Kaoru Mori presents a collection of short manga, including comments and sketches, that span the first ten years of her career. From a wacky comic about a maid and a butler obsessed with finding a master for their mansion to a sweet story about how glasses change the way a girl sees the world around her, readers will get a sense of the varied interests of one of Japan's most talented mangaka.
Why I picked it up: I fell in love with Mori's lush, detailed art style when I read A Bride's Story, her slice-of-life manga series set along the Silk Road in the 19th century.
Why I finished it: Mori's women look real, though they’re all very beautiful. Her comics are generally published in magazines aimed at men, so there are plenty of panels that linger over women's generous curves -- as well as at least one topless high school senior -- but the overall tone is less salacious and more reverential. I found myself savoring each page, reluctant to turn to the next.
Mori's obsession with maids -- as seen in her series Emma and her stand-alone book, Shirley (both out of print in the U.S.) -- is in full bloom, but this collection let me see other, different sides as well. I particularly enjoyed "Burrow Gentlemen's Club," which put a slightly sinister twist on a story about a "bunny girl" working in a men’s club, and "The Swimsuit Bought Long Ago," a simple but touching story about a wife trying on an old bathing suit for her husband.
I'd give it to: Ayla, who is in the process of starting her own costuming company. She'll appreciate Mori's attention to detail and the amount of research she puts into her art. And Ayla will certainly be able to put to good use Mori's six-page section on corsets -- their construction, the way they've changed over the years, and the effort it took to put them on.
@bookblrb: Short stories (many of which feature maids) from Kaoru Mori, one of Japan's most talented mangaka.
Love—and crushes—are in the air for Nikki Maxwell in this sixth book of the New York Times bestselling Dork Diaries series.
It’s the biggest dance of the year and Nikki Maxwell is hoping her crush, Brandon, wants to be her date. But time is running out. What if he doesn’t want to go with her? Or worse—what if he ends up going with Mackenzie?!!
In the sixth book in the blockbuster Dork Diaries series—now with more than 8 million copies in print—join Nikki, Chloe and Zoey as they tackle the topic of love, Dork Diaries style!
Things are not going well for Meg Murry: she’s a poor student, her friends think she’s a baby, and she got in a fight on the way home from school. She feels repulsive and misses her father. (He was doing some secret, scientific work for the government, but letters have stopped coming from him, and no one knows where he is.)
Meg and her new friend Calvin are talking in the woods when her younger brother (Charles Wallace), Mrs. Whatsit, and Whatsit’s two friends suddenly appear and transport them to the planet Uriel. There they begin their adventure to save Meg and Charles Wallace’s father, who is trapped on a planet that has given in to evil and darkness.
Why I picked it up: I read the original as an adult and have never loved it quite as much as everyone who read it as a kid. Hope Larson is one of my favorite comic artists, so I was hoping she could help me connect with the story and the characters.
Why I finished it: She did. Somehow the images really helped me see Charles Wallace, Meg, and Mother as a family as they talk together in the kitchen during a storm. I could see how well they get along and their love for one another, as well as for the kids missing father. Being able to see Meg’s black eye (from the fight) throughout the story helped give it a sense of continuity, too, as the kids travel unimaginable distances on their fantastic adventure.
I'd give it to: Orson, because I think he’d see himself in Charles Wallace, who everyone thinks is odd but who his family describes as special / different / new. (And the fact that Orson would identify with Charles would make the story even more harrowing for him when Charles needs rescuing.) Orson would also like the idea of instant, faster-than-light travel via the fifth dimension.
@bookblrb: Meg and her brother travel to other planets via the 5th dimension to save their missing father.
The heroic (and sometimes sexual) adventures of a U.K.-based gay superhero team.
Why I picked it up: The cover featured superheroes from every color of the rainbow surrounded by pink ninjas.
Why I finished it: It had me at the title of chapter one, “Attack of the 50 Ft. Lesbian.” Plus Eden’s style reminds me of that of one of my favorite artists, Paul Grist.
I'd give it to: Tammy, in my French class, who would like Diva’s outrageous outfits and who probably wouldn’t have to struggle much to understand the French-speaking teleporter, Indigo.
@bookblrb: The heroic (and sometimes sexual) adventures of a colorful, U.K.-based gay superhero team.
Joe is living alone in a big creepy old house that belonged to his grandfather. His father was killed serving overseas, and Joe and his mom are adrift in sorrow. To make matters worse, it looks like they will lose the house as they don’t have the original deed.
Then, on a school field trip, bullies steal Joe's candy -- this has dire consequences when Joe returns home in a hypoglycemic state. This is worse than any he has ever experienced, complete with elaborate hallucinations; he must save a fantasy world inhabited by his toys, where his pet rat is a warrior taking him on an epic journey to save the homeland.
Why I picked it up: Grant Morrison wrote one of my all time favorite graphic novels (We3) and has freshened several superhero franchises I would have sworn had no where new to go (including Batman & Robin, Superman, and Animal Man). Any time I start to get bored with graphic novels, I check for new books by Morrison.
Why I finished it: Sean Murphy's artwork perfectly captures the elaborate waking dream Joe enters, filled with childhood miscellanea, landscapes paralleling his house, and countless warriors drawn from Joe's life. The pacing and images felt jumbled and frantic and let me experience the disoriented energy of a kid whose body and emotions are dangerously out of balance.
I'd give it to: My brother Kyle, who would appreciate the ridiculous weapons (including their potential for cosplay) used in the massive battles, both fantastical and emotional, that Joe must brave.
@bookblrb: In Joe’s hypoglycemic hallucinations, a giant rat takes him on an epic journey to save his homeland.
