Working 9 to 5 at a job you hate, that’s the dilemma Retsuko, the red panda, faces in Aggretsuko: Meet Her World. The story features three different stories based on the Sanrio character of the same name. Retsuko likes to wear dresses and sing karaoke death metal. She looks more orange than red with white tip ears. She works in the accounting department in a high-rise building. Her boss, Ton, disrespects her and doesn’t appreciate her work. However, she commiserates with the other ladies who work in her department. In the first story, she invites two ladies to go out with her to karaoke, but they decline due to a work meeting. Then, Retsuko goes to the bathroom and rages in a death metal verse. The look of Restuko changes from passive and quiet to aggressive. It’s as if she is wearing a kabuki mask and inhabiting a demon character. Her teeth get jagged and her circular eyes become white slits with black spikes protruding in all directions.
The central problem that runs through all three stories is toxic masculinity and its impact on women in the workplace. Also, it’s about Retsuko finding her voice and finding her way out of a dead-end job. I enjoyed the second story, where the office ladies were rewarded with a paint and sip activity. At first, they enjoy painting and having wine until they find out that the men got a better reward. The men enjoy themselves on a yacht, and the women decide to crash it. Hijinks ensue as they hijack a motorboat and head out to the yacht. Ton, the boss, doesn’t appreciate their party crashing. However, the company president is there, and the ladies stick together and push for equality.
The art of Aggretsuko reminds me of a Sunday morning comic strip. The illustrators’ light backgrounds make the characters pop in the foreground. It also helps that, since the characters are different animals, they all have their unique colors. The characters’ faces also feature contrasting colors, which helps highlight specific elements. For instance, Gori’s gorilla body shape is a medium gray, while her face is dark gray, and she wears red lipstick. Gor’s sophisticated look reveals that she is a professional and is at the senior level. These contrasting colors make each character unique and give insight into their personality and status. Retsuko, on the other hand, wears more business casual clothing, showing off her youth and entry-level position.
I would highly recommend Aggretsuko: Meet Her World because it’s a delightful office comedy dabbling in real-life issues that women face. At first, the Adult rating made me think it would be raunchy, but after reading the graphic novel, I agreed with this rating. Not due to content, but I couldn’t see younger readers interested in the angst of office politics. This graphic novel would be best for very young adults who are just entering the workforce.
Aggretsuko: Meet Her World by Molly Muldoon, Annie Griggs, Danielle Radford Art by Kel McDonald, Abigail Starling ISBN: 9781620109793
Home Sick Pilots, Vol. 1: Teenage Haunts introduced readers to the Old James House and its assorted ghosts, along with the titular punk band. Home Sick Pilots, Vol. 2: I Wanna Be a Walking Weapon, written by Dan Watters and illustrated by Caspar Wijngaard, has strayed far from its original idea of a haunted house, taking its hodgepodge elements of X-Men-like superpowers, kaiju-sized monstrosities, and even ’90s punk into new and exciting directions.
Continuing the story from volume one, Ami and Buzz have escaped and are on the run both from the haunted house that is tethered to Ami and from a military agency that wants to weaponize ghosts. All Ami wants is to be able to enjoy some great bands and not have to be responsible for the house and its multitude of ghosts. But fellow punk rocker Meg and the military’s own ghost-powered robot, the Nuclear Bastard, wants Ami to pay for what happened to Meg’s former band, casualties of Ami’s haunted house. There’s a showdown brewing between Meg in The Nuclear Bastard and Ami and the Old James House, a battle that just might bring down the Old James House, along with a lot of property in the Pacific Northwest.
Watters’ story does an amazing job of putting together all sorts of elements that seemingly have no way to coalesce into a story. In volume two, especially, there is a strong superhero undercurrent as Ami is quite reluctant to accept what seems to be her destiny. After mostly establishing the rules of these ghosts in the first book, volume two starts looking more like a very dark, horror-inspired episode of Power Rangers, all while making the book’s main characters multi-layered and sympathetic. Ami and her opposite number Meg, who pilots the Nuclear Bastard, are seen as sympathetic, both young women struggling under the emotional burden of being a literal magnet for ghosts.
