Push Man and Other Stories

Legendary cartoonist Yoshihiro Tatsumi is the grandfather of alternative manga for the adult reader. Predating the advent of the literary graphic novel movement in the United States by thirty years, Tatsumi created a library of literary comics that draws parallels with modern prose fiction and today’s alternative comics.

Designed and edited by one of today’s most popular cartoonists, Adrian Tomine, The Push Man and Other Stories is the debut volume in a groundbreaking new series that collects Tatsumi’s short stories about Japanese urban life. Tatsumi’s stories are simultaneously haunting, disturbing, and darkly humorous, commenting on the interplay between an overwhelming, bustling, crowded modern society and the troubled emotional and sexual life of the individual.

(Publisher Description)


Push Man and Other Stories
By Yoshihiro Tatsumi
ISBN: 9781896597850
Drawn and Quarterly, 2005
NFNT Age Recommendation: Adult (18+)


Our Review

The Push Man and Other Stories

Onward Towards Our Noble Deaths

Shigeru Mizuki is the preeminent figure of Gekiga manga and one of the most famous working cartoonists in Japan today–a true living legend. Onward Towards Our Noble Deaths is his first book to be translated into English and is a semiautobiographical account of the desperate final weeks of a Japanese infantry unit at the end of WorldWar II. The soldiers are told that they must go into battle and die for the honor of their country, with certain execution facing them if they return alive. Mizuki was a soldier himself (he was severely injured and lost an arm) and uses his experiences to convey the devastating consequences and moral depravity of the war.

(Publisher Description)

This title has not (yet) been reviewed by our staff, but it is a title that we highly recommend for the majority of libraries building collections for this age range.


Onward Towards Our Noble Deaths
By Shigeru Mizuki
ISBN: 9781770460416
Drawn and Quarterly, 2011
NFNT Age Recommendation: Adult (18+)


Nori

Rumi Hara has dedicated Nori to her two grandmothers, and it is obvious why; this dreamy graphic novel is a loving portrait of a grandmother and four-year-old granddaughter navigating life’s adventures.

We get to know Nori and Grandmother through vignettes from their everyday life in 1980s Kyoto as they run errands, go to local festivals, and adjust to the rules and routines of nursery school. Nori is a wanderer, always taking advantage of a brief lapse in her grandmother’s attention to follow a cat or some other enticing distraction. Nori welcomes the jarring good luck omen of bats in the house, races after a band of rabbits headed to the moon, and befriends a gang of boys playing in a muddy ditch. Everywhere she goes, Nori encounters magic, from the grinning bats to a playful tadpole who offers to trade his tiny sneakers for Nori’s new sandals. 

Hara strikes a natural balance between the magical realism of Nori’s world and the realistic tensions of her family. On one page, we’ll see rabbits take to the sky, and on another, her mother and grandmother will argue about how best to raise her. Nori’s Grandmother takes care of her because Nori’s mother works, and the tension this creates in the family will be familiar to many. Nori is awakened every morning by the slam of the door as her mother departs for work, and the day begins with Nori’s yell of “MOMMY!” Things calm down from there, but Nori wants to be carried and Grandmother’s back hurts too much to carry her far. When she’s put down, Nori runs after a cat and disappears. Grandmother scolds Nori’s mother for picking her up at the drop of the hat, but scolds her again when Nori cries at being put down. Nori’s parents are late for her nursery school play and miss her performance. These tensions, so common in busy, multi-generational families, run through each chapter without detracting from the playful tone.

Although Hara’s people and settings are rendered lovingly in ink with a monochrome wash, her drawings are never romanticized or overly pretty. Nori‘s end papers are decorated with illustrations of the commonly overlooked objects of a child’s life: a plastic watering can, a snow globe, a favorite jacket, a rubber duck. Hara depicts Nori’s life the way some people remember their childhoods: in tiny vivid details that add up to something larger. The visual style sometimes floats into manga tropes, as when Nori’s new classmate insults her lunch bento and Nori punches him in the mouth, causing a tooth to shoot out.

