Ah Ha! by Jeff Mack
Can you really tell a compelling story using just pictures and two sounds? The answer is “Yes!”
Big Snow by Jonathan Bean
While under the guise of “helping” his mother to clean the house, a young boy is constantly reminded of playing in snow as he waits for a big one to arrive.
Chu’s Day by Neil Gaiman
Neil Gaiman must have been pretty busy writing his dreamlike novel for adults, The Ocean at the End of the Lane, which was recently voted National Book of the Year in the UK. Yet somehow, he still found the time to imagine a little Panda with a tragic flaw. Terrible things happen when Chu sneezes. You can’t even begin to imagine what.
Crankenstein by Samantha Berger
Everyone gets a little cranky time to time. But when especially trying things like long lines or super-hot days pile up, they can turn otherwise sweet children into monsters!
The Day the Crayons Quit by Drew Daywalt
I had no idea crayons were so sensitive. Hilarious and not to be missed.
Sophie’s Squash by Pat Zietlow Miller
Sophie’s family picks up a spaghetti squash shopping at the farmer’s market but much to her parent’s dismay, Sophie forms an attachment to their dinner.
The Watermelon Seed by Greg Pizzoli
Fans of Mo Willems will love this melodramatic watermelon chomping crocodile.
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Can you believe it? 2013 is almost over. And you know what that means…end of the year time is Best of the Year time!
So here is a list of some favorite comics from the past year. They may or may not have been published in 2013. Many of the titles are ongoing series so I have just named each series as a whole rather than any specific volume.
All of these works can be checked out from LFPL. I have also named the author and main artist for each title (except for #12 where there were multiple artists over the course of its run, sometimes even in the same issue).
Due to the variety of stories being told, it was difficult to rank the items in order of preference. Instead, they are listed below in alphabetical order.
What if vampires were evolving? What if one of the meanest, low-down gunslingers of the Wild West was the first of a new breed of stronger, faster vampires? Stephen King himself adds his macabre touch to this tale of horror and revenge across the decades.
One of the best of DC’s New 52 storylines. Scott Snyder (who is also the primary writer for American Vampire) deftly continues the building of Gotham’s most important character - the city itself - that he began in the Gates of Gotham. We are introduced to the shadowy Court of Owls and to the Talons, an army of immortal assassins in service to the Court, as they decide to show Batman who really runs Gotham.
Action and comedy mingle in this fast-paced look at the life of the non-powered superhero. It’s just a man with a bow tackling problems with femme fatales, Russian mobsters, and the training of a sidekick…er, partner. The writing by Matt Fraction is quick and witty, and the art by David Aja is a perfect fit.
I, Vampire by Joshua Hale Fialkov and Andrea Sorrentino
A minor character from J.M. DeMattheis’ run on House of Mystery is now the star of his own title in the New 52 universe. The background of Andrew Bennett, the titular vampire, is revealed along the way as he battles the plans of his lover, Mary Queen of Blood, to lead a worldwide vampire revolution against humanity’s dominance over other species.
Imagine a world where The Manhattan Project was but one undertaking of a long-running government program to investigate and master exotic science for the benefit of the U.S. Many important scientists from the mid-Twentieth Century work there but one, Robert Oppenheimer, is harboring a secret of his own that will threaten the very existence of The Projects.
The Massive is not just another post-apocalyptic tale. It examines what it would mean to be an ecological activist in the wake of multiple events that trigger permanent disastrous climate change. Brian Wood – best known for creating DMZ and his work on various X-men titles – keeps this exploration from becoming didactic or boring by focusing on the mystery of a disappearing ship which the main characters are seeking. Plus they have to battle pirates!
This para-scientific thriller is about a woman admitted to the emergency room after being beaten into a coma and what her place is in an unfolding conspiracy. The protagonist, Elle Peterssen, finds herself conscious but separated from her body. She is in an indeterminate spiritual realm and wants to get back to the real world. While Elle struggles to return to everyday life, there is a lot of drama involving her friends, her family, and a mysterious stranger who seems to be orchestrating events from the shadows.
Morning Glories is part prep school drama, part Lost-style conspiracy, and all fun. Nick Spenser – creator of Infinite Vacation, a title that almost made this list – keeps the intrigue and the action going without skimping on characterization. Love them or hate them, you definitely want to know what happens to these characters.
What if a zombie outbreak happened only in a small, rural Wisconsin town? And said town has to struggle with the reintegration of its newly revived citizens into society? Not only that but it has to face the pressure from the rest of the world that is pushing at the boundaries of a CDC quarantine zone. Revival is subtitled “A Rural Noir” and that is exactly what it is. Tim Seeley doesn’t back away from showing the macabre and horror inherent in the situation. What else would you expect from the creator of the infamous Hack/Slash series?