Wijngaard continues to use the black panel where the reader sees Ami’s thoughts written in tiny, white letters, but he also doesn’t spare the gore (Meg is literally covered in it throughout most of the book). There are plenty of deaths and disturbing images, including what Ami calls a “human Voltron,” that shows Wijngaard channeling Clive Barker’s fantastical horror, even as he maintains the bright neon colors that fit the ‘90s punk aesthetic. Watters’ story has a lot of influences, from adolescent drama that shows how many ways a human heart can break to body horror that shows how many ways a human body can be twisted out of shape. Wijngaard can create some graphic and violent images, but his realistic depictions of the book’s young adult characters helps ground the story in its quieter, emotion-driven moments.
There are two warnings, however. The first one is that librarians may be tempted to simply stick this book in their teen collection, what with the book’s bright colors and young protagonists, but there are plenty of gory moments in this book as well as more adult subject matter that pushes this title squarely into the adult section. This book does make a great fit for any library looking to add more horror graphic novels to their collection. It’s guaranteed to appeal to horror lovers who also love Godzilla, Guillermo Del Toro, and grunge music. It should also be a great read for readers looking for some science fiction in their haunted house stories.
The second warning? The book ends on such a cliffhanger that readers might demand your library get volume three of this story to see what happens.
Home Sick Pilots, Vol. 1: I Wanna Be a Walking Weapon By Dan Watters Art by Caspar Wijngaard Image, 2021 ISBN: 9781534320529
Publisher Age Rating: 16+
NFNT Age Recommendation: Adult (18+), Older Teen (16-18)
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
For anyone even vaguely familiar with our current political climate, a story of corporate control of the government is not new. Termed “plutocracy,” a ruling class is able to derive governmental power from their wealth. Abraham Martinéz’s graphic novel, Plutocracy: Chronicles of a Global Monopoly, seeks to create lore behind the evolution of a plutocratic society. Set in 2051, the global government is run by the ambiguously named corporation The Company. Determined to uncover the true, unauthorized story behind how The Company came to power, an anonymous citizen begins his investigation.
The world of Plutocracy is a vision of a distinctly American dystopia. Though The Company is a global government system, our focus remains on the Western experience. Logistically, it is difficult to accept that one cohesive power, no matter how wealthy, would be able to control all countries, citizens, and cultures across the globe. However, Martinéz is not interested in providing a detailed analysis of The Company and its reach. Rather, he is interested in discussing the philosophical implications of being governed in a plutocratic society. Many, even today, could easily argue that the U.S. government is a plutocracy. Plutocracytakes a dive into what this means now—and what it could mean for the future.
While political junkies may be underwhelmed by the relatively introductory level of discourse, Plutocracy is an excellent primer on plutocratic systems. In fact, the economical writing style and ongoing narration often make the comic seem as if it intends to serve as a learning text, rather than a dramatic narrative. With this said, the writing is a bit dry in places and the unraveling mystery of The Company often lacks suspense. And, yet, I do believe that Plutocracy would serve as a great learning tool and is certain to prompt much discussion.
Similarly, many elements of the art in Plutocracyare sure to promote discussion. The world of the future is one of muted colors, emphasizing the lack of artistry and bleak worldview often associated with fascism. The logo of The Company is a constant presence throughout the book. This symbol, a combination of the hammer and sickle and the electronic start button, presents the disastrous combination of what Martinéz deems “social-capitalism,” in which the rights of a human are directly connected to how many company shares that individual owns. The artwork of Plutocracy is simultaneously overwhelming and repressive. Impossibly large spaces often contrast with small, dark corners. What Plutocracymay lack in the storyline is certainly compensated for in the artwork.
Abraham Martinéz is clearly a talented graphic novelist.Though Plutocracyis identified as a graphic novel for adults, it may serve better as a learning tool for older teens. Plutocracy is a great addition to a young adult collection. There is no content that may be viewed as unsuitable for teens, such as overt physical violence or sexuality. Plutocracy is a great introduction for anyone interested in learning about the deep, ever-strengthening relationship between capitalism and government. Those coming of age during this era of plutocratic government will find Plutocracy especially harrowing and poignant.