Nori will appeal to readers who enjoy nostalgic childhood stories, those interested in Japanese culture and history, and even manga fans looking to branch out. Retailing for over $20 US, Nori is a better purchase for medium or large graphic novel collections. Smaller collections might consider it where dreamy childhood tales or manga are popular. Nori will be shelved with adult collections, but should also be recommended for young readers with an interest in imaginative stories or Japanese culture.


Nori
By Rumi Hara
ISBN: 9781770463974
Drawn and Quarterly, 2020

Title Details and Representation
NFNT Age Recommendation: Adult (18+)
Character Traits: Japanese
Creator Highlights: Japanese

Super Mutant Magic Academy


SuperMutant Magic Academy, which she has been serializing online for the past four years, paints a teenaged world filled with just as much ennui and uncertainty, but also with a sharp dose of humor and irreverence. Tamaki deftly plays superhero and high-school Hollywood tropes against what adolescence is really like: The SuperMutant Magic Academy is a prep school for mutants and witches, but their paranormal abilities take a backseat to everyday teen concerns.
Science experiments go awry, bake sales are upstaged, and the new kid at school is a cat who will determine the course of human destiny. In one strip, lizard-headed Trixie frets about her nonexistent modeling career; in another, the immortal Everlasting Boy tries to escape this mortal coil to no avail. Throughout it all, closeted Marsha obsesses about her unrequited crush, the cat-eared Wendy. Whether the magic is mundane or miraculous, Tamaki’s jokes are precise and devastating.

This title has not (yet) been reviewed by our staff, but it is a title that we highly recommend for the majority of libraries building collections for this age range.


Super Mutant Magic Academy
By Jillian Tamaki
ISBN: 9781770461987
Drawn and Quarterly, 2015
NFNT Age Recommendation: Teen (13-16)


 

Hark! A Vagrant


Hark! A Vagrant is an uproarious romp through history and literature seen through the sharp, contemporary lens of New Yorker cartoonist and comics sensation Kate Beaton. No era or tome emerges unscathed as Beaton rightly skewers the Western world’s revolutionaries, leaders, sycophants, and suffragists while equally honing her wit on the hapless heroes, heroines, and villains of the best-loved fiction.

(Publisher Description)

This title has not (yet) been reviewed by our staff, but it is a title that we highly recommend for the majority of libraries building collections for this age range.


Hark! A Vagrant
By Kate Beaton
ISBN: 9781770460607
Drawn and Quarterly, 2011
NFNT Age Recommendation: Teen (13-16)


 

Related Reviews

Step Aside, Pops: A Hark! A Vagrant Collection

 

One Hundred Demons


Inspired by a sixteenth-century Zen monk’s painting of a hundred demons chasing each other across a long scroll, acclaimed cartoonist Lynda Barry confronts various demons from her life in seventeen full-color vignettes. In Barry’s hand, demons are the life moments that haunt you, form you, and stay with you: your worst boyfriend; kickball games on a warm summer night; watching your baby brother dance; the smell of various houses in the neighborhood you grew up in; or the day you realize your childhood is long behind you and you are officially a teenager.


One Hundred Demons
By Lynda Barry
Art by
ISBN: 9781770462779
Drawn and Quarterly, 2017
NFNT Age Recommendation: Adult (18+)


Our Review

One Hundred Demons


Over Easy


Over Easy is a brilliant portrayal of a familiar coming-of-age story. After being denied financial aid to cover her last year of art school, Margaret finds salvation from the straightlaced world of college and the earnestness of both hippies and punks in the wisecracking, fast-talking, drug-taking group she encounters at the Imperial Café, where she makes the transformation from Margaret to Madge. At first she mimics these new and exotic grown-up friends, trying on the guise of adulthood with some awkward but funny stumbles. Gradually she realizes that the adults she looks up to are a mess of contradictions, misplaced artistic ambitions, sexual confusion, dependencies, and addictions.

This title has not (yet) been reviewed by our staff, but it is a title that we highly recommend for the majority of libraries building collections for this age range.