Two alien races are at war but love unites a couple of soldiers from each race as they are pursued by their respective forces who wish to punish them for their treason. They also have to figure out how to take care of their newborn child and deal with overbearing parents! Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples’ space opera never turns into corny pastiche even though its core story is as old as Shakespeare and is filled with stock science fiction trappings like space battles, mercenaries, and robots.
This series has been described by its creators Paul Cornell and Ryan Kelly as “The West Wing does The X-Files," and they deliver on the promise of those words. Arcadia Alvarado, the Governor of New Mexico, is about to make a bid for the Presidency when she is abducted by aliens. As her staff struggles to keep her campaign from faltering, Arcadia hires Professor Joshua Kidd, a Harvard sociologist who has studied alien abduction, to help her get to the truth of UFOs and the alien agenda.
The Shade (a.k.a. Richard Swift) has been a super-villain since the Golden Age of comic books, primarily serving as nemesis to both the Jay Garrick and Barry Allen iterations of The Flash. But he is also an immortal who gained his powers in the same period which saw Charles Dickens rise to fame. In fact, Dickens was a great friend of The Shade when he was still a normal man. In this series we find The Shade in a morally ambiguous place as he has decided to change his super-villain ways and save his descendants from assasination by a mysterious opponent.
You can check out my graphic novel best of list for 2012 by clicking here.
Would you like to discuss these titles or other works of sequential art? Please join LFPL’s Graphic Novel Discussion Group. Meetings are held at the Main Library on the second Monday of every month, starting at 7:00 PM.
The next three meetings will take place on the following dates:
January 13, 2014 – We will discuss Indie Comics.
February 10, 2013 – We will examine March. Book One, the graphic memoir of Congressman John Lewis.
March 10, 2013 – We will focus on Female Comics Creators.
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Truth is Stranger Than Fiction: The Black Count: Glory, Revolution, Betrayal, and the Real Count of Monte Cristo by Tom Reisssubmitted by Rob
While it may ring of cliché, truth is indeed stranger than fiction at times, and Tom Reiss’ most recent book, The Black Count, would seem to vividly support this notion. To many, if not most, the name Alexandre Dumas is instantly recognizable and conjures images of valiant fighters, desperate times, and hard-won victories. How many of these same persons, I wonder, would also be familiar with the familial lineage that bore Mr. Dumas to this world? Before The Black Count, I freely admit that I would have been counted among those completely unaware, and as a result of having read this fascinating book, I shall nevermore have the same thoughts and experience whilst eating a favorite sandwich of mine, the Monte Cristo, and I am the better for it.
Several of Mr. Dumas’ ancestors have fascinating stories to be sure, but it is the tale of his father, Thomas-Alexandre Davy de la Pailleterie, that so surpasses the rest, that Mr. Dumas looked no further than the details of that life for the inspiration of his novels The Three Musketeers and The Count of Monte Cristo.
Thomas-Alexandre was the son born of a wayward French aristocrat, Alexandre Antoine Davy de la Pailleterie, and his African-born slave and mistress, Marie-Cessette Dumas, in Saint-Domingue (modern Haiti) on March 25, 1762, a time when that region supplied much of the world with its sugar; the Davy de la Pailleterie family even utilized a local island by the name of Monte Cristo as a smuggling point during the Seven Years’ War with Great Britain.
The real adventure begins in 1776 when Alexandre Antoine sold his son in order to pay for his passage for a return to France to claim the title of Marquis, as his two elder brothers had both died. Once in France, he bought back his son, sold his family’s estate, and the two moved to Paris in 1777, where Thomas-Alexandre was provided an upper-class education and life of luxury funded by his father.
This situation changed considerably when in February of 1786 Alexandre Antoine married, and the generosity previously showered upon his son was greatly lessened. Subsequently, on June 2, 1786, Thomas-Alexandre Davy de la Pailleterie entered into the Queen’s Dragoons as a private under the name of Alexandre Dumas, taking the surname of his mother. Over the next few years, he advanced quickly eventually attaining the rank Commander-in-Chief of the Army of the Alps, where, at the age of thirty-two, he led an army of over fifty thousand to victory.
After further campaigns in Europe and drawing the attention and admiration of not only his own men and Napoleon, but those of the enemy, he accompanied the French on the bold and reckless invasion of Egypt, but it was during this time that his luck began to fade, something that coincided with his open and public criticism of Napoleon.
