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Recommendations for Friday, December 14, 2012

Secret Diary: (Lou! Volume 1) by Julien Neel

Link to this review in the form of a comic strip by geneambaum tagged graphic novelromance

Unshelved strip for 12/14/2012

Bird & Squirrel: On the Run! by James Burks

Link to this review by geneambaum tagged graphic novelhumor

Bird is full of joy and loves to fly. Squirrel is worried about cats and storing enough food to last through the winter and everything else.

Cat almost eats Bird, but Squirrel uses his supply of nuts to save Bird. With no food, Squirrel will starve. Bird convinces Squirrel to head south (where there’s lots of food) for the winter. Cat is still after them.

Why I picked it up: I’m a big fan of Burks’ previous graphic novel, Gabby & Gator.

Why I finished it: Bird’s positive attitude contrasts with Squirrel's gloomy view of the world. Cat almost catches them, but they escape by jumping into the river (with all of their supplies). Bird wants a high five because they lost Cat. Squirrel thinks Bird is insane.

I'd give it to: Dr. Jerry, who helped me learn to deal with my fear of flying in part by facing the inevitability of my death. When Squirrel feels like he’s going to die, Bird tells him something like what Dr. Jerry told me, “Look on the bright side. You’re dead either way….I’m just saying, you might as well keep going and make the best of it.”

Building Stories by Chris Ware

Everything you need to read the new graphic novel Building Stories: 14 distinctively discrete Books, Booklets, Magazines, Newspapers, and Pamphlets.

With the increasing electronic incorporeality of existence, sometimes it’s reassuring—perhaps even necessary—to have something to hold on to. Thus within this colorful keepsake box the purchaser will find a fully-apportioned variety of reading material ready to address virtually any imaginable artistic or poetic taste, from the corrosive sarcasm of youth to the sickening earnestness of maturity—while discovering a protagonist wondering if she’ll ever move from the rented close quarters of lonely young adulthood to the mortgaged expanse of love and marriage. Whether you’re feeling alone by yourself or alone with someone else, this book is sure to sympathize with the crushing sense of life wasted, opportunities missed and creative dreams dashed which afflict the middle- and upper-class literary public (and which can return to them in somewhat damaged form during REM sleep).

A pictographic listing of all 14 items (260 pages total) appears on the back, with suggestions made as to appropriate places to set down, forget or completely lose any number of its contents within the walls of an average well-appointed home. As seen in the pages of The New Yorker, The New York Times and McSweeney’s Quarterly Concern, Building Stories collects a decade’s worth of work, with dozens of “never-before-published” pages (i.e., those deemed too obtuse, filthy or just plain incoherent to offer to a respectable periodical).

“A treasure trove of graphic artworks—they’re too complex to be called comics—from Ware, master of angst, alienation, sci-fi and the crowded street . . . A dazzling document.” — Kirkus, starred review

“Ware has been consistently pushing the boundaries for what the comics format can look like and accomplish as a storytelling medium…More than anything, though, this graphic novel mimics the kaleidoscopic nature of memory itself—fleeting, contradictory, anchored to a few significant moments, and a heavier burden by the day. In terms of pure artistic innovation, Ware is in a stratosphere all his own.” — Booklist, starred review

Building Stories is the graphic novel of the season or perhaps the year, a story that must be experienced rather than read . . . Ware takes visual storytelling to a new level of both beauty and despair in a work people will be talking about for a long time.” — Publishers Weekly, starred review

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The Year of the Beasts by Cecil Castellucci, Nate Powell

Link to this review by dawnrutherford tagged graphic novelparanormal

It is the end of her freshman year, and Tessa is thrilled to have a bit of freedom. Her parents allow her and her best friend to attend the carnival unsupervised, on the condition that they take her little sister Lulu (an eighth grader). At the carnival they run into Tessa's crush. Tessa tries to get his attention, but it’s Lulu who makes a connection.

Why I picked it up: I am a huge fan of both Castellucci's young adult novels and Powell's graphic novels. I've been looking forward to reading this book for months.

Why I finished it: At first this seems like a simple story about competitive sisters that alternates chapters with an unrelated urban fantasy graphic novel. But as the book progresses, and Tessa’s loss is revealed, it’s suddenly clear that the comic is an expression of her heartbreak.

I'd give it to: Tanya, who I think would really appreciate how this book captures sisterhood in all its loving sweetness and bitter jealousy, and just how powerfully important a sibling can be.