Plutocracy: Chronicles of a Global Monopoly By Abraham Martinéz NBM, 2020 ISBN: 9781681122687 Publisher Age Rating: OT (16+)
NFNT Age Recommendation: Adult (18+), Older Teen (16-18) Character Representation: American
Chioma, a young Nigerian American woman visiting her family in Nigeria, opens her door for a young boy in After the Rain, and that fateful event sets the stage for a disturbing, horrific ordeal that tests her sanity and well being.
Chioma tries to help the young boy with a gaping head wound, but cries out in pain when she touches him. It is clear in subsequent days that something from the boy infected Chioma as she struggles to contain the uneasy feeling she is left with. She starts to hear noises and see strange disturbing visions as local lizards invade her family home. But is she the only one who can hear these sounds and see the visions? What follows is an eerie mix of ancient Nigerian spirits, body horror, and guilt associated with Chioma’s actions in America both before and after she became a police officer. Chioma is tested and brought to the edge of her sanity.
Based on a short story called, “On the Road” by Nnedi Okorafor, author John Jennings ably adapts the short story to graphic novel form. The original story is quite short, but Jennings and his artist, David Brame, add depth and many visual details that are not evident in the short story. Chioma’s nightmare is vividly brought to life in ways the text cannot convey. Brame effectively portrays Chioma’s horror with the expressions in her mouth and eyes. His fluid art style with heavy lines lends to the unsettled, mystical nature of the whole story. Some panels cease being solid lines as the dark power of the ancients overwhelms the story and the regular panel grid. The full color palette used here effectively draws the reader in, particularly when depicting colorful lizards and spirits. There are occasional moments when Chioma is in action or running that a more realistic style would have helped, but overall, the art effectively tells this story. Warning: the body horror depicted in this graphic story is unsettling, more so than in the short story.
Jennings has picked an interesting tale to kick off his Megascope imprint with Abrams Publishing in After the Rain. I’m definitely looking forward to the other books coming soon in this imprint. It’s also a good way to introduce readers to Okorafor’s writing if they aren’t familiar with it. I sought out her short story collection called Kabu Kabu and found several interesting stories along with ‘On the Road’. Most public libraries with adult graphic novel collections will want to get this story. Many university libraries may well want it as well. Okorafor fans will want to take a look at this adaptation and make their own comparisons.
After the Rain By Nnedi Okorafor John Jennings Art by David Brame ISBN: 9781419743559 Megascope, 2021
Title Details and Representation NFNT Age Recommendation: Adult (18+) Character Traits: Nigerien-American Creator Highlights: Nigerien-American Related to…: Book to Comic
Dee is a junkie and highly active sexual creature who is given an inordinate amount of money to do a job as prescribed by a mysterious man known as Mr. Mann. Her daily tasks are minimal, and she ends up spending most of her earnings at strip bars or peep shows, from which she is constantly forcibly removed. Kowalski is a 9-1-1 operator and a workaholic, avoiding her home life and staying on for double shifts, triple shifts, or even longer. Lastly, a nameless woman finds a pistol in the street outside her friend’s apartment complex and calls the non-emergency line, which connects her to Kowalski. The building ends up being Dee’s, as is the gun, and this is the beginning of the three women being pulled together into a criminal plot that spans their city.
Much of Matt Fraction’s body of work delivers solid storylines with plenty of humor. This story departs from that style and delves headfirst into obfuscating and providing tidbits to hopefully bring the reader along on this mystery. The description provided by the publisher for this series gives much more insight into how these three stories are connected than the first volume and a half does. Until one small clue starts to tie these ladies together, November is essentially three separate stories. There is quite a bit of mystery and intrigue, but there might not be quite enough revealed in the first few volumes to keep readers interested in continuing. Dee frequenting strip clubs also seems like an unnecessary character detail that serves to be a reason to include naked women throughout the story, rather than adding complexity to her as a person.
