New Graphic Novels, Comic Books for You – 12/9/09

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 December 9 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.

Crossing the Empty Quarter and Other Stories – $24.95
By Carol Swain
200 pages; published by Dark Horse Comics; available at Amazon.com

Collecting over thirty short stories by London-based writer/artist Carol Swain, Crossing the Empty Quarter and Other Stories is Swain’s first career-spanning retrospective! The “graphic lit” love children of Gabriel García Márquez and Raymond Carver, Swain’s comics first appeared in the late 1980s, and she has since contributed to over twenty anthologies across the globe. Her introspective, boldly executed, and visually unique works are peppered with magical realism, autobiography, and tenacious punk attitudes. While Swain’s tales cover a wide range of emotions, politics, and societal ills, they are all tied together with an art style that is universally appealing and undeniably unique. Two brand-new color stories, created for this hardcover volume, are featured in a special color section. Alan Moore describes Carol Swain’s work as “dark and full of life, like soil . . . a perfect example of what modern comics are capable of if they only try.”

* “Carol Swain has one of the most unique and compelling styles in comics.” –Time

* “The Raymond Carver of British comics.” –Time Out

That cover might look placid, but don’t think this work doesn’t have any punch. Here’s a preview of remembering a disturbing dream of endless pregnancy.

Daytripper #1 – $2.99
By Gabriel Bá & Fábio Moon
32 pages; published by DC Comics’ Vertigo

They were two of Entertainment Weekly‘s Top 100 stars to watch. They’ve won multiple Eisners and have worked with the top names of comics and pop culture from Joss Whedon (Sugar Shock) and Mike Mignola (BPRD: 1947) to Gerard Way (Umbrella Academy) and Matt Fraction (Casanova).

Now, Brazilian wonder twins Fábio Moon and Gabriel Bá are back writing and drawing in a hauntingly lyrical series set in their native Brazil. With DAYTRIPPER, they follow in the tradition of Craig Thompson, Paul Pope and David Mazzucchelli – cartoonists at the top of their game making comics about the quiet moments that ask big questions.

Brás de Oliva Domingos is an obituary writer with a famous father, a career he hates, and tons of questions. How does a person become a successful writer? How does a man get out of his father’s shadow? But those concerns will dwarf the surprise he’ll find in the first issue – a twist both he and readers will never see coming, which will grow into a mystery about the meaning of life itself.

I love that cover. Such cool imagery. And that’s just the beginning. Here’s a preview to soak in.

I Hate Gallant Girl – $12.99
By Jim Valentino, Kristen Simon, Kat Cahill & Seth Damoose
104 pages; published by Image Comics; available at Amazon.com

Renée Tempête might just be the most talented super-hero of her generation. But when a buxom blonde with no actual super-powers wins the coveted title of Gallant Girl over her, Renée must learn what it takes to be a real hero rather than a bitter wannabe.

I think this might actually be from the previous week but I don’t mind if you don’t. A fun super-hero tale. Here’s the book’s official website, which includes the Facebook fan page. Here’s a 5-page preview.

The Return of King Doug – $14.95
By Greg Erb, Jason Oremland & Wook-Jin Clark
184 pages; published by Oni Press; available at Amazon.com

Twenty-five years ago the Kingdom of Valdonia was under siege by an army of darkness. The magical forces of good only had one hope — a chosen one destined to lead them to victory.

Douglas Peterson was that hero.

Only he wasn’t. He was an 8-year-old boy from Earth scared out of his mind! The frightened boy turned tail and skedaddled, hoping to never see his childhood wonderland again. Now as an adult, Doug is about to learn that his adventure in Valdonia was only beginning and that there are some things you can never run away from.

On April Fools Day 2008, The Hollywood Reporter announced that Ben Stiller’s production company and DreamWorks were going to produce a movie adaptation of this graphic novel. The weird part was that this graphic novel didn’t seem to exist. No one had ever heard of the thing. It turns out it did exist, it just hadn’t been released yet. And now it has just in time for holiday shopping. The Amazon.com link above has a 6-page preview.

The Vietnam Journal, Book One: Indian Country – $17.99
By Don Lomax
140 pages; published by Transfuzion Publishing; available at Amazon.com

Finally, the acclaimed series from Don Lomax, nominated for a Harvey Award, will be presented in a series of graphic novels collecting the entire series. Vietnam Journal is a look at the Vietnam War through the eyes of a war journalist as it chronicles the lives and events of soldiers on the front line during the Vietnam War. Picked by Entertainment Weekly as “a graphic novel you should own” and recommended by the Military History Book Club, Vietnam Journal is written and drawn by Don Lomax, a Vietnam War veteran.

I know what you’re thinking. “Finally”? I’ve never even heard of this. Truthfully, neither had I. The original comic book series ran for 16 issues across 4 years starting in 1987. It was published by small press comics publisher Apple Comics, now mostly forgotten by modern readers. (It has no connection to Apple Computers or Apple Records.) There’s an 8-page preview at the publisher link above, along with a lot of enthusiastic reviews. Many people consider this among the best war comics ever made.

Kind of a small week, but a nice variety.

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