01 August 2014

Graphically Reading: A Look at My Reading List

Conversation 1 by James Kochalka and Craig ThompsonToday is all about my current graphic novel reading list. But first I want to thank you for your great comments (here and on Twitter) about my Monday and Thursday posts. As I'm sure you can tell, I'm still learning, and I don't pretend to be an expert on the medium.

Several of you asked about the difference between a graphic novel and a comic. Although some sources use the term graphic novel for standalone books and the term comics for series that are published in short issues at (semi)regular intervals, I believe the proper term for all graphic books is really comics. Let me know if I'm wrong.

Now, on to my reading list, alphabetized by title.

Alex + Ada by Jonathan Luna: This fun series is set in the future and has sci-fi elements. The major themes are relationships, everyday life, and human–android interactions. Alex didn't think he wanted a robot, but when he is given Ada as a gift, he just might change his mind. I'm reading this one issue by issue and am really loving it.

Amulet by Kazu Kibuishi: This ongoing series focuses on a brother–sister pair and starts out when their mother is kidnapped by otherworldly beings. Their search for her takes them into a variety of worlds with talking animals, robots, and spaceships. Although geared to middle grade readers, I'm enjoying the story. I've reviewed the first two books, though I've read more.

Clues by MaraClues by Mara: This is a beautifully illustrated series set in 19th-century London. A young women teams up with a Scotland Yard inspector to solve a mystery that took place at least a decade earlier. The comic is written in French, and I won't be reviewing it. I enjoyed the first issue, but I'm not confident enough in my command of the language to write intelligently about the series. And it's been a great way to practice my French.

Conversation 1 & 2 by James Kochalka and others: In these fascinating books, comic artist Kochalka engages in a graphic conversation with another artist. The first book features Craig Thompson and the second, Jeffrey Brown. I know of no better way to explain the nature of this series than to use the publisher's summary for the first volume: "It's like a comics version of My Dinner with Andre, but with a giant killer octopus!" I can't wait to start reading.

Drops of Gold by Tadashi Agi Shu Okimoto: This series of long books is set in the contemporary world of wine and takes place mostly in Japan. This is one of the few Manga series I've tackled (and the books read right to left). Although I'm learning a lot about wine and the books have won some culinary awards, I'm only lukewarm about the plot line (which is draggingly slow). I've reviewed the first two books on my blog.

Endless Sky by David Boller: I love a good graphic memoir. In this trilogy, Boller talks about his journey from his native Switzerland to the United States to fulfill his dream of becoming a comic artist. This is a frank account of the young man's first impressions of America, his schooling, his struggles with finding his place as a professional, and his sometimes rocky relationship with his family. I have only skimmed this one so far.

Essex County trilogy by Jeff Lemire: The trilogy is set in a farming community and explores family, friendship, and the dynamics of being human. I have the combined volume, which includes a couple of stories not published in the original books. This is at the top of my TBR.

Runaways by Brian K. VaughanFables (and spin-offs) by Bill Willingham: This very long series imagines that all the fairy tale and nursery rhyme characters have been forced into the modern world by a great enemy. They fight battles, mingle with humans, and dream of getting back to their homelands. I've reviewed many of these on my blog and will write about others in bullet reviews. This series will be ending soon.

The Initiates by Etienne Davodeau: Here's a nonfiction entry. Comic artist Davodeau spent a year with winemaker Richard Leroy, each learning about the other's profession. The book documents their friendship and explores why we are drawn to certain careers. I haven't started this yet.

Minimum Wage by Bob Fingerman: This slice-of-life adult comic stars Rob and focuses on his relationships with women and his struggles to make ends meet. I bought a revised collection, for which Fingerman updated and reworked his original series. I remember when the comic was popular in the 1990s, but this will be my first time reading it.

Northlanders by Brian Wood: I have a thing about Vikings so couldn't resist starting this long series based on Viking legends and history. Sven is a warrior prince who must fight to claim and then hold on to his inheritance. I love the period details and the red/teal palette. Many hours of enjoyment here.

Pretty Deadly by Kelly Sue DeConnick: This series is a mix of fantasy with the American Old West starring Death's daughter. The story promises to have very adult themes, and I can't wait to get reading.