The lettering has won the hearts of critics for its beauty, but it is often hard to read. Kowalski’s inner monologue is all in cursive, and not an easy-to-read spaced out cursive. Pages are often crowded with many illustrations and text bubbles that threaten to overtake the action, which makes me wonder why these volumes need to be so short. With only 80 pages currently, panels could have been spaced more and the overall story would happen over more pages, but some of the sequences of art would have been easier to follow along.
While some readers may be drawn in to figuring out how these disparate elements connect, and Fraction’s existing fans might be willing to extend some faith to his work, most readers won’t find much about the storyline itself to continue reading past volume one.
November, Vols. 1 and 2 By Matt Fraction Art by Elsa Charretier, Matt Hollingsworth ISBN:
Vampire: The Masquerade (or V:tM) is probably the most successful role-playing game in history, apart from Dungeons and Dragons. The first game made for what became known as the World of Darkness setting, V:tM cast players in the role of the titular blood-sucking monsters, who spend their nights struggling to survive the Machiavellian political structure maintained by the eldest vampires, control the dark hunger that animates their undead forms, and retain what little humanity they have left. Generally V:tM is not a game of heroes and bold deeds, and that is well reflected by the new tie-in comic book series from Vault Comics.
“Winter’s Teeth” spins two different stories set among the vampires of St. Paul and Minneapolis. The first is centered around Cecily Bain, a freelance troubleshooter who reluctantly works as the muscle of the leaders of the Camarilla—the vampiric society that runs the nightlife of the Twin Cities and enforces the Masquerade that hides the existence of vampires from humans. Pressured to further tie herself to the local Prince, Cecily decides to claim the rare privilege of being allowed a “childe” and adopts Alejandra; a fledgling vampire seemingly abandoned by her creator and, by the laws of the Camarilla, an outlaw with no right to an afterlife. Thus does Cecily introduce “Ali” (and us) to the World of Darkness, even as she begins investigating Ali’s origins and a plot to overthrow the Prince.
The second story, “The Anarch Tales,” centers around a found family of Anarchs; vampires who live outside the structure set up by the Camarilla, but still try to maintain the Masquerade and their humanity. The central character here is Colleen Pendergrass; a thin-blood vampire who can pass for human and survive the touch of the sun but lacks the specialized powers most vampires possess. Colleen’s family takes a courier job that takes them to the Twin Cities, with each chapter revealing the origins of each member of the family and how the curse of vampirism altered them differently.
Fans of urban fantasy will find the stories of Cecily, Ali, Colleen, and company enjoyable, as Tim Seeley, Blake Howard, and Tini Howard do a fantastic job of establishing them as relatable, if not entirely likable, protagonists. What’s even more amazing is how well they establish the Vampire: the Masquerade setting and utilize the terminology of the game mechanics naturally within the context of the story. Newcomers who can’t tell a Brujah from a Gangrel will have no trouble getting into the swing of things, as the central story has Cecily showing Ali the facts of unlife and The Anarch Tales explains the Sabbath (i.e., vampires who embrace their inhumanity and seek to overthrow the Camarilla) as well as the particulars of some of the bigger clans and their powers.
Despite being a solid primer for the game and including some character sheets and other materials for players, Winter’s Teeth is a comic book, first and foremost, and the artwork perfectly suits the setting. Devmalya Pramanik and Nathan Gooden capture the Gothic splendor and horror of vampiric unlife. What truly completes the art, however, is the color art of Addison Duke, who renders most of the comic in a washed-out palette that subtly hints at the faded glory of the older vampire aristocrats and the muted half-life experienced by most young vampires.
Vault Comics rates this series as 15+, but I would suggest that it is more appropriate for adult audiences. As one might expect from a story centered around vampires, this series does not skimp on the bloodshed and there are many disturbing images of people being cut, stabbed, beheaded, set on fire, buried alive, eviscerated, defenestrated, and undergoing nearly any sort of physical punishment you can imagine. There’s not much in the way of sexual content, apart from the Prince of St. Paul (a vampire named Samantha) painting in the nude and even then only her bare backside is shown. While this is tame by the standards of True Blood and other similar shows, the story is mature enough to be best appreciated by adult audiences rather than most older teens.
