Rabbi Harvey vs. The Wisdom Kid

By Steve Sheinkin
144 pages, color
Published by Jewish Lights Publishing

I love when I end up with a good book that I otherwise might not have picked up. That’s certainly the case with Rabbi Harvey vs. The Wisdom Kid, a graphic novel set in the wild west frontier starring a rabbi who has to deal with all sorts of calamities. The book reminds me a lot of John D. Fitzgerald’s The Great Brain books, in that Rabbi Harvey is funny and clever and holds a near-universal appeal.

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Bikeman #1

By Jon Chad
44 pages, black and white

I love mini-comics. For those who haven’t encountered them before, they’re usually handmade comics that are assembled by the artist and sold at conventions. Every year at the Small Press Expo, almost all of my money ends up going towards mini-comics, which are often hard to find anywhere else. One of my favorite purchases last year was Leo Geo and His Miraculous Journey Through the Center of the Earth by Jon Chad, a comic over two feet tall drawn as a single continuous image showing Leo Geo climbing slowly through the planet. Having just read his new mini-comic Bikeman, I’m all the more excited to buy more of Chad’s comics, because he’s now proven himself to me as not being a one-hit-wonder.

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Kobato Vol. 1-2

164 pages, black and white
Published by Yen Press

Kobato is the latest comic from Japanese creator collective CLAMP, and based on many of their past works that I’ve enjoyed (Suki, xxxHolic, Wish, Cardcaptor Sakura, Legal Drug) I figured it was worth a shot. Yen Press chose to release the first two volumes of the series simultaneously in English, and now that I’ve read them I have to say this was a smart move on their part. Had I only read the first volume on its own, I’m not entirely sure I’d have gone back to the store for a second helping.

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Strange Science Fantasy #1

By Scott Morse
28 pages, color
Published by IDW

One of the things I like about Scott Morse is that you never, ever know what you’re in store for. He jumps genres and formats faster than people can keep up, and often morphs his art style to match. So when I picked up a copy of Strange Science Fantasy #1, the only thing for certain I knew was that the cover reminded me a lot old B-grade movie posters. Turns out that’s more or less what was waiting for me on the inside, too.

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Prime Baby

By Gene Luen Yang
64 pages, color
Published by First Second Books

I do wonder what the readers of the New York Times Magazine must have thought when Gene Luen Yang’s Prime Baby first started its serialization in its pages. I guess if they’d read American Born Chinese or The Eternal Smile that they might’ve had at least the glimmering of an idea that it was bound to be a little odd. I’ll go a step further, though; not since first encountering Yang’s Gordon Yamato and the King of the Geeks have I seen such a strange book from Yang. Not that I’m complaining. But it’s definitely one of Yang’s more eccentric works.

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Bakuman Vol. 1

Written by Tsugumi Ohba
Art by Takeshi Obata
208 pages, black and white
Published by Viz

It’s a fair statement to say that Tsugumi Ohba and Takeshi Obata’s series Death Note was a huge, career-making hit for them. It would also be a fair assumption by most readers, at that point, to think that Ohba and Obata were set for life in terms of publishers and the world of manga. As their follow-up series Bakuman shows, though, that’s hardly the case in the manga industry. Bakuman is two parts story, and one part manga business world primer, and I am finding it utterly fascinating.

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Written by Jane Yolen
Art by Mike Cavallaro
160 pages, color
Published by First Second Books

I remember when, years ago, First Second announced some upcoming books in their catalog that included a graphic novel written by Jane Yolen. Yolen is one of those masters of fantasy, with a bibliography rapidly closing on over 300 books, plus numerous short stories and awards to her credit. And, while many of her novels are intended for young adults, she’s written for adults as well. So a graphic novel from Yolen? This seemed too good to be true. Now that I’ve finally read Foiled, I must admit that I’m not entirely sure what to make of it.

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Royal Historian of Oz #1

Written by Tommy Kovac
Art by Andy Hirsch
24 pages, black and white
Published by SLG Publishing

One of the things I find fascinating about L. Frank Baum’s Oz series is the number of writers and interpretations that have come to it over the years. It’s a practice that began in the 1920s when Ruth Plumly Thompson was chosen to write books in the series after Baum’s death, and from there not only did additional writers take over the series, but as Baum’s books fell into the public domain it opened up the doors to even more writers to try their hand at Oz. All of this is kept in mind with Tommy Kovac and Andy Hirsch’s new mini-series The Royal Historian of Oz, which has its own take on the idea of various writers trying to take over the job of writing about Oz, and in doing so has something to say about the nature of writing.

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Octopus Pie: There Are No Stars in Brooklyn

By Meredith Gran
272 pages, green and white
Published by Villard Books

Octopus Pie is one of those online comics that I’d heard the title of (because really, once you hear the phrase Octopus Pie how are you going to forget it?) but never sat down and read. Now that Villard Books has released a collection of the first two years of the strip, though, it seemed like a good a time as any to see just what it’s all about. That said, the biggest mistake you can make as an Octopus Pie newbie has got to be the one I made: don’t read it all at once.

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By Doug TenNapel
272 pages, color
Published by Graphix/Scholastic Books

Doug TenNapel is a cartoonist that I have a small (very small) love/hate relationship with, in terms of his work. More often than not, I’ll find myself enjoying his book up until the conclusion, at which point everything falls apart. His book Flink three years ago evoked a strong enough reaction that I decided it was time to stop buying his books for a while. And then, unbidden, Ghostopolis showed up in my mailbox. If this wasn’t a good sign that it had been long enough that I should take another look, well, there probably wouldn’t be a better one.

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