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Top 14 Best Graphic Novels:

February 2016

Welcome back, time to take a look through my next batch of PG Tips, all due out for February 2016. Sonny Liew’s extraordinary blending of biography, art book and national history is one stand-out and there are some great manga kicking off this month as well. Lots to explore, lots to enjoy, but if I am forced to choose to one, I am most intrigued by Mirror by Spanish writer-artist Emma Rios teaming up with sublime Malaysian artist Hwei Lim. Looks like some magic is abrewing here!

Big Kids
by Michael DeForge
Drawn & Quarterly

The publisher says:
Teenage misfits and adolescent rabble-rousing take center stage in this dark coming-of-age tale. Big Kids is simultaneously Michael DeForge’s most straightforward narrative and his most complex work to date. It follows a troubled teenage boy through the transformative years of high school as he redefines his friends, his interests, and his life path. When the boy’s uncle, a police officer, gets kicked out of the family’s basement apartment and transferred to the countryside, April moves in. She’s a college student, mysterious and cool, and she quickly takes a shine to the boy. The boy’s own interests quickly fade away: he stops engaging in casual sex, taking drugs, and testing the limits of socially acceptable (and legal) behavior. Instead, he hangs out with April and her friends, a bunch of highly evolved big kids who spend their days at the campus swimming pool. And slowly, the boy begins to change, too. Eerie and perfectly paced, DeForge’s Big Kids muses on the complicated, and often contradictory, feelings people struggle with during adolescence, the choices we make to fit in, and the ways we survive times of change. Like Ant Colony and First Year Healthy, Big Kids is a testimony to the harshness and beauty of being alive. 96pgs colour hardcover.

Golem Vol. 1
by Lorenzo Ceccotti
Magnetic Press

The publisher says:
Set in a future, post-Eurozone Italy, entrenched in a bizarre form of hyper-capitalism, Golem follows a young boy kidnapped during a political protest gone sour, who learns that he has the power to not only change the city, but reality itself. This intensely imaginative political-sci-fi graphic novel is a visual tour de force, created by contemporary design icon Lorenzo Ceccotti, better known as “LRNZ,” whose design-influenced illustration is a lush, fluid blend of manga masters like Katsuhiro Otomo with western comic icons like Josh Middleton, creating a style that is wholly unique and absolutely breathtaking. 280pgs colour paperback.

I Am A Hero
by Kengo Hanazawa
Dark Horse

The publisher says:
The zombie apocalypse has never been more surreal! A mentally unhinged manga artist witnesses the beginning of a zombie outbreak in Tokyo, and he’s certain of only two things: he’s destined to be the city’s hero, and he possesses something very rare in Japan—an actual firearm! Kengo Hanazawa’s award-winning series comes to Dark Horse, and this realistically-drawn international bestseller takes us from initial small battles for survival to a huge, body-horror epidemic that threatens all of humanity! These special omnibus volumes will collect two of the original Japanese books into each Dark Horse edition and include all of the color pages. 512pgs B&W paperback.

Jason Thompson (Manga: The Complete Guide) says:
Probably the greatest zombie manga ever.

Kramers Ergot #9
edited by Sammy Harkham

The publisher says:
The acclaimed anthology of avant-garde comics comes to Fantagraphics. Powerful and impulsive cartooning of the highest caliber still exists in the short form; you just have to look. For all these lonely lovers, Kramers Ergot fights the good fight and gathers many of the best and brightest together in one giant, oversized collection. For a few moments, you can fool yourself into believing in a reality where “comics” is vital and powerful, and can still make you lose it with laughter. Kramers Ergot #9 will feature the work of Michael Deforge, Noel Freibert, Steve Weissman, Anya Davidson, Stefan Marx, Abraham Diaz, Leon Sadler, Julia Gfrörer, Adam Buttrick, Kim Deitch, Ben Jones, Andy Burkholder, Antony Huchette, Trevor Alixopulos, Antoine Cossé, Archer Prewitt, Kevin Huizenga, Renee French, and many other greats tba. 296pgs colour paperback.

