Graphic Novels & Manga

True Crime + Graphic Novels

A graphic novel about Jeffrey Dahmer? I am not a true crime reader. I am not even a fake crime reader, so I didn't think I would be interested. Boy, was I wrong. Last week I took My Friend Dahmer by Derf Backderf home based on a few coworker recommendations. I started reading fairly late one night and didn't put this book down until I was finished.

This book is sad, surprising and gross. But there is more than just morbid entertainment here. Backderf went to high school with Jeffrey Dahmer in Ohio in the 70s. His personal insight combined with meticulous research and interviews create a story that isn't really sympathetic, but does feel complete and informative. Backderf is a career comic artist, so the black and white illustrations feel like a natural way for this story to be told. He also includes some original drawings of Dahmer that he had done in high school. This isn't an easy read, but it is more than just shock value.

Graphic Novels from Guy Delisle

People often read travel books of places of either exotic places they want to visit, or of a beloved travel destination. I would think that a travel book of a destination that most people don't ever want to visit wouldn't exactly be very engaging. Guy Delisle proves me wrong.

Delisle is a French Canadian whose work in animation has taken him to some interesting and not so interesting places. Two of these locations have become novel length graphic novels. Delisle has a knack for taking the ridiculous and mundane and making them funny and smart.
Pyongyang chronicles Delisle's stay in North Korea that extends over several months for his job. The charcoal drawings reflect the drab and sterile city. Delisle tries to get to know the residents, but is often thwarted by his guide, translator and driver, with whom Delisle isn't to be without. He is taken to some creepy (and sometimes funny) monuments to the Eternal President. The insights and details are surprising and delightful. Even if you aren't the least curious about North Korea, I would still recommend this title.

Yet Another Troll-Fighting 11-Year-Old Orthodox Jewish Girl

Looking for a fantasy story that treads new ground? Look no further than Hereville: How Mirka Got Her Sword by Barry Deutsch. This refreshingly offbeat graphic novel tells the story of a young girl in an isolated community who wants to be a dragon slayer. Mixing elements of fairy tale, Yiddish folklore, and small town dynamics, Barry Deutsch has created a coming-of-age hero tale that is also a magical and poignant picture of Orthodox Jewish life. Recommended for grades 4 and up.

Road to Perdition

I saw the film based on the graphic novel by Max Collins long before reading the book. I liked the movie ok, but I loved the graphic novel Road to Perdition. Set in the early 1930's the story takes place in the midwest told from the perspective of a now-grown Michael O'Sullivan Jr. Not knowing what his father does for a living Michael Jr. stows away in his car one night to see for himself. Unfortunately his father is the "Angel of Death" for the local mob boss, John Looney. Michael Jr. witnesses a murder committed by Looney's son and is discovered.

Tales from Outer Suburbia

Who says suburban living has to be dull and unimaginative? Welcome Shaun Tan's Tales from Outer Suburbia, which takes traditional suburban ideal living and turns it on it's head. This book is bursting with imagination as it tells 15 short, illustrated short stories filled with wonder, loss, peace, hope and redemption. Not to make it sound all like butterflies and flowers, there is a slight bizarre and surreal edge to these tales that will leave the reader both wondering and and inspired.

Graphic Novels for The Afraid

I will come right out and say that I do not like superheroes (movie or print) and I didn't read comic books as a kid, so I am not naturally drawn to the graphic novel format. Because I'm kind of a nerd, what I do like is big fat novels and dusty historical non-fiction. So color me surprised when recently I've been enjoying more graphic novels. Last night as I finished Mercury by Hope Larson I began to wonder and hope that the reason went beyond the fact that I can read one in a single sitting -- though that is very satisfying too! My rationale is that I've been craving something different. I have read enough fiction to be somewhat bored with a traditional storyline. I want to think while I read -- to be engaged! And picking up some graphic novels has been the way to do that recently. I've tried to compile a list of graphic novels for the hesitant -- for anyone who thought that they weren't interested. Give one a try, you might be pleasantly surprised.

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