Rat Queens by Meg Dejmal and Kurtis J. Wiebe: Women power at its best is at the heart of this very popular series, which is fantasy but with plenty of humor. The publisher's summary calls it "Buffy meets Tank Girl in a Lord of the Rings world on crack." I haven't read it yet.

Sweet Tooth by Jeff LemireRunaways by Brian K. Vaughan: I reviewed the first issue of this series about a group of kids who learn that their parents are terrorists. They run away from home and decide to use their special powers for good, not evil. I like the premise of these books, but I haven't felt the need to read past the third installment. The target audience for this superhero-like series is teens.

Saga by Brian K. Vaughan: This series is part love story and part politics. The story line, so far, centers around a couple from different planets and different side of the battlefield. The art is gorgeous and I love the humor and the characters. I'm caught up with this series, but I haven't written about the last few issues.

Sweet Tooth by Jeff Lemire: This is one of my all-time favorite series (and it is for many people). The story is about Gus, a teen who lived his whole life in isolation from the world, protected by his father, because he was born with deer ears and antlers. When his father dies, Gus is forced to leave the woods, though he is totally unprepared for what he sees in the wider world. Your heart will go out to Gus, one of the most sympathetic characters I've met. Trust me, you'll love this comic, even if the world Lemire imagines can be scary.

That Salty Air by Tim Sievert: This debut graphic novel is about a fisherman who begins think of the sea as his enemy. What happens when Hugh turns his back on what used to be his life and livelihood? I just checked this one out of the library.

Umbral by Antony Johnston: This is a fantasy series that I haven't yet started. The comic is drawn in full-color and the story line includes history, myths, and a murder mystery. It's set in the Middle Ages.

Rat Queens by Meg Dejmal and Kurtis J. WiebeThe Unwritten by Mike Carey: This is a very literary series that explores the intersection of reality with the world formed by words and books. I think I've reviewed only the first one. The plot is smart and complex. The most recent issue is a crossover with the Fables series, which I haven't read yet.

Warriors Three by Bill Willingham: I admit I picked up this series because it's written by the same person who writes Fables. The genre is superhero, and I plan to give it my full attention. Based on recommendations from friends, this may be the series that turns me into a superhero fan.

I many more comics (books, series, fiction, nonfiction) in my house and on my wish list, but this post highlights some of the variety you can find in the medium. No GN reading list of mine would be complete, however, without mentioning First Second, which is one of my go-to imprints for the graphic medium. I love their books and plan to review most of them.

Now that you've seen some of the books and series on my GN list, tell me what's on yours? I'm always looking for recommendations.


Sandy Nawrot 8/1/14, 6:57 AM  

I really want to dig into The Walking Dead graphic novels. My son has the first collection (that's about four inches thick). Also want to read Watchmen, which my son loved and is encouraging me. As far as my favorites, I have to assume you have already read them, but here are ones that come to mind:

Pyongyang - Guy Delisle
Blankets - Craig Thompson
V for Vendetta - Alan Moore
Palestine - Joe Sacco
The Photographer - Emmanuel Guibert
Maus I and Maus II - Art Spiegelman
Fun Home - Alison Bechdel
Where Wanderers Cease to Roam and Le Road Trip - Vivian Swift (are those GN's? Not sure but I LOVE)

bermudaonion 8/1/14, 7:52 AM  

I haven't read any of those but there are several on your list that I want to try.

Heather 8/1/14, 11:16 AM  

Well I'm drooling. And my TBR is groaning. Don't care though! Thanks for this post!

Unknown 8/1/14, 3:51 PM  

This morning I was at the Santa Cruz Art Museum where Belle Yang - a Caldecott Award winning artist has an exhibit. One wall featured the original panels from her gn, *Forget Sorrow*. It reminds me very much of *Persepolis*(by Marjane Satrapi) in that it's the story of a young woman from an country in political turmoil who comes to America. The artwork is highly stylized in b&w; but very compelling. Definitely on my buy list :-)

Dogeared Copy/Tanya

Leslie @ This is the Refrain 8/6/14, 9:56 PM  

You have some of my favorites on here and some that I haven't read before and I'm definitely adding to my TBR. Sweet Tooth, Essex County, Runaways, and Saga are the best. Clues sounds AMAZING. Definitely checking that one out from the library! And Amulet. The NYPL didn't have a copy of the first one, so I never started this series. Fortunately my new library does!

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