Posts filed under ‘Comic Books and Graphic Novels’
Lucy Knisley is known for her confessional, thoughtful, and fearless graphic novels. From her very first one (French Milk), she has illuminated each phase of her life with watercolor, grace, and humor. She’s written about everything from discovering your place in the world, caring for elderly relatives, making delicious food, and finding your ideal partner.
Her latest is called Something New and, in it, Knisley tackles a doozy: the modern American wedding. She does this in her usual way: with insight, history, and a serious deep-dive into the personal. She approaches the “industrial marriage complex” from the wide angle of society, but manages to inflect her exploration with her own personal experiences.
Both Kate and Corey read Something New this summer and, while they both love Lucy Knisley’s work but have fairly different perspectives on weddings, they decided to have a chat about it.
Corey: Weddings are such a personal topic — people seem to get anxious even when talking about hypothetical, future weddings — so I hope we’re still friends after this.
Kate: Um, of course we will be! But I agree, there’s so much emotion and stress inherent in weddings and marriage and wedding planning, which I think is why this book strikes such a chord. Knisley doesn’t try to paint a wedding as this wonderful, beautiful, perfect day — it’s a day that symbolizes a couple’s commitment to each other that, as so many things in life are, is inherently flawed.
Corey: Absolutely. But I think Knisley’s book is truly exceptional at capturing the best about weddings: the bringing together of everyone you love to celebrate love. The day after her wedding, as Knisley ponders the event, she is struck by how lovely and how important it was to gather everyone together in this way. Most often, you will never again have those people in a room together. I’d never thought about weddings that way!
Kate: Yes! I think she did a great job of unpicking all of the stuff that comes along with weddings and making it clear that it was the people there that were ultimately most important. (more…)
I have been carrying the first volume of Ed Brubaker and Steve Epting’s Velvet for quite literally years. I love Brubaker’s run of Captain America comics and, when I heard he was doing a stand-alone mystery series starring a female spy, I preordered the first volume. It arrived in summer 2014 and I’ve been moving it around with me every since.
Upon its release, Velvet got glowing reviews, so I think I waited to read it like you wait to open presents until Christmas morning: you want to savor something good as your expectations grow over time. Fortunately for me, Velvet delivered. This is a book worth saving, savoring, and then enjoying repeatedly.
As promised, Velvet is an espionage-style mystery, taking place in the 1970s with flashbacks to the ’50s and ’60s. Our hero (the titular Velvet Templeton) is a middle-aged, lowly secretary at a super-secret spy agency, but, of course, nothing is quite as it seems in this stylish graphic novel. (more…)
I really don’t know where to begin with Benjamin Dewey’s marvelous The Complete Collection of the Tragedy Series: secret lobster claws and other misfortunes. Indeed, what could I possibly say that is not already in the title?
I could begin by praising the aesthetics and artistic stylings of the book, a graphic novel of sorts with a theme of misfortune rather than a unifying narrative. But, as good as Dewey’s illustrations are (for he not only wrote, but also illustrated this delightful tome), they aren’t what strikes you most about it.
I could also start off by explaining my delight at the steampunkish Victorian era Dewey presents in the book. Tragedy Series doesn’t place itself anywhere in particular, other than as the direct descendent of Lovecraft and possibly Verne. But, as pleasing as the undefined time period is, that again is not what draws one into the book. (more…)
I’ve decided to start a new genre I’m calling “Odyssey Years Reads.” This genre will feature books that deal with the evidently timeless problem facing twentysomethings of what to do with your life, where to focus your energies, and what is really imporant. If in the midst of a twentysomething Life Crisis, Odyssey Years Reads will make you feel better since, even if everything seems to be all at sea for you, at least others in the recent and distant past have felt exactly the same way.
My list of Odyssey Years Reads includes Fitzgerald’s This Side of Paradise, The Twelve Rooms of the Nile by Enid Shomer, The Odyssey itself, and, my newest entrant, Lucy Knisley’s marvelous An Age of License.
