Smile

By Raina Telgemeier
224 pages, color
Published by Graphix/Scholastic Books

If you ask someone for a story about going to the dentist, chances are they’re going to have a nightmare experience to tell you all about. I think having no bad dental stories either means you have an incredible amount of luck, you aren’t that old just yet, or you don’t go to the dentist. So on that note alone, there’s an instant hook for people to read Smile, Raina Telgemeier’s autobiographical story centered around a particularly nasty dental drama when she was a teenager. But in the case of Smile, it’s actually more of a window dressing for what I think is the real story at the center of the book, and that’s what makes it so compelling.

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Choker #1

Written by Ben McCool
Art by Ben Templesmith
32 pages, color
Published by Image Comics

I know I’m not the only person who misses Fell, Warren Ellis and Ben Templesmith’s series for Image that quietly stopped publishing (for now) after nine issues. So while it probably isn’t fair to instantly start throwing out comparisons between Fell and Choker, I will admit that it was my missing of Fell that made me decide to check out Choker. While the two share an artist and a certain sensibility, though, it’s in the writing that the two series definitely part ways.

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MySpace Dark Horse Presents #31

Written by Mark Crilley, Jackie Kessler, Graham Annable, and Ananth Panagariya
Art by Mark Crilley, Paul Lee, Graham Annable, and Yuko Ota
26 pages, color
Published by Dark Horse Comics and MySpace

I’ve come to the grim conclusion over the past year that if your website doesn’t have an RSS feed, I am more than likely going to forget it exists. It’s nothing personal, I just have so many things going on in my life that sooner or later I’ll start forgetting to check for updates. That’s been the case as of late with MySpace Dark Horse Presents, the return of Dark Horse’s original anthology title now running monthly issues on MySpace. When a pair of cartoonists mentioned on their website that their new story had just gone live on MySpace DHP (something I heard through their RSS feed, of course), though, I decided it was time to sit down and catch up.

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Yotsuba&! Vol. 7

By Kiyohiko Azuma
208 pages, black and white
Published by Yen Press

There are some series where the publication schedule can try its fans’ patience. One of them is, easily, Yotsuba&! if you’re reading it in English. Its original publisher released the first three collections in fast succession, then there was a 20-month gap before volumes 4 and 5 showed up. Then, the company decided to get out of the book publishing game, and it was another two years before Yotsuba&! wriggled its way free to Yen Press. With volumes 6 and 7 now out, and an eighth one scheduled for later this spring, it looks like for now the drought is over. The reason why I mention all of this is that there are few series that I think would hold my attention so much over the course of this many delays, but Yotsuba&! manages quite nicely.

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Copper

By Kazu Kibuishi
96 pages, color
Published by Graphix/Scholastic Books

One of my favorite webcomics is Kazu Kibuishi’s Copper, so a collection of all the stories to date was going to be an automatic winner in my house. For fans who devoured all the strips online, there’s still an attraction for the print version; not only are they all collected in one place, but Kibuishi’s stories from the Flight anthologies are included as well, plus a step-by-step examining of how Kibuishi creates the comic. But more importantly, if you haven’t read Copper before? Think of a strange mixture of introspection, observations on the world, the comics of Jean "Moebius" Giraud, and Calvin & Hobbes.

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Biomega Vol. 1

By Tsutomu Nihei
216 pages, black and white
Published by Viz

Depending on what sort of comics you read, Tsutomu Nihei is best-known in English language comics for the science-fiction manga Blame! or the Wolverine mini-series Snikt!; I can only assume that the exclamation points in both titles is a coincidence. I think it says a lot about Nihei’s comics that while I’ve never actually read one of his comics, I already knew exactly what his art style looked like. That’s actually exactly why I wanted to read Biomega, to see if his stories were as impressive as his visuals.

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Ultimate X #1

Written by Jeph Loeb
Pencils by Arthur Adams
Inks by Mark Roslan
32 pages, color
Published by Marvel

So many times, a "reset" for a line of comics feels less like something that was actually needed, and more like a chance for some new issue #1s to sell extra copies. That said, the conclusion and re-start of Marvel’s "Ultimate" line was something that I think was genuinely needed. What had started as a stripped-down, easy-to-jump-in line of titles had turned into a mish-mash of characters, continuity, and numerous deaths and resurrections. In other words, what had started as a new generation had become its parents. Ultimate X looks to be the first step towards the new "Ultimate" cleaned-decks approach, and I have to give them credit, it has potential for being just that.

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Walking Dead #69

Written by Robert Kirkman
Art by Charlie Adlard
32 pages, black and white
Published by Image Comics

I have a confession to make. I stopped reading The Walking Dead a few years ago. As much as I’d enjoyed the early storylines, the series started coming across a little too grim and unforgiving. That’s a slightly strange comment to make about a story where the world is taken over by zombies, but it just got to be too much. For better or for worse, Rick and company simply couldn’t catch a break at any time. Everything always went badly before too long, and it was an ongoing crawl through barbed wire. But when I heard that The Walking Dead was (at least temporarily) locating to Washington DC, I had to give it another shot. The lure of the book being set where I’ve lived for over 35 years was a little too hard to ignore.

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Nightschool: The Weirn Books Vol. 1-2

By Svetlana Chmakova
192 pages, black and white
Published by Yen Press

A little over a year ago, I read the fifth Flight anthology and was enthralled by Svetlana Chmakova’s short story, "On the Importance of Space Travel." I’d promised myself since then that I’d give some of her other comics a try, and recently picked up and read the first two volumes of Nightschool. And while the idea of a school for the supernatural is something we’ve all seen before, it’s Chmakova’s style of how she tells the story that makes this series stand out and become memorable.

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Refresh, Refresh

Original short story by Benjamin Percy
Screenplay by James Ponsoldt
Adapted by Danica Novgorodoff
144 pages, color
Published by First Second Books

A graphic novel based on a screenplay based on a short story? I suppose there are more circuitous routes out there for graphic novels, but none are immediately springing to mind. That’s the slightly thankless task that Danica Novgorodoff has with Refresh, Refresh, a story that gets traced back to a short story by Benjamin Percy. Reading the graphic novel, though, I ended up with a slightly disconcerting feeling that had I just picked up Percy’s short story that I would have ended up with a much stronger and more interesting experience.

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