Maki Naro calls OTP the first Triassic romance comic. In 1975, paleontologists found a Triassic era fossilized cast. In 2012, we finally found out was inside the cast, thanks to the European Synchronotron Radiation Facility, which peered inside the cast and discovered two animals, locked in a fatal embrace: a thrinaxodan and an amphibian broomistega. OTP is their story.
Naro’s cartooning is cute, sweet, and would appeal, I think, to younger readers. The amphibian broomistega is an endearing, soft-bodied lizard-type, while the thinaxodan is a gruff and tough fuzzy beast. Their anatomy isn’t made up, just abstracted for adorability. Naro’s narrative voice has a real sense of wonder; this is a science bedtime story for kids and adults alike. But this is only Book One, and in this sweet mini comic, the thinaxodan and broomistega’s story, and their friendship, is just getting started, and I’ll be here to see how it unfolds.
Vessel first grabbed my attention thanks to its cover: super-cute girl with antenna enduring a flood without care, framed by elemental motifs and naturalistic borders; blue on blue on cardstock, with a couple of splashes of colour. Weird, I thought. I had to check this out. The first page has that same cute antenna girl heading off to school. The narration: “When I was young I considered myself empty.” Well, I was sold.
Our animal-girl heroine — are they antennae, after all, or tall ears? I confess that I cannot tell — is worn down by life’s daily miseries until finally she snaps and goes on what she calls “a most urgent quest”: an adventure! This mini comic takes her all over her world, which Baczynski characterizes with a staggering variety and depth of textures and colour shifts that somehow appears minimalist — what a trick. For example: on a blue page, we get just blues and white, but loads of soft shapes, textures, and details in the background. Turn the page and there’s a whole new vista, this time in red. It’s an effective way to represent travel and geographic and cultural difference.
And for all the joy our heroine finds in her adventure, Baczynski doesn’t let her off easy. The question of the value of adventure and travel and souvenirs is foregrounded, but rather than firmly answer it, she leaves it open for us to consider.
Sufficiently Remarkable: Memory
Maki Naro’s comic, Sufficiently Remarkable: Memory, is a step away from his regular science comics and a step towards a fabulous story. It is a well paced standalone story with beautiful artwork that tackles the hard truth of dementia. The comic is in black and white which Naro uses to its fullest by depicting the fluidity of time. Through the fading of black to white, there’s a particular page where the past fades into the present or could be read as the present bubbling up to the past. It’s just such a well done comic than I plan to pick up his other mini, Sufficiently Remarkable: Game.
Carla Rodriguez and Rosa Colón
Soda Pop Comics
Soda Pop Comics is the first female owned comics studio in Puerto Rico and their comic, Paracosm, is a cool wordless comic. It’s about a woman who finds a Polaroid camera and takes pictures of ordinary objects that transform into something otherworldly. It takes place in Old San Juan, Puerto Rico and one of the standout aspects of the comic is the panel work. My favourite page was divided into eight panels where their height and narrowness combined with the thin gutters suggests the iPhone being used by the woman while also depicting the iPhone in action. I’m definitely interested in checking out more of their comics here.
Hussenot’s The Spectators is visually stunning work with gorgeous watercolors as the chosen medium. The book is a collection of vignettes that look at city life in Paris, and could be applied universally to any metropolis. It definitely has a calming effect as you read and the colours feel very much life a fall afternoon (when we’re not exploring the nightlife). It plays with the idea of shadows and light within the city and the writing is very contemplative. It’s my first book from Nobrow and I’m excited to read more from them.
I interviewed Pénélope Bagieu recently after reading her graphic novel. It’s a fantastic book that explores criticism in art, what one wants out of life, and the differences in how women and men interact in regards to space, whether in the literary world or at your job or at home. Bagieu’s art is lively, engaging and anchors the story being told. You’re invested in the characters and the ending is best reward you can possibly get. It’s the first translated work of Bagieu’s and I do hope that more of her work gets translated (or I learn French. Whichever comes first).
SuperMutant Magic Academy
Drawn & Quarterly
I loved This One Summer and to say that I fell in love with Tamaki’s latest book would be a major understatement (Frances from the book is my Twitter icon). It’s beautiful renderings with fleeting moments of colour in a mostly black and white palette. SuperMutant Magic Academy started out as a webcomic and I can’t recommend reading it enough. So you should probably get it now.
It’s hard not to be charmed by the titular heroine of Noelle Stevenson’s first graphic novel, and really, why would you fight it? Nimona’s story may have started out in webcomics, but being able to read it all in a single volume shows the strength of the story as a whole.
A villain and his sidekick might be the focus of Stevenson’s anachronistic epic, but there’s a lightness to each page that keeps the story from becoming too gloomy and unwieldy. Shapeshifter Nimona commands every panel she’s in, and her sudden appearance and subsequent friendship with Sir Ballister Blackheart help to balance the darker events that come later in the story.
The book only contains 11 chapters but it feels much longer, and each of the main characters is developed with such a deft guiding hand that the conflicts aren’t just a plotline. Each interaction means something, peels back a little bit more from Nimona and Ballister and Sir Ambrosius. Each scene is weighted with the words they’re not saying. That weight kept online readers coming back every week, and it’ll keep readers firmly in their seats as they blaze through this novel.
Stevenson’s art has been noticeably updated for the print version, with warmer colours and sharper details. Where Nimona and Ballister’s pages are drenched in oranges and yellows, their nemeses the Institution and Sir Ambrosius are dipped in neon greens and yellows. The variety of body types in Nimona were particularly satisfying to see, strengthening the comic’s exploration of appearances and identity and how those two things never have to mean the same thing or keep anyone from being who they want to be. Nimona is simply a delight from start to bittersweet finish, and an excellent entry point for any reader looking to dive into comics.
Within the miniature pages of Towerkind, Kat Verhoven has painted a striking picture of a world within a world. The towers, known as St. James Town, in Toronto are a collection of heavily populated high rise apartments. In fact, they are the largest high rise community in Canada, as well as the most densely populated community in the country. They were originally built in the 1960s as a place for young middle class professionals, a part of the city’s post-war recovery program. But the building’s were poorly built, and lacked access to basic amenities, so as time went on many of them fell into disrepair and became occupied by new immigrant and lower income families of all different cultures and ethnicities.
Verhoven’s snapshot of this community takes place at the beginning of the end of days. It follows a number of children who live in this community, such as, Ty the super-strong “king” of the towers, Mackenzie, who speaks to the dead, and DukDaniel, two little boys so in sync that what physically hurts one, hurts the other. Through their unique supernatural abilities they’re able to see the end of days coming and have to work to put their personal and cultural differences aside in order to warn as many others as possible.
Though the text is sparse, the diverse cast of characters comes to life through Verhoven’s artwork. They are expressive and the differences and similarities between them apparent. When the characters do speak, it was at times in their own language, with no translation given. Towerkind demonstrates a basic understanding of just how layered and complex this society really is, and the challenges they need to overcome in their everyday lives, let alone at the end of the world.