Over Easy
By Mimi Pond
Art by
ISBN: 9781770461536
Drawn and Quarterly, 2014
NFNT Age Recommendation: Adult (18+)


Beautiful Darkness


Newly homeless, a group of fairies find themselves trying to adapt to their new life in the forest. As they dodge dangers from both without and within, optimistic Aurora steps forward to organize and help build a new community. Slowly, the world around them becomes more treacherous as petty rivalries and factions form.

This title has not (yet) been reviewed by our staff, but it is a title that we highly recommend for the majority of libraries building collections for this age range.


Beautiful Darkness
By Fabien Vehlmann
Art by Kerascoët
ISBN: 9781770463363
Drawn and Quarterly, 2018
NFNT Age Recommendation: Adult (18+)


The Property


After the death of her son, Regina Segal takes her granddaughter Mica to Warsaw, hoping to reclaim a family property lost during the Second World War. As they get to know modern Warsaw, Regina is forced to recall difficult things about her past, and Mica begins to wonder if maybe their reasons for coming aren’t a little different than what her grandmother led her to believe.


This title has not (yet) been reviewed by our staff, but it is a title that we highly recommend for the majority of libraries building collections for this age range.
The Property
By Rutu Modan
Art by
ISBN: 9781770461154
Drawn and Quarterly, 2013
NFNT Age Recommendation: Adult (18+)



The Hard Tomorrow

What is the best vessel for hope? Is it a time capsule with letters to the future? Is it a wedding dress, a sapling, a promise, a book? These are all options—ways of thinking ahead to what the future holds—but hope ultimately takes the form of a child. This is the message in The Hard Tomorrow written and illustrated by Eleanor Davis.

The Hard Tomorrow is set in a future not far from today. In a state of political unrest, people take stands on the far right or left, with a shared paranoia of the government’s abuse of power. The main character, Hannah, spends her days as a home-health worker, her evenings as an activist, and her nights as a wife hoping to become a mother. She and her husband, Johnny, have been trying to get pregnant for several months, but circumstances aren’t ideal, living in a camper together and arguing about when their house will get built. Each day brings its own challenges for Hannah—convincing a hospice patient to stay hydrated, making the right type of protest sign, getting out of a ticket, making forward progress on the house, and so on. But in the midst of these challenges are moments of respite, when the hospice patient agrees to drink, when the protesters are heard, when the cop lets her go with a few parting jokes, when the house frame goes up. Ultimately, Hannah believes that despite the dysfunction in the world, there is enough hope to bring a child into it.

This snapshot of a couple’s lives as they navigate their relationship and their desire to become parents is incredibly timely. Davis spends time on each character entering the story, showing us fears that are all too familiar. What if Facebook has been spying on me? What if my freedom of speech is taken away? What if I can never have a baby? Her world is only a step away from ours in the US, and already in sync with some countries already experiencing police states. Her characters are identifiable—friends bartering weed and planning gardens or girls singing pop anthems with the windows rolled down when they’re not fighting the system or struggling to get by. The comic itself is almost an anthem.

Davis’s black and white, flowing art style captures the heightened emotions as they build in the book. Tension builds as the protests become more dangerous, and Davis relies on the images to carry sound. Without text, you can hear the yelling crowd dwindling to a hush as police forces arrive, then the chaos that erupts as people begin fleeing and individuals are singled out and arrested. The final close up frames of Hannah’s baby are an embodiment of hope—all of the previous chaos draws still and hushes. There will be time for fighting the system later; all that matters is that this child has their whole future ahead.

This book does not appear to be rated, though the target audience is likely young adults and older. I’d like to think that younger readers won’t have the cynicism necessary to understand the book and its relevance. There is nudity, sex, and swearing, though none are overly explicit. Readers who are socially conscious and interested in realist comics would enjoy this book, and would enjoy Drawn & Quarterly as a press, in general. This comic is appearing on many Best of 2019 Comic lists, and for that alone, it may merit a place your collection. If you would like to build out more realism comics, this would also be a good purchase.

The Hard Tomorrow
By Eleanor Davis
ISBN: 9781770463738
Drawn & Quarterly, 2019
NFNT Age Recommendation: Older Teen (16-18), Adult (18+)