After eighteen years of marriage, Cynthia Copeland found emails from her husband to another woman, hinting of an affair. She confronted him, and they separated. Friends and family reacted differently to the divorce. Sides were taken. And after the divorce, the difference in parenting styles worried Copeland every time the kids went to their father’s place, where the kids also spent time with their father’s new girlfriend. With honesty, grace, and humor, Copeland shows the self-doubt, anguish and fears that come from an unexpected divorce and its aftermath.
Why I picked it up: I wanted to see how the story of someone’s divorce could be told in a graphic novel.
Why I finished it: This book is brutally honest about Copeland’s pain. Dividing up friends was particularly difficult because everyone still moved in the same social circles. Copeland also talks about purposely leaving some distant relations in the dark for a while after the separation because she didn’t want to deal with their judgment. But it’s funny, too. She says because of the time she had invested in breaking her husband of his bad habits (like taking his shirt off while driving, causing terror in the car), it was a bummer to see him dating other women: “like I was giving away a puppy right after it learned to go outside.”
I'd give it to: Martin, who would appreciate how Copeland frets about being the everyday parent while her ex gets to be the "fun guy" who lets their kids jump out of trees onto a trampoline.
@bookblrb: Cynthia Copeland shares the self-doubt, anguish and fears from her unexpected divorce and its aftermath.
No Asterix book is complete without his giant friend Obelix trying to get a drink of magic potion, then being reminded that he doesn't need any because he fell into a cauldron of the stuff when he was a little boy.
I always thought the details of this story had gone (and would go) untold, but it turns out that just a few years after Asterix began, Goscinny wrote it as a short prose piece. Many years later, Uderzo illustrated it like a children's book and released this volume.
Why I picked it up: Asterix is one of the first comic series I ever read, and I still enjoy these books today. The wordplay is hilarious fun. (I wonder if the original French can possibly be as entertaining as the English translation.) After Goscinny died Uderzo took over the writing, and it wasn't nearly as good, so I was excited to read this unearthed work by Goscinny. And, sure, I was curious about the story, too.
Why I finished it: The story was a bit anticlimactic (turns out Obelix fell into the magic potion when he was a little boy), but the art is astounding. Uderzo drew this in 1985, after a long career drawing Asterix when he was at the height of his powers. Instead of the usual dozen-panels-to-a-page, he absolutely revels in sprawling, double page spreads with unusual perspectives and viewpoints and lots of wonderfully subtle visual gags (kid Obelix is always pulling around a white dog toy that looks just like Dogmatix).
I'd give it to: Not Invented Here's artist Jeff Zugale, who became a dad for the second time and needs more kid's books. He will appreciate the many callbacks to the regular Asterix books -- young Cacofonix the Bard is tied up for the first time -- as well as the timeless, anti-bullying message.
@bookblrb: How Asterix's giant friend Obelix acquired his great strength when they were children.
Charlie is the popular captain of the basketball team at his high school, but popularity doesn't protect him from aggravation when his friend Nate and his ex-girlfriend Holly start fighting over their school’s club money. Nate, president of the robotics club, wants the money so he and his fellow club members -- Ben, Joanna, and the twins -- can take the robot they built to a competition. Holly and her minions, er, cheerleaders want the money for new uniforms. Both want Charlie to pick a side. Since he already feels like he's getting enough of that from his divorced parents, Charlie makes a wild suggestion: what if the cheerleaders and the nerds worked together? What could possibly go wrong?
Why I picked it up: I always enjoy Hicks's graphic novels.
Why I finished it: Shen's snappy writing made it so I couldn't stop reading. She slips plenty of funny moments into the story. For example, when the robotics club shows up at Holly's house to ask the cheerleaders for help, Ben, one of the members of the club, takes one look at her gigantic mansion and mutters to himself, "That's no moon." Hicks adds plenty of great visual, such as Charlie scuttling off down the hall to escape the wrath of Holly, and Nate’s giant, sparkly, manga-like eyes when he’s trying to seem innocent.
Even with all the humor and excitement, the story has a real heart, too, thanks in large part to Charlie. He's a likable guy caught between his childhood friend and the pressures of being unwillingly popular due to his athletic prowess. On top of that, he feels abandoned by his parents and frustrated by their cluelessness. Charlie is the anchor that ties both the clubs together and, in doing so, becomes the soul of the story.
(In fact it was only after finishing the book that I found out I've read her work before -- she's one of my favorite fanfiction authors! Her Merlin alternate universe series, Drastically Redefining Protocol, is a classic, though it isn't work safe. I also adored her Sherlock story, "Homecoming," which is less smutty but does have adult language.)
I'd give it to: J.C. prefers dogs to robots, but she'll completely understand Joanna's love for the team's metallic creation, even as she's cheering at Joanna's prowess at both welding and robotic navigation.
@bookblrb: Charlie has to pick a side when cheerleaders and the robotics club fight over school money.
Cliff Secord, the Rocketeer, is reinvented in this high flying new collection of short comics by various contributors. (In case you don’t know, Cliff was a stunt pilot who found a jetpack prototype and then used it to serve justice.)
Why I picked it up: I enjoyed the original comics thirty years ago, and hoped these new adventures would capture the spirit of Dave Stevens’s comics.
Why I finished it: From the beaches of Los Angeles to the Pacific jungles of World War II, each of the twelve stories offers a different take on the pop culture of the thirties and is reminiscent of the serials (Commander Cody, Buck Rogers) and comics (Superman, Green Phantom) of my childhood.
I'd give it to: My two adult daughters, who have such fond memories of the movie adaptation they saw as kids. They will enjoy the vibrant artwork, especially the full page "pin-ups" at the end of each chapter and the “Spicy Adventure,” which is racy and the only all-prose story in the book.
@bookblrb: A stunt pilot with a jetpack serves up justice during World War II.