Kobato Vol. 3

160 pages, black and white
Published by Yen Press

Several months ago, I reviewed the first two volumes of the new CLAMP series Kobato. At the time I felt that I was glad I had read them back-to-back, because after a slightly underwhelming first volume, things had picked up a great deal in the second and made me feel much more confident about the series. Now that the third volume is out, though? I feel like I’m left back in limbo on the series in general, and that this new installment isn’t a positive step forward.

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Morning Glories #1-3

Written by Nick Spencer
Art by Joe Eisma
32 pages, color
Published by Image Comics

I love the fact that, over the years, we’ve ended up with a subgenre of stories about teenagers involving evil schools and academies. There’s something about that natural mistrust that teenagers have towards adults that make it such an rich mine to tap, and Morning Glories by Nick Spencer and Joe Eisma is the latest comic to visit that well. So while the story itself isn’t something huge and crazy and new, it’s the choices that Spencer and Eisma are making that ultimately caught my attention.

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A Drunken Dream and Other Stories

By Moto Hagio
288 pages, black and white, with some color
Published by Fantagraphics

I never did read the issue of The Comics Journal that interviewed Moto Hagio, and printed one of her stories in English. I understand that it was that issue that convinced the rest of Fantagraphics to publish a "best-of" collection of Hagio’s work, though, and that it talked a great deal about her importance in helping define the shôjo ("girl’s comics") genre in Japan. Here’s what I do know, though. Going into A Drunken Dream and Other Stories blindly, it’s ultimately a book that sucked me into its stories and made me want to read a lot more of Hagio’s comics. A mixture of romance, science-fiction, and family drama, these ten story compilation is one of the strongest examples I’ve seen of the depth and breath that the shôjo genre can contain.

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Make Me a Woman

By Vanessa Davis
176 pages, color & black and white
Published by Drawn & Quarterly

Vanessa Davis’s comics are not, at a glance, the sort of experiences that would be universally understood. A love/hate relationship with Jewish boys, going to fat camp, celebrating the High Holy Days, a mother who uses slightly inappropriate and sexually tilted words. "That’s not me at all," you’re probably thinking. But what makes Davis’s comics in Make Me a Woman so good is that somehow, she makes everything relatable to the reader, no matter what their background. Boiling down the emotional experiences of each story to their core, there’s a lot to connect with. And more importantly, fall in love with.

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Johnny Wander Vol. 1: Don’t Burn the House Down

Written by Ananth Panagariya
Art by Yuko Ota
128 pages, black and white

One of my favorite webcomics at the moment is Johnny Wander by Ananth Panagariya and Yuko Ota. It’s a simple enough strip, short one-pagers based on recent events in the life of Panagariya, Ota, and their housemates. When they announced their first print collection of Johnny Wander, though, I jumped at the chance to buy it. By boiling their comic down to singular moments in their life, Johnny Wander is consistently funny and sweet.

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Market Day

By James Sturm
96 pages, color
Published by Drawn & Quarterly

One of the things I’ve always liked about James Sturm’s historical stories is that he is able to take events from the past and make them still pertinent to his present day readership. That’s never been more clear than with his latest book, Market Day, set in a European city near the turn of the 20th century, detailing the day in the life of a weaver taking his rugs to market for sale. What we get is not only a look into this man’s life, though, but a story that has to do with consumerism, the economy, and—most importantly—trying to create art rather than just product.

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Sisters’ Luck

By Shari Chankhamma
152 pages, black and white
Published by SLG Publishing

The Sisters’ Luck is the sort of graphic novel that has a great and relatively simple concept. A pair of twin sisters where each half has a linked power; one takes good luck from people, the other gives bad luck to people. When they’re together, nothing happens, but as soon as they’re apart, their abilities manifest. After reading that on the back cover copy, I found myself dying to read the actual story. What I found inside, though, was a bit more than I had bargained for. And that’s not always a good thing.

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Koko Be Good

By Jen Wang
304 pages, color
Published by First Second Books

Are you a good person? Do other people see you as a good person? And what are you doing with your life anyway? They’re all questions we’ve asked ourselves at one point or another. Koko Be Good by Jen Wang uses those ideas as a launch point, and what initially looks to be a slapstick-styled book ends up being a much more thoughtful and introspective book than you might have expected as its three main characters fumble through turning points in their own lives, and what might be intended to help others doesn’t always turn out that way.

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7 Billion Needles Vol. 1

By Nobuaki Tadano
192 pages, black and white
Published by Vertical

You might think about buying 7 Billion Needles based entirely off the cover. That’s because Vertical has designed it like an old science-fiction paperback, complete with orange band up at the top, and a large font text description on the back. If this is the sort of thing to make you think, "I need to read this book" then you are fortunately also in luck, because Nobuaki Tadano’s 7 Billion Needles is inspired by the 1950 science-fiction novel Needle by Hal Clement, and this is a book where the cover tells you exactly what you’re in for.

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Drinking at the Movies

By Julia Wertz
192 pages, black and white
Published by Three Rivers Press

Most autobiographical comics are boring. This usually has little to do with the actual lives of the people creating the comics, and more to do with that there’s no particular hook to make their own story interesting. Joe Matt is a prime example of someone who can create comics about an intensely boring (and slightly creepy) life and still make them enthralling, even while other cartoonists could go on a trip to Brazil and somehow make a boring comic. (Although let’s face it, the majority of boring autobiographical comics involve them wishing they were Joe Matt, not going to Brazil.) With all of that in mind, I wish to assure you that Julia Wertz’s Drinking at the Movies is the good kind of autobiographical comic, and it’s been a while since I laughed this much at a comic.

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