Harvey Pekar's Cleveland by Harvey Pekar, Joseph Remnant

Link to this review by dawnrutherford tagged graphic novelnonfiction

Harvey Pekar's final graphic novel provides a tour through the history and neighborhoods of his beloved hometown.

Why I picked it up: I'm a longtime fan of Pekar's work.

Why I finished it: In some of my favorite books, the city is a character, like Chicago in The Time Traveler's Wife and San Francisco in The Maltese Falcon. Harvey Pekar's city was an essential part of his own life story. Pekar is a rather unremarkable hero, and Cleveland is an average American city. Its struggles to prosper, ease racial tensions, and find its identity mirror Pekar's own. 

I'd give it to: Bridget, who would like that Zubal Books is located in an old Hostess factory where you can still squeeze the sauce that becomes Twinkie filling out of the pipes (and eat it if you’re brave enough).  You can watch Pekar taking Anthony Bourdain to see it here.

The Hobbit: Graphic Novel by J.R.R. Tolkien

Just in time for the December 14th movie release of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey comes a newly repackaged edition of the full-color graphic novel adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien's beloved story--including 6 new pages of illustrations!

Perfect for the legions of life-long Tolkien fans as well as the millions of new readers who discovered the Lord of the Rings trilogy through Peter Jackson's stunning film adaptations.

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The Hypo: The Melancholic Young Lincoln by Noah Van Sciver

Link to this review by craigseasholes tagged biographygraphic novel

In 1837 Abraham Lincoln was not the Great Emancipator. He was a twenty-eight-year-old mess, a debt-ridden, self-doubting hypochondriac who penned suicidal poems. The mood of Lincoln’s life in Springfield, Illinois, is well-expressed via the rough-hewn, cross-hatched skies, floorboards, and backgrounds.

Why I picked it up: As a nine-year-old I was enthralled by Ingrid and Edgar D’Aulaire’s Abraham Lincoln picture book biography. I even eschewed the Boy Scouts to march as a drummer boy in the First Ohio Volunteer Infantry Cadet Corps.

Why I finished it: The story illustrates the dark days of a struggling young upstart. Lincoln was a mess. The Whig party platform he helped push through the state legislature was a financial and political nightmare. His debts forced him to share a bed with an oft-whoring shopkeeper. His nervous breakdown is treated with blood-letting, hot and cold baths, and a mercury emetic that left him at death’s door. Lincoln’s complicated courtship with the high-class Mary Todd is off and on, though he does succeed in defeating political rival Steven Douglas for Mary’s affections. (He quoted Shakespeare to her.)

I'd give it to: Janet. She uses graphic novels to interest her students in history. She’d love this warts-and-all biography of this poor, young lawyer with holes in his clothes. I’m sure she knows plenty of teens who will laugh at Lincoln’s self-deprecating humor. When asked about his service in the Black Hawk War he replied, "Who could forget the "Black Hawk War? I served in it as did many of you. I don't believe any man could claim to have served as ineptly as I." Lincoln was then asked, "Did you see any blood in that war? Can you remember that?" He quipped, "I have not forgotten! I drew a lot of blood in the war -- due entirely to mosquitoes!" 

The Dark Knight Trilogy: The Complete Screenplays with Storyboards by Christopher Nolan, David S. Goyer, Jonathan Nolan

Link to this review by flemtastic tagged graphic novelsuperhero

The trio of screenwriters credited with The Dark Knight Trilogy brought Batman back. These three films, Batman Begins, The Dark Knight and The Dark Knight Rises, are compelling, morally exhausting, and worthy of talking about around the water cooler. The two Nolans and David S. Goyer begin this collection of screenplays by talking for several pages about their intentions for each film. The screenplays contain shot descriptions, dialogue and numbered scenes. There is also a selection of storyboard drawings from each film to show the planning of camera angles, the composition of iconic shots, and the emotions the writers wanted the actors to convey.

Why I picked it up: I am a huge superhero movie fan, but I never saw Batman Begins. I think I may have been haunted by the memory of Clooney and Shwarzenegger in the Batman film before it. I did see the other two films by this team and really respected them. I thought it would be great to read the screenplay and then to finally see the film. (I was right, it was awesome.)