An Age of License is a particularly aspirational entry in my new Odyssey Years Reads category. It is a “follow your passions and see where things take you” book. It is a “give it a try, what’s the worst that could happen?” book. It is an “overthink everything” book. It is, quite simply, a great book.
In it, Lucy Knisley continues her travelogue series with a jaunt through Europe as she seeks to reconcile her career (comics artist) with her hopes for the future (stability, love, family). Along the way, she attends a comics convention and sees visions of her future as a professional artist, has a fling with a Dutch philosopher and recognizes what she doesn’t want in her future, and spends some time in France with her mother and various friends. Throughout, Knisley tries on different futures through the lens of the people she encounters and constantly questions what she wants for herself.
Coming from such a whimsical artist with such a clear and witty sense of humor, An Age of License is a fairly serious and thoughtful book. But that’s the best kind of Odyssey Years Read: one that manages to tackle the big issues while keeping a sane head. Knisley never goes too far down the twentysomething rabbit hole and tackles big questions with grace, intent, and humor. (more…)
I recently spent a wintry evening reading Pretty Deadly: Volume One by Kelly Sue Deconnick. Narrated by a rabbit skeleton (less gross than you’d think) telling a tale to his friend, a butterfly, Pretty Deadly is a mythological genre-mash set in the Old West. I’m not even sure how to describe the plot in broad strokes, but suffice it to say Pretty Deadly covers almost every base in myth: Death appears as a major character; love is gained, lost, and squandered; redemption is sought; a young girl discovers her deeper purpose. (And more!) (more…)
Since July is high season in Nantucket, I’ve been working a lot of nights, weekends, and everything in between. Among other unfortunate side effects (what laundry?), for me the high season translates to a lot less reading than I was doing in the early summer. Exhaustion has been my prevailing emotion the last few weeks, which means sayonara nonfiction. Farewell novels! So long short stories!
And hello Bill Willingham’s Fables series of comic books! Yes, comic books. This lovely series has proven to be the perfect capper to a long, tiring day (or week or month, as the case may be) of work.
Fables is a long-running comic book series that tells the story of (public domain) fairy tale characters who are ousted from their fairy tale world by “The Adversary” and forced to live for centuries in our “mundy” (short for “mundane”) world. About half of the characters end up in New York City, in an apartment building called Fabletown, while the other half—the ones who can’t disguise themselves as mundies so easily—live in upstate New York on The Farm.
And that’s just the basic set-up. Each volume in the series tells stories within this invented reality as well as carrying larger plot arcs forward. And each volume tends to take a different genre, with everything from noir murder mysteries to political thrillers to romance novels getting their day in the spotlight. It’s refreshing and makes for a nice change of pace even as you follow favorite characters along their larger story arcs. (more…)
About two years ago, I decided that it was high time I became a better visual reader. As I’ve written about here before, I was the absolute worst at reading graphic novels and comics—not only was I unable to enjoy them, I was singularly inept at reading them. Constantly, I found myself either blasting through the words while ignoring the art or focusing at the art and getting so lost in admiration that I forgot about the words. It was a mess.
But I decided to change that a couple of years ago by going back to the basics and, essentially, teaching myself to read all over again, but this time in a whole new way. I aimed to appreciate not just the words or just the art, but the synthesis between the two. More often than not, the great thing about graphic novels or comic books is that combination—the words and the art can heighten each other, providing emotional and visual aspects of the story (or even an extra joke) that would have been entirely missing otherwise. Graphic novels and comics had something special to offer, I was sure of it, and I was sick of missing out.
To that end, I dove right in and was happy to discover a whole new world of literature on the other side. In fact, graphic novels have come to fill a much-missed gap in my literature experience—what Neil Gaiman calls “imaginative fiction.” These are generally stories for adults, but with a heavy dose of magic, beauty, and quirk (i.e. imagination!). I’ve found that, while there are some straight-up novels in this genre (most written by Gaiman himself), there is simply much more of it in graphic novel form.
Thus, to help others wishing to dip a toe in the pool of graphic novels and comic books, I put together a list of the ones I’ve particularly enjoyed over the last few years. I’m by no means an expert, or even fluent yet, but I think these are good starting points. (more…)