Vampire The Masquerade: Winter’s Teeth Vol. 01 By Tim Seeley, Blake Howard, Tini Howard Art by Devmalya Pramanik, Nathan Gooden, Addison Duke Vault Comics, 2021 ISBN: 9781939424808
Title Details and Representation Publisher Age Rating: 15+ Only Series ISBNS and Order Related media: Game to Comic NFNT Age Recommendation: Adult (18+), Older Teen (16-18) Character Representation: American,
Students in over their heads, death, sexual intrigue, dismemberment, and bickering coming to a head with a threat to the whole world; The Magicians: New Class is full of these touchstones from its parent franchise, Lev Grossman’s The Magicians trilogy. We’re introduced to a handful of hedge magicians in a house in New Orleans before seeing them on a stage at Brakebills Academy for Magical Pedagogy where Dean Fogg unveils an initiative to incorporate hedge magic into the august school. Hedge magic is traditionally taught outside of institutions, passed down in informal houses and has existed for millennia. Hedge magician Keshawn Warren will be joining the staff and three of his students will be admitted as 3rd year students, the first hedge magicians to practice at Brakebills. The new students, Pat, Emily and Audrey, find themselves in a special class with three current third year students, Brian, Sophie and Andy. Andy is outspoken in his disdain for hedge magic and is only mollified upon learning the supposed history of magic traditions class is really for learning illicit battle magic. Deadly mistakes are made. A super villain is revealed. To avoid spoilers I’ll stop summarizing now. Taking place sometime after the events of the novels and TV show, the story and characters stand separate from those. Prior experience just gives the reader a fuller sense of the world. I have seen all of the TV show but have not read Grossman’s original novels.
I have read criticisms of the novels’ narrow male focus and problems with their depiction of homosexuality. This comic is a refreshing break from this, centered on a woman, peppered with sexual tension between Andy and Pat, with a nonbinary supervillain. We spend the most time with Emily, a hedge witch who hands over her prescription meds when she starts at Brakebills and is instead given a noxious green potion that she’s told will cause her body to start producing the proper hormones. I did not pick up on the importance of that scene until 30 pages later when she’s wearing a t-shirt that says “Trans Rights”, in part because I wasn’t familiar with the names of the prescriptions and there are a number of conditions (magical and not) that could be affected by hormone imbalance. It is later specifically stated (during a discussion of crushes) that Emily is trans. I thought this was a clever way of revealing this aspect of her character and a clear benefit of writer Lilah Sturges’ perspective that makes own voices books richer. Emily is the only hedge magician really interested in the formal, academic Brakebills experience, and like the previous novel/TV hero Quentin Coldwater, she feels that magic and Brakebills represent the only chance she has left at life.
The art by Pius Bak is sketchy and insubstantial, backgrounds are only hinted at, often only one or two faces are shown with strong emotional detail and any other faces are inscrutable or blank. I have to wonder if readers without a prior knowledge of Brakebills can get much of a sense of the setting from the occasional antiquated architectural fragments. Gabriel Cassata provides a wonderful moody color palette of muted browns inside the school, with the battle magic practice made visible as columns and circles of neon green and blue energy. When the students sneak out at night to show off to each other the panels are cloaked in heavy blue grays, crackling gold sparks of magic illuminating the scenes.
I loved TheMagicians TV show because it was charming, inhabited by fascinating characters with deep emotional journeys and lots of hijinks. I did not find much of that in this miniseries. We don’t learn a lot about the characters, other than who they’re crushing on and what kinds of magic they’re interested in. This felt like an introduction and I was disappointed to find the series was only 5 issues, I would have enjoyed seeing the characters develop in future volumes. When they’re showing off to each other, the hedge magician Pat does a particularly meta comics trick, turning Andy’s dialog into a Mylar balloon on a string. I wanted more of that humor and playfulness that acts as a great counterpoint to the serious themes in the TV show.
