By Thien Pham
112 pages, color
Published by First Second Books

Thien Pham is one of those creators whose comics I’ve seen in small doses here and there over the years, primarily in mini-comic form. So with the release of Sumo, his first graphic novel as both writer and artist, I was eager to see just what he’d turn out. His minis have always been pleasing but short, and the expanded page count had the potential to deliver something quite interesting. As it turns out, Sumo is a book that uses its page length perfectly.

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Uncle Scrooge: Only a Poor Old Man

By Carl Barks
240 pages, color
Published by Fantagraphics Books

Reading the first of Carl Barks’ Duck comic collections from Fantagraphics last year, I found myself struck by how quickly I’d fallen in love with Barks’ entertaining stories of all lengths. After the review was published, though, I had several friends sidle up to me and warn me that the best was yet to come. They were referring to Barks’ Uncle Scrooge comics, which they swore up and down were even better. And now that Uncle Scrooge: Only a Poor Old Man is out and I’ve had a chance to sit down and digest it? Well, sorry Donald, but I have a new favorite Duck and he’s the one with all the money.

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The Red Diary/The Re[a]d Diary

Written by Teddy Kristiansen and Steven T. Seagle
Art by Teddy Kristiansen
144 pages, color
Published by Image Comics

The Red Diary/The Re[a]d Diary is one of the strangest and most inventive graphic novels I’ve seen in a while, but it takes a little explaining. Teddy Kristiansen wrote and painted a graphic novel published in France titled Le Carnet Rouge (or The Red Diary). In bringing it to North America and an English translation, he came to his friend and often-collaborator Steven T. Seagle. He’s part of the Man of Action Studios collective, which has a deal with Image, but (as Seagle explains in the book) he needed to be a co-creator in order to publish it, and he wasn’t sure that just providing a translation would suffice.

So, Seagle came up with an inventive plan. He’d take the French graphic novel and on his own write a brand-new script over top the art, trying to fit his script into the narration boxes and word balloons, and keeping in any names that didn’t require translation. Then, once he’d done that, he’d also (with the help of Kristiansen) script an actual translation of the graphic novel, and the two would be published side-by-side. The end result? The Red Diary, which contains Kristiansen’s original story, and The Re[a]d Diary, with Seagle’s brand new story "remixed" into Kristiansen’s art. It’s bizarre and off the wall, and yet? It utterly works.

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A Fine and Private Place #1

Original story by