced-out adventures of Krazy, Honey, and Woo-Woo as their band rocks out for their devoted fans on faraway planets. Too bad they can’t get any gigs back at home in New Jersey! As goofy as an episode of Scooby-Doo, Yeah! gives us crooked record executives, rival bands, stalker fans, teen romance, and intergalactic warfare.
Big Questions by Anders Nilsen
This 500+ page graphic novel begins simply, with a group of finches who gather every day to eat the crumbs that an old woman leaves for them. When a bomb lands nearby without exploding, it sets off a chain of events among the bird society, leading to split allegiances, mystical quests, and some very strange happenings. Nilsen’s storytelling style is spare, and while some pages feature a finch philosophizing at length, others are filled with only the subtle falling of a leaf from a tree to the river. Thus, Big Questions moves rather quickly… until it stops you in your tracks to ponder what you just read.
Chris Gray likes to read way more than he likes to write.