Mirror #1
by Emma Rios & Hwei Lim
Image Comics

The publisher says:
Emma Rios (Pretty Deadly, Island) and Hwei Lim (Lalage, Hero) team up for a new ongoing series, following a terrorist talking dog, an idealist mage, and a heroic lab rat on their quest for acceptance. Mirror is a four-part sci-fi/fantasy story arc connected to the 8HOUSE universe and focused on the House of Healers, a noble magical guild based on flesh and body magic. Each issue contains 28 pages of comic narrative: a main story and short epilogues that bring more light to the intrigue, as well as concept art, designs, timeline keys, and glossaries. Ríos and Lim build this tale together, occasionally swapping roles. 32pgs colour comic book

Nichijou Vol. 1
by Keiichi Arawi
Vertical Comics

The publisher says:
A witty surreal all-ages manga which revolves around the day-to-day lives of the young inhabitants of Tokisadame-city. Funny and heartwarming, Nichijou is a humorous look at modern day Japanese life in comic form. Set in a strange school where you may see the principal wrestle a deer or a robot’s arm hide a rollcake the days that transpire through the course of Nichijou are curious and hilarious, if not downright bizzare. However admist all the chaos and comedy Arawi still takes time to share everyday slice of life stories giving readers an insight to modern Japanese youth culture. 200pgs B&W paperback.

Pioneering Cartoonists Of Color
by Tim Jackson
University Press of Mississippi
$85 / $35

The publisher says:
Syndicated cartoonist and illustrator Tim Jackson offers an unprecedented look at the rich yet largely untold story of African American cartoon artists. This book provides a historical record of the men and women who created seventy-plus comic strips, many editorial cartoons, and illustrations for articles. The volume covers the mid-1880s, the early years of the self-proclaimed black press, to 1968, when African American cartoon artists were accepted in the so-called mainstream. When the cartoon world was preparing to celebrate the one hundredth anniversary of the American comic strip, Jackson anticipated that books and articles published upon the anniversary would either exclude African American artists or feature only the three whose work appeared in mainstream newspapers after Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.‘s assassination in 1968. Jackson was determined to make it impossible for critics and scholars to plead an ignorance of black cartoonists or to claim that there is no information on them. He began in 1997 cataloging biographies of African American cartoonists, illustrators, and graphic designers, and showing samples of their work. His research involved searching historic newspapers and magazines as well as books and “Who’s Who” directories. This project strives not only to record the contributions of African American artists, but also to place them in full historical context. Revealed chronologically, these cartoons offer an invaluable perspective on American history of the black community during pivotal moments, including the Great Migration, race riots, the Great Depression, and both World Wars. Many of the greatest creators have already died, so Jackson recognizes the stakes in remembering them before this hidden yet vivid history is irretrievably lost. 128pgs B&W hardcover / paperback.

Powr Mastrs Book 4
by C.F.

The publisher says:
In the final volume of this sci fi/fantasy graphic novel series, the shifting power dynamics come to a head. Fantagraphics is proud to present the fourth and final volume in cartoonist C.F.’s acclaimed Powr Mastrs series (previously published by Picturebox Books), and to bring the first volume back into print, so readers have an easy entry point. Powr Mastrs is a Dune-like science fiction/fantasy epic in which C.F. narrates the story of a tribe of mystical beings whose power relations are constantly in flux. As power shifts, so do physical and psychological identities. In this fourth and final volume, transmutation night takes effect as events discharge and assumptions collapse. The long-awaited conclusion to a unique series. 112pgs part-colour Flexi-cover.