I would put this in the adult section at my library but wouldn’t be surprised to see older teens heading for it, given the crossover popularity of the original novels and show. It has strong language, gore, and sex, with Audrey’s bare back the only nudity. The violence is in a fantasy vein but still made me squirm. It may appeal to fans of Nicnevin and the Bloody Queen, Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, and Buffy, or any other world where young adults have to save the world. For another outstanding comic about a woman exploring the nexus of magic and trans issues, try Sex Death Revolution by Magdalene Visaggio.
The Magicians: New Class By Lev Grossman, Lilah Sturges, Pius Bak, Gabriel Cassata, Archaia, an imprint of BOOM! Studios, 2020 ISBN: 9781684155651 Publisher Age Rating: 15+ Related media: Book to Comic
Title Details and Representation NFNT Age Recommendation: Adult (18+), Older Teen (16-18) Creator Representation: Nonbinary Character Representation: Gay, Trans
Kimiko Tobimatsu, a 25-year-old queer, mixed-race Canadian woman with no history of health problems discovers a lump on her breast. In this powerful and honest autobiographical memoir, depicting her emotional and physical experiences with breast cancer, superbly illustrated by Keet Geniza, the reader weaves through the corridors of this disease with Kimiko. Her story commences with the newly complex life of constant appointments, evaluations, treatments, and the difficult conversations with everyone she cares about as she contemplates having breast cancer. The most appealing aspect of this novel, for me, is how the author and illustrator expand the customary narrative of cancer patients to illuminate the continual issues, rarely discussed, once a patient is deemed “cancer-free.”
“There’s not a lot of writing out there on cancer and disability. Maybe because for those of us who are now cancer-free, the ongoing symptoms are after-effects (of surgery, radiation, meds), not the result of disease still being present. Or maybe it’s because the mainstream cancer narrative is about overcoming adversity, not about experiencing ongoing disability” (92).
Kimiko’s relative youth generates a multitude of additional concerns once the cancer has been contained. She becomes highly aware of her body, its image, the food she consumes, the relationships new and old, being queer, all while becoming attuned for the perpetual need to rest, regroup, and rejuvenate. Her relationships with her family, especially her mother, play a huge role in Kimiko’s self-discovery as does her floundering relationship with her partner. She addresses many popular mindsets, within and outside, the medical profession regarding gender expression, reconstructive breast surgery, reproduction, early menopause, and the stereotypes perpetuated by the ubiquitous “pink ribbon” campaigns. In this compellingly told story, she shares with the reader her discoveries of how she found her own approach to move forward and the energy and dedication that the move demanded on her personally. As mentioned previously this is a robust resource for others who do not see themselves in standard breast cancer tales.
Geniza’s use of muted blues, blacks, and grays intensify the gravity of the situation, highlighting, through the expressive facial portraits, the fatigue and worry that the experience has on all those involved, not only the protagonist. The illustrations add to the tenderness, the pain, and the hope of those within Kimiko’s circle. The illustrations effectively and economically enhance the text in the relating of the narrative and in bringing the characters alive for the readers.
I must add a disclaimer here, your reviewer experienced similar encounters with the upside-down experiences of being diagnosed with breast cancer and its after effects. Kimiko’s story, although quantitatively different, strongly resonated with me as I reviewed her story and especially her disclosures about the aftermath of being “cancer-free”. Ironically, perhaps, I found reading this graphic novel experience joyful and poignant. It reverberated loudly with me although I match the perceived demographic of breast cancer patients in Canada. Her story strongly demonstrates that each person’s experience is uniquely their own, regardless of common, or in this case, uncommon markers of the disease and treatment. It also points to the unexpected interconnections in the shared experiences as well.
This graphic novel is a strong entry in the genre of graphic medicine and should be widely accessible in all public libraries as well as academic library collections highlighting memoirs, health and wellness narratives, and LGBTQ dialogues.
