A shopper's guide to graphic novels
Okay, so you’ve read Maus. What’s next? This book will turn you onto a hundred more great graphic novels (you know, comics for adults) that “will change your life.” If you’ve been wondering what all the fuss is about, this guide is a great way to get into the only part of book publishing that is growing (the graphic novel section of large bookstores can be measured in yards). The author, fan-boy Paul Gravett, selects graphic novels that are contemporary (not classic super-heroes), easily found, in book form (rather than serial magazines), and are beyond mere colorful fantasy, and not just dark teenage angst. They are great stories, with very personal art, in a wonderful cross between cinema and text. This guide is smartly designed and a joy to use. You get sample pages from choice works, Gravett’s insightful comments and analysis, related books, and plenty of context to tell what you can expect from each book. It’s one of the best shopper guides I’ve seen.*
David B. imagined his elder brother Jean-Christophe’s epilepsy as a monster, a sinister dragon slithering through their lives and stalking him as well. This becomes the potent symbol for the disease in his graphic novel.
At first, David shows the monster as an external menace, holding Jean-Christophe in its coils or sharp teeth, whenever he has a seizure. But as the illness worsens, he realizes that his brother is giving in to it. Here he shows this point of surrender by drawing monster and brother merging into one, never to be separate again.
Crucial background is revealed about the youth of Thorn’s grandmother Rose and her sister, Princess Briar. In this encounter between Rose and her dragon guardian, she makes a promise to him, whose importance is accented by dropping the light in this key panel and illuminating her eyes.
Notice how cold is conveyed by showing the figures’ breath — the dragon’s being naturally larger. Written by Smith, this story is drawn by Charles Vess in delicate lines and rich colors, reminiscent of such masters of fantasy illustration as Arthur Rockham.
How does a boy raised to obey the Bible reconcile his deep faith and the stirrings of sexual attraction? Craig Thompson pieces together his answer, first by going back to the small cruelties inflicted on him by his parents, and to his guilt over failing to protect his younger brother. He blends these scenes with the slow unfolding of him falling in love with Raina, a girl he meets at church camp. Nothing is rushed, as here Thompson shows the first nearness of their bodies and frees them from confining panel borders. "Blankets" refers not only to the Wisconsin snow, but also to the bed that he an his brother once shared, and to the quilt that Raina makes him.