Princess Jellyfish Vol. 1
by Akiko Higashimura

The publisher says:
Two very different worlds collide in this hit manga series by Akiko Higashimura. Tsukimi Kurashita has a strange fascination with jellyfish. She’s loved them from a young age and has carried that love with her to her new life in the big city of Tokyo. There, she resides in Amamizukan, a safe-haven for girl geeks - the last place she’d expect to meet a fashionable socialite. There’s much more to this woman than her trendy clothes, though. Their odd encounter is only the beginning of a new and unexpected path for Tsukimi and her friends. 400pgs B&W softcover

Ramshackle: A Yellowknife Story
by Alison McCreash
Conundrum Press

The publisher says:
Over the past decade, the North, or at least the idea of it, has slowly made its way back to our consciousness, a notion that the North is synonymous with a lawless, rugged freedom. But at first glance Yellowknife, NWT is actually a somewhat disappointing modern capital city. There are tall buildings, yoga pants, a Walmart and a lot of government jobs. None the less, if you dig a little deeper, you do find that alternative off-grid reality. Barely five minutes from the downtown core, wedged between million dollar houses, you find little shacks where people exist without running water and use honey buckets for toilets. When Alison McCreesh moved from Quebec to Yellowknife, she quickly fell in love with the quirky ways in which it seemed possible to live up North. Part travelogue, part comic book, part love story and part guide to the North and its quirky inhabitants Ramshackle spans her first summer north of 60. 144pgs colour paperback.

Sweaterweather & Other Short Stories
by Sara Varon
First Second

The publisher says:
Back before Odd Duck, before Robot Dreams, Sara Varon created Sweaterweather. This endearing, quirky volume is a captivating look into Varon’s creative process. It combines short comics stories, essays, and journal entries, and invites the reader into the world of Sara Varon: where adorable, awkward anthropomorphic animals walk the streets of Brooklyn and a surprising, sideways revelation is waiting around every corner. First Second is proud to introduce Sweaterweather to a new generation of readers in this gorgeous jacketed hardcover, with a new cover and plenty of new content.128pgs hardcover.

The Ark
by Stéphane Levalllois

The publisher says:
A lone figure in a diving suit drags an enormous wooden ark through the desert, scarring the earth with its deep furrow. A plane crashes. A zeppelin prowls the azure skies, its crew seduced by caged women, while Bedouins and soldiers clash under the blazing sun. This poetic, yet hauntingly wordless tale entrances, as it pulls all these elements together as the various characters search for salvation in the bleak landscape. Dream-like and mesmerising, this impressive silent book explores the medium’s potential. 160pgs B&W hardcover

The Art Of Charlie Chan Hock Chye
by Sonny Liew

The publisher says:
Meet Charlie Chan Hock Chye. Now in his early 70s, Chan has been making comics in his native Singapore since 1954, when he was a boy of 16. As he looks back on his career over five decades, we see his stories unfold before us in a dazzling array of art styles and forms, their development mirroring the evolution in the political and social landscape of his homeland and of the comic book medium itself. With The Art of Charlie Chan Hock Chye Sonny Liew has drawn together a myriad of genres to create a thoroughly ingenious and engaging work, where the line between truth and construct may sometimes be blurred, but where the story told is always enthralling, bringing us on a uniquely moving, funny, and thought-provoking journey through the life of an artist and the history of a nation. 320pgs colour hardcover.

Through The Habitrails: Life Before And After My Career In Cubicles
by Jeff Nicholson
Dover Publications

The publisher says:
This collection of darkly humorous tales chronicles a nameless protagonist’s struggle with a stultifying routine of office drudgery. The stories’ Kafkaesque vignettes, portrayed in striking black-and-white drawings, offer eerie perspectives on the rigors of everyday life. Author Jeff Nicholson is best known as the creator of Ultra Klutz, Lost Laughter, Father & Son and Colonia. Praised by comics artist and publisher Stephen R. Bissette as “one of the seminal graphic novels of the 1990s,” Through the Habitrails features semi-autobiographical vignettes that include “Futile Love,” “The Doomed One,” “The Infiltrator,” “The Dark Spiral,” “The Gerbil King,” and the “Escape” trilogy, one part of which was a 1993 Eisner Award nominee. Exclusive Bonus Material contains a new Epilogue, written and illustrated by the author, and a new Foreword by multiple Eisner Award winner Matt Fraction. Contains adult material. 144pgs B&W paperback.

Posted: December 10, 2015


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My Books

Comics Unmasked by Paul Gravett and John Harris Dunning from The British Library

Comics Art by Paul Gravett from Tate Publishing

1001 Comics  You Must Read Before You Die edited by Paul Gravett