Kimiko Does Cancer: A Graphic Memoir By Kimiko Tobimatsu Art by Keet Geniza ISBN: 9781551528199 Arsenal Pulp, 2020 Publisher Age Rating: Adult
Title Details and Representation NFNT Age Recommendation: Adult (18+) Character Traits: Queer Creator Highlights: Japanese-Canadian, Queer, Genderqueer, Disability
The Nib compiles approximately fifty webcomics (many of which were previously published on thenib.com) from forty creators on a wide variety of LGBTQ+-related topics into this Kickstarter-backed anthology. The comics run the gamut from one-page funnies to ten-plus-page detailed glimpses into queer history. Associate Editor Matt Lubchansky’s introduction explains the origin of the title’s source, the phrase “Be Gay, Do Crime.” Lubchansky also discusses the significance of comics as a means to express queer identity in a singularly accessible manner.
Some of the most interesting comics in the anthology serve to educate readers about various aspects of the queer experience. These include histories, cultural and national disparities in treatments of queer people, and procedures like embryo adoption and securing birth control as an asexual person. One historical highlight is The Life of Gad Beck, written by Dorian Alexander, which details gay Jewish Beck’s resistance under Nazi Germany. Levi Hastings’ gorgeous illustrations are rendered in black, white, and pale blue, with thick outlines (there is no art tool information in the book, but it looks like Hastings used oil pastels). Another particularly informative contribution is Sam Wallman’s A Covert Gaze at Conservative Gays, an illuminating piece about historical and contemporary right-wing activism among queer people. At first glance, Wallman’s panelless comic closely resembles a infographic by a Mad Magazine artist; Al Jaffee comes to mind. But this black, white, and pink comic strikes a perfect balance between discussing “gay supervillains” like Milo Yiannopolous and more sympathetic conservatives like gun advocates in the wake of the Pulse Nightclub shooting. Kazimir Lee’s What’s It Like to Raise Kids in Malaysia When You’re LGBT? is another interesting piece which details political perspectives and individual experiences of queer people in Malaysia. The standout art is reminiscent of a mid-20th century picture book; the full-color illustrations are predominantly in earthy reds, pinks, yellows, and browns, and there are minimal outlines in the characters’ block-like head and body shapes.
The anthology balances its drier informational pieces with funny one-page strips and relatable memoirs. A memoir highlight is Dancing with Pride by Maia Kobabe (Gender Queer) and is about eir experience in a folk dancing class where dancers are assigned different roles based on their perceived genders. The simple illustrations appear to be in pencil and watercolor, and feature a page where the dancers are lined up in order so their shirts make a rainbow, a very subtle and sweet nod to queerness in non-queer spaces. Another moving piece is written by Sarah Mirk and details activist Pidgeon Pagonis’s experience as an intersex child. The piece, Gender Isn’t Binary and Neither Is Anatomy, is illustrated by Archie Bongiovanni (A Quick & Easy Guide to Pronouns, Grease Bats). A couple laugh-out-loud funny highlights include Joey Alison Sayers’s The Final Reveal, in which the extremes of gender reveal parties are spoofed, and Shelby Criswell’s Astrological Signs as Classic Queer Haircuts.
As is always the case when I read comic anthologies, there were pieces that didn’t resonate as well with me as those I’ve named above. Rather than specify them, I will argue that it is because this book features something for every reader. If a piece didn’t resonate with me, it is sure to resonate with someone else. The queer representation is so varied, with gay, lesbian, bisexual, trans, nonbinary, intersex, and ace representation, and with countless intersectional queer identities, that I am confident every queer reader will find something to relate to in this book. Due to its array of art styles and queer representations, I would particularly recommend Be Gay, Do Comics for fans of Iron Circus’s anthologies, like FTL, Y’all, Smut Peddler, and The Sleep of Reason.
Be Gay, Do Comics Edited by Matt Bors ISBN: 9781684057771 IDW, 2020
Title Details and Representation NFNT Age Recommendation: Adult (18+), Older Teen (16-18) Character Traits: Asexual, Bisexual, Gay, Lesbian, Queer Gender Nonconforming, Genderqueer, Intersex, Nonbinary, Trans Creator Highlights: Black, Filipino-American, Puerto Rican Asexual, Bisexual, Gay, Lesbian, Queer Gender Nonconforming, Genderqueer, Nonbinary, Trans