The Property by Rutu Modan, translated by Jessica Cohen
Using a simple but beautiful art style, Rutu Modan tells the story of Regina Segal and her granddaughter Mica, who travel from Israel to Warsaw, Poland in an effort to reclaim a family property lost during World War II. The story evolves into a tale of family secrets and how the past can haunt. The prose is sharp and complements the art. Overall, a very good graphic novel.
March Trilogy by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, & Nate Powell
Congressman John Lewis has taken his heroic story from the civil rights movement and turned it into a compelling graphic novel. Much more than a memoir, March represents important American history told in a modern format that will bring to life this story for new generations. Nate Powell’s stark black and white art gives even more weight to Mr. Lewis’ tales of the struggles for racial equality and the power of nonviolent protest. March is unafraid and unapologetic in its depiction of both the highs and lows of the civil right movement and it should be required reading for everyone.
Mooncop by Tom Gauld
As the lunar colony winds down, the hero, the mooncop, goes about his daily business finding less and less to actually do. He helps an old lady find her lost dog, delivers a wandering automaton back to the museum, but in every panel, more and more of the colony dwindles. Tom Gauld, a cartoonist with the Guardian and New York Times, writes and illustrates this quirky, short novel in his distinctly start manner. The visuals are drawn in variations of blue and gray and the words are sparse giving the whole book the same melancholy feel that the mooncop seems to be feeling. Still, the story is softly funny and beautifully imaginative science fiction.
Tetris by Box Brown
Have you ever played Tetris? If not, where have you been for the past 30 years? And, if like the majority of the world, yes, this delightful graphic novel might interest you. It depicts the somewhat strange and dramatic story surrounding the creation of Tetris and its rise to gaming legend. The book also expounds on the deep connection between art, games, and the human condition and how that connection played a large role in the creation and immense success of Tetris. I find that this story and its assertions about art and games almost had to be told through graphical means. The book itself is art. Overall, I highly recommend Tetris both the game and the graphic novel.
The Explorers Guild: Volume One: A Passage to Shambhala by Jon Baird with Kevin Costner & Steven Meyer, illustrated by Rick Ross
The Explorers Guild marks an imaginative return to old time adventure stories. It is told partly through dense journal prose and partly through the style of a graphic novel. The incredibly creative meeting of the two distinct styles weaves a story of the mythical traveling city of Shambhala against the backdrop of World War I. This novel is not for everyone. It’s dense, archaic writing and length are difficult to maneuver at times and I felt myself wanting more of the graphic novel portions because most of the action happened there, but I have to say that I enjoyed it overall. The story is filled with adventures in far-flung places of the Earth and the characters are memorable. However, it is the beautifully rendered illustrations that really stand out. If you like good adventure stories, check out the unique novel that is The Explorers Guild.
Tomboy: A Graphic Memoir by Liz Prince
Cartoonist Liz Prince tells the story of bullying, awkwardness, and confusion growing up as a tomboy. Her memoir is unfailingly honest, charmingly funny and completely relatable. Her expressive art style lends itself to the nostalgic feel of a memoir and makes the reader feel all the angst that comes with growing up. Prince’s message that you should always be yourself is something everyone should hear and her book is not just for those struggling with gender identity or bullying.
The Divine by Asaf Hanuka, Tomer Hanuka, and Boaz Lavie
The Divine is a dark fantasy graphic novel about an American explosives expert sent to the fictional country of Quanlom, where he gets in the middle of an army of children led by two magical brothers. The story, inspired by a photograph of the real Burmese twins who led the guerrilla group God’s Army, twists myth and truth into magical realism at its best. Asaf and Tomer Hanuka’s art is starkly riveting. Their use of color brings emotion and tension to the beautiful drawings. This kind of story is not something I would normally pick up, but I’m glad that I did because I was drawn into the tale of dragons and ancient spirits.
This One Summer by Mariko Tamaki, illustrated by Jillian Tamaki
This One Summer is a coming-of-age graphic novel that tells the story of Rose and Windy, two girls whose families vacation at the same beach every year. They swim, watch movies, and BBQ. But this summer is a little different. Rose’s parents won’t stop fighting and the girls get caught up in some of the small town secrets. This story does a very good job walking the line between childish innocence and young adult tumult. The art is gorgeous and helps portray the feeling of carefree summers mixed with confused emotion, sadness, awkwardness and ultimately hope. It’s a good summer read.
Seconds by Bryan Lee O’Malley
In this standalone graphic novel by the author of the Scott Pilgrim series, the protagonist, Katie, discovers that she can correct past mistakes by eating magic mushrooms. Katie feels that, at 29 years old, her life is uninteresting and unaccomplished. Using the mushrooms, she repeatedly tries to perfect it, but, the harder she tries, the more things begin to go wrong. The novel explores themes of growing up, finding yourself and embracing your flaws. It hits many major aspects of life—love, work, friendship and regret. There are also some compelling supernatural elements that add another facet to the complex storyline. However, the story wasn’t all deep profound character growth; it still had humor and wit. I especially enjoyed the parts where Katie looked straight at the reader and argued with the narrator. Mr. O’Malley’s art style is slightly more cartoony than other graphic novels I’ve read and it lends itself well to his storytelling. Overall, I’d recommend this entertaining, aesthetically pleasing novel.