New Graphic Novels, Comic Books for You – 10/7/09

Never read a graphic novel before? Haven’t read a comic book in years?

Here’s some brand new stuff that came out the week of October 7 that I think is worth a look-see for someone with little to no history with comics. That means you should be able to pick any of these up cold without having read anything else. So take a look and see if something doesn’t grab your fancy. If so, follow the publisher links or Amazon.com links to buy yourself a copy. Or, head to your local friendly comic book shop.

Disclaimer: For the most part, I have not read these yet, so I can’t vouch for their quality. But, from what I’ve heard and seen, odds are good they just might appeal to you.

Exurbia – $9.95
By Scott Allie & Kevin McGovern
112 pages; published by Dark Horse Comics; available at Amazon.com

Gage Wallace’s day seemingly couldn’t get any worse. After breaking up with his girlfriend, he finds himself framed for blowing up his apartment building — the latest in a string of deadly bombings in this doomed suburb. After the neighboring Fat City fell into the river during an earthquake, these hapless exurbanites have been waiting for their own town to sink. The only glimmer of hope is a talking rat, whose drunken ramblings are taken as the prophecy of a better time ahead.

Now Gage finds himself being pursued by well-intentioned friends, bored cops, and the bloodthirsty Bald Suzie, a local firearms enthusiast whose brother was killed in a recent explosion.

Scott Allie is the senior managing editor of Dark Horse Comics, the publisher of this graphic novel. So, it always kind of feels like he cheated by getting his work published by the company that employees him to select things to get published. (A similar thing happens every time Dark Horse releases something written by their president Mike Richardson.) Scott Allie typically leans toward horror, but this looks like a refreshingly weird departure. Here’s a preview to prepare you for the insanity.

Grandville – $17.95
By Bryan Talbot
108 pages; published by Dark Horse Comics; available at Amazon.com

Two hundred years ago, Britain lost the Napoleonic War and fell under the thumb of French domination. Gaining independence after decades of civil disobedience and anarchist bombings, the Socialist Republic of Britain is now a small, unimportant backwater connected by a railway bridge, steam-powered dirigible, and mutual suspicion to France. When a British diplomat’s murder is made to look like suicide, ferocious Detective-Inspector LeBrock of Scotland Yard stalks a ruthless murder squad through the heart of a Belle Epoque Paris, the center of the greatest empire in a world of steam-driven hansom cabs, automatons, and flying machines. LeBrock’s relentless quest can lead only to death, truth… or war.

* Following on the heels of his internationally acclaimed graphic novels The Tale of One Bad Rat and Alice in SunderlandGrandville is a fantastical and audacious roller-coaster ride, visually stunning and rich in memorable detail.

Dark Horse Comics put out another worthy publication this week: an anthropomorphic steampunk mystery set in an alternate history England. Here’s an all-too-short preview but it’s enough to convince me.

Masterpiece Comics – $19.95
By R. Sikoryak
64 pages; published by Drawn & Quarterly; available at Amazon.com

“A provocative collision.” –Entertainment Weekly

“A brilliant parable about literature, history and what telling stories tells us about ourselves.” –Toronto Star

“Disconcerting and fascinating… a canny fusion of overlapping fictional legacies” –Globe and Mail

HILARIOUS PARODIES OF CLASSIC LITERATURE REIMAGINED WITH CLASSIC COMICS

Masterpiece Comics adapts a variety of classic literary works with the most iconic visual idioms of twentieth-century comics. Dense with exclamation marks and lurid colors, R. Sikoryak’s parodies remind us of the sensational excesses of the canon, or, if you prefer, of the economical expressiveness of classic comics from Batman to Garfield. In “Blond Eve,” Dagwood and Blondie are ejected from the Garden of Eden into their archetypal suburban home; Oscar Wilde’s Dorian Gray is reimagined as a foppish Little Nemo; and Camus’s Stranger becomes a brooding, chain-smoking Golden Age Superman. Other source material includes Dante, Shakespeare, Dostoyevsky, bubblegum wrappers, superhero comics, kid cartoons, and more.

Sikoryak’s classics have appeared in landmark anthologies such as RAW and Drawn & Quarterly, all of which are collected in Masterpiece Comics, along with brilliant new graphic literary satires. His drawings have appeared on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, as well as in The New YorkerThe Onion, Mad, and Nickelodeon Magazine.

Some of the references might be missed but this is a lot of fun. If you or someone you know are particularly well read in classic literature, you or that someone will get a huge kick out of this. All of the parodies are extremely well done. Very funny. For a bit more information, here’s Sikoryak’s Masterpiece Comics page on his site.

Bloom County: Complete Library Vol. 1 – $39.99
By Berkeley Breathed
288 pages; published by IDW Publishing; available at Amazon.com

Berkeley Breathed’s Bloom County was one of the most popular and critically acclaimed newspaper strips of all time. Bloom County ran from December 8th, 1980 to August 6th, 1989 and was published in an astounding 1200 newspapers on a daily basis. The huge popularity of Bloom County spawned a merchandizing bonanza, as well as two spin-off strips, Outland and Opus. The Bloom County Library Volume 1 highlights the first time the entire run of the immensely popular Bloom County strip has been collected in beautifully designed hard cover books with exceptional reproduction.

If you didn’t live through the 1980s with some kind of conscious awareness of current events, this might not resonate with you much but for those of us that did, this might be required reading. (There are occasional “context pages” that help clear up some of the references.) My parents still have a Bill the Cat stuffed animal that I gave to them for Christmas one year. A planned 5 volumes will collect the entire strip’s published life. Volume 2 is already out. Here’s Berkeley’s site with more info and the publisher link above has a preview.

Desperate Times – $14.99
By Chris Eliopoulos
128 pages; published by IDW Publishing; available at Amazon.com

Chris Eliopoulos’ Desperate Times is a comic strip-style humor series about two twenty-something guys, their pet drunken sloth, and their journey from early adulthood lives into a married life for one, and continuing single life for the other.

Considering the quality of today’s comic strip pages, I’m kind of surprised this strip was never picked up. Maybe Chris Eliopoulous never submitted it to the syndicates for consideration. It’s a fun strip that flew completely under the radar. Check it out! The artist has a new web-strip running now called Misery Loves Sherman.

Joe and Azat – $10.95
By Jesse Lonergan
104 pages; published by NBM ComicsLit; available at Amazon.com

Joe is an American in the strange land of Turkmenistan who finds a good friend in Azat, a Turkmen dreamer whose optimism knows no bounds. With tales of doomed desert cab rides, nights of endless vodka shots, unlikely Turkmen business schemes, and secret girlfriends, Lonergan captures not only the bizarreness of living in a country where the president for life launches copies of his poetry books into space, outlaws gold teeth and renames the months and days, but also reveals that there is hope in seemingly hopeless situations. Based loosely on Lonergan’s Peace Corps experience in the former Soviet republic.

Looks like a fascinating look at a country’s culture through the eyes of an American. Here’s a preview with a great scene of Joe freaking out while Turkmen deal with an overheated car. Here’s the artist’s blog.

That’s it for this week. Will try to post the week for October 14th soon now that I’m back from my vacation.

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