Thursday, January 23, 2014

Podcast #1: Best Comics of 2013

In the Library with a Comic Book, Episode 1:

In our debut episode, Jack and Amanda discuss some of their favorite titles of 2013 in preparation for the California Library Association’s Conference session; Comic Book Petting Zoo: The Best Graphic Novels of 2013
Baltazar, Art (auth. and illus.) and Franco (auth. and illus.). Superman Family Adventures, vol. 1.  DC Comics, 2013.  128p.  978-1401240509.
An incredibly lighthearted take on Superman and his compatriots Superboy, Supergirl, and Krypto the Superdog!  With goofy plots, punny gags, and bright, clear art, this book is a perfect antidote to the unrelenting grimness of the recent “Man of Steel” movie.  Appropriate for readers of all ages.
Whitley, Jeremy (auth.) and Emily Martin (illus.). Princeless. Action Lab Entertainment. 2012-present. 2 volumes, ongoing.
Princess Adrienne  was locked in a tower to await a princely rescue. However, she grew tired of waiting and disinterested in being rescued so, with her guardian dragon Sparky at her side, Adrienne saves herself and vows to rescue her sisters from a similar fate and fight for their freedom. Along the way, she picks up some proper gear and a best friend in blacksmith Bedelia. This fantastic adventure turns comics and fantasy tropes on their sides while spotlighting female heroes and a predominantly African-American cast. This engaging all ages title is hard to find, but worth spending the extra time to seek out.
Book 1: Save Yourself. 2012. 116p. 978-1450798945.
Book 2: Get Over Yourself. 2013. 100p. 978-0985965242.
Lepp, Royden. Rust.  Archaia Press.  2011-present.  2 volumes, ongoing.
In gorgeous sepia-toned art, this series tells the story of a family and their struggling farm, the mysterious young man (who is actually a robot) who comes to stay with them, and the dangerous secrets that follow him. Lepp does a wonderful job creating a believable family dynamic, but it’s the action where this book really shines.  It is impeccably paced, full of cool, steampunk-esque robot designs, and carefully utilizes digital blurring effects that give everything a sense of incredible speed.  Readers of the first volume, Visitor in the Field (2011. 192p. 978-1936393275), will be clamoring for the second, Secrets of the Cell (2012. 200p. 978-1936393589) and the upcoming third.
Fraction, Matt (auth.) with David Aja (illus.) and various other illustrators. Hawkeye.  Marvel Comics, 2013-present. 2 volumes, ongoing.
As a member of the Avengers, non-superpowered bow expert Hawkeye holds his own fighting alongside the likes of Captain America, Thor, and Iron Man.  When he’s off-duty, however, his life tends to be a bit more mundane… at least until he runs afoul of the Russian mob and puts the residents of his Brooklyn apartment building in harm’s way.  Author Fraction’s dialogue crackles with funny asides and misunderstandings (people regularly mishear our hero’s name as “Hawkguy”) which serve to strip the overblown grandeur out of the superhero genre.  And David Aja’s art is a revelation — flat and iconographic, miraculously balancing experimental layouts with blistering action.  Easily the best (and most fun!) superhero book of the year.
Vol. 1: My Life as a Weapon.  2013.  136p.  978-0785165620.
Vol. 2: Little Hits.  2013.  136p.  978-0785165637.
Hicks, Faith Eric. The Adventures of Superhero Girl. Dark Horse, 2013. 112p. 978-1616550844.
What’s a superhero to do with her powers in a low-crime city? Not even her near-invulnerability can save Superhero Girl from a mundane lifestyle, complete with laundry mishaps that shrink her cape! Hicks focuses her art in tight and colorful grids, leading to concise storytelling. Her deadpan sense of humor is evident throughout, and fans of Bryan Lee O’Malley’s Scott Pilgrim series will particularly enjoy this title.
Cliff, Tony. Delilah Dirk and the Turkish Lieutenant. First Second, 2013. 176p. 978-1596438132.
Delilah Dirk is a force to be reckoned with: consider her the 19th-Century’s Indiana Jones, minus the academics but plus a flying boat. Selim is a mild-mannered Turkish lieutenant with a penchant for making a fantastic cup of tea. Together, they form an unlikely partnership that leads them on swashbuckling, globetrotting adventures. Cliff’s jewel-toned coloring enhances his vibrant art while infusing his storytelling with quiet moments and humorous touches. This is a refreshing comics for adults: not full of salacious content or foul language, but featuring grown-up characters with grown-up concerns.  It’s also tons of fun!
Modan, Rutu.  The Property.  Drawn and Quarterly, 2013.  232p.  978-1770461154.
A young Israeli woman accompanies her grandmother to Poland to see about recovering a building the family owned before they had to flee the country during World War II.  However, it turns out that grandmother has more personal reasons for making the trip.  Through the story, author/illustrator Modan explores the different ways that the long shadow of the Holocaust hangs over several generations of Jews, and pokes gentle, knowing fun at Jewish life and culture.  Romantic, moving, and surprising, this book deserves a spot on the shelf with other great comics about the legacy of war, such as Art Spiegelman’s Maus and Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis. Very highly recommended.

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