Why I finished it: The directions that the actors and cinematographers are supposed to work from: "Gordon moves away, thinking.  Something catches his eye. A block away. Halfway up a building.  A black flag blowing in the wind...not a flag...a dark figure.  Wearing a cape, sitting on a ledge... Batman.  Watching." (It was particularly interesting to have the screenplay in front of me as I watched the movie.). 

And although I appreciated Heath Ledger’s performance in The Dark Knight, I felt like I got a better take on why the Joker behaved the way he did from the screenplay.  Maybe the film’s visuals took away from the import of the words because, on paper, the Joker’s desire to unleash chaos on Gotham and break Batman’s spirit almost makes sense.

I'd give it to: Nancy, the teacher at my school who sent me a link to one of my favorite Saturday Night Live skits: Get in the Cage with Liam Neeson. Adam Sandler (as Nicolas Cage) informs us that he named two of his three testicles after characters Neeson played in movies, Qui-Gon Jinn (from The Phantom Menace) and Ra’s al Ghul (Batman Begins). (In case you’re wondering and don’t want to watch the video, the third one is named The Fixer.) I could assert that Nancy is a big Neeson fan or something and sneak this past my editor. But the truth is that I just wanted an excuse to tell you about that skit. And when I hand the book to Nancy, I’m going to tell her I did just that. I think she’ll laugh.

Sonic Saga Series 2: Order from Chaos by Sonic Scribes

Sonic the Hedgehog: Order from Chaos continues the new Sonic Saga series, a chronological collection of the modern era of Sonic the Hedgehog story arcs written by popular Sonic scribe Ian Flynn. Sonic the Hedgehog graphic novels are Archie's bestselling books and this title is sure to be a hit with fans and collectors in its full-color, full comic-size format.

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Anna & Froga: Want a Gumball? by Anouk Ricard

Link to this review by geneambaum tagged graphic novel

Anna (a girl), Froga, Ron (a cat), and Bubu (a dog) play, sing together, and have short adventures. In one, Froga gives Anna a gumball he finds on the ground, and they worry it was Christopher’s (he’s a worm) cousin, another worm named Sammy. In another, Christopher is stuck half out of his hole because he ate too many fries.

Why I picked it up: It’s the size of a picture book, so it really stood out against the rest of the highbrow, arty comics at Drawn & Quarterly’s booth at TCAF in 2012.

Why I finished it: Between each of the short, simply-drawn stories, there’s a painted two-page spread that has something to do with the preceding story. In the one about the fries, the painting after the story is of Christopher dreaming of fries lined up and jumping into his mouth.

I'd give it to: Maya, because she’s small for her age and bigger kids sometimes mistreat her. She’d identify with Johnny the tuna -- when Ron and Froga are mean to him, Johnny goes off and finds better friends to play with.

The Accidental Salad by Joe Decie

Link to this review by sarahhunt tagged biographycomic strips

A collection of Decie's gorgeous, ink wash comics that were originally published online. Sometimes they are quiet observations on everyday life, though at other times they have an element of the odd or the supernatural.

Why I picked it up: It's short, and I wanted to know what the title meant.

Why I finished it: The work captures the tiny details around us every day with so much talent that it seems natural and effortless. I was blown away.

I'd give it to: Rick, for the useful tip on entertaining the kids with shirt monsters.

Last Days of an Immortal by Fabien Vehlmann, Gwen de Bonneval

Link to this review by flemtastic tagged graphic novelscience fiction

Elijah works as a member of the philosophical police in a community of immortals. He makes “echoes” of himself (think clones) so that he can investigate in several places at once; he absorbs them and their memories when they come back.  Because he is a respected cop, he is asked to mediate between two societies on another planet.  One is a group that communicates very slowly -- it takes over a decade for them to have a conversation. The other party is frustrated at the death of one of their members, who was swallowed by a member of the opposing group when trying to speak to it.

Why I picked it up: The book jacket talked about what would make an immortal want to die.

Why I finished it: The authors put just enough clues in this graphic novel’s art to help me figure out what was going on. This society is super-advanced, with teleportation, instant-clothing, cloning and immortality, but I had to read panels over and over to figure out how its machinery worked. It made the book intriguing; the authors treated me like an adult who could puzzle things out without being spoon fed. 

I'd give it to: My friend Brick. He would dig how the story goes back and forth between immortals getting it on then dealing with ennui that comes from living forever. He would like that the authors comment on our social hangups, too; for example, they include a few nude people that are treated as absolutely normal by other, clothed citizens. 

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