Through the excellent writing of Mr. Reiss, the captivating journey of Thomas-Alexandre is told, and it is through this story that certain aspects of the French Revolution and Napoleonic Wars, which may not be terribly familiar to the reader, are conveyed, and the context and impact of this time may be better and more fully understood.
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An old friend of mine, who was 22 at the time, told me to read this book about 15 years ago. I’m not really into Science Fiction and when I hear this term I usually resist. Since then, a few other people have told me to read it too. LFPL recently got a few brand new shiny copies of it and this time I could not resist. Firstly, I’m sorry that I waited this long to read this wonderful, twisted book. Secondly, I don’t think it is Sci-Fi.
The process of getting to know A Scanner Darkly was in reverse of how it probably should be. I watched the movie first, which came out in 2006. Yeah, a few friends had tried to get me to watch that too. Much to my surprise I liked the movie. And with each viewing (4 times) I liked it more and more.
Two friends told me the book was better. Because of time constraints, I read the Graphic Novel which is based on the movie version. It is a nice concise version. Then on to the actual book, which is better.
It is an honest book of what drugs can do to an individual, but it isn’t a moral tale against drugs. It is also a book of paranoia, both for the protagonist and society at large. It was written in 1977 and is set slightly in the future (1994), but it isn’t a futuristic novel. It is just one man spying on himself and his friends trying to figure out what is real. The imagination rules supreme in this book. With all the current controversy over who is listening in on your conversations, it is definitely a book that could have been written today.
Recently, I realized that it has been mostly younger people who wanted me to read A Scanner Darkly. Even though the book is of the generation slightly older than me (I’m 49), I think every adult should read this!
To Reserve A Scanner Darkly in its many forms (book, Graphic Novel, Audio CD), click here.
Editor’s note: Please use the comment button below to leave any response you may have about the book or the review.
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Newberry Award winner Kate DiCamillo’s latest story, Flora & Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures, is one of a girl and her superhero squirrel. She creates a cast of quirky characters that slowly rolls out through mishaps, disappointments, as well as small victories.
Flora Belle Buckman is a bit of an outsider and self-proclaimed cynic living with her mother. She spends much of her time reading. Flora often references her favorite superhero comic and a work of nonfiction titled "Terrible Things Can Happen To You!"
One afternoon, Flora’s reading is disturbed by the sound of neighbors vacuuming their yard. This strikes Flora as very odd so she decides to investigate the occurrence. As she looks out her window, Flora witnesses a squirrel being vacuumed up.
After the incident, we gain the unusual vantage of the squirrel’s perspective.
“His brain felt larger, roomier. It was as if several doors in the dark room of his self (doors he hadn’t known existed) had suddenly been flung wide.”
Not only has the squirrel has gained in consciousness but also in super rodent powers. He is surprisingly now strong enough to pick up the out of control vacuum and lift it over his tiny head. Other abilities come into play with flying being the least remarkable. Flora finds herself drawn to care for the injured squirrel and decides to name him Ulysses, likening his transformation to that of the hero in her beloved comic.
We are introduced to a whole host of characters that occupy Flora’s life:
- Phyllis Buckman, her mother, an often preoccupied recently divorced romance novelist. She takes up a campaign to snuff out the squirrel and hands her ex-husband the shovel to do it with thus cementing her status as the villain of the book.
- George Buckman, her socially anxious father, who bonds with his daughter by using comic book catchphrases such as “Holy unanticipated occurrences” and “This malfeasance must be stopped.”
- Tootie Tickham, the neighbor who is constantly vacuuming.
- William Spiver, the great-nephew of Tootie, who is temporarily (though questionably) blind.
- Mary Ann, an ornamental shepherdess lamp. She is quite possibly treasured more than Flora by Phyllis.
I was endeared to the pencil drawings of K.G. Campbell that "illuminate" Flora and Ulysses. They have a soft and kind quality that mirror the way the characters in the story slowly begin to interact with one another. Sometimes scenes are enacted in comic panels and other times small or full page illustrations accent DiCamillo’s writing.
It wasn't until the very last page that I felt the overall effect. It wasn’t nearly the tearjerker that was The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane or as great an adventure as The Tale of Despereaux but it left me with a happy feeling and a definite tendency to look a little closer at the squirrels.
Make sure to check out the book’s website, The Illuminated Adventures of Flora & Ulysses.
If you are interested in Kate DiCamillo and her other works, visit her website.
Editor’s note: Please use the comment button below to leave any response you may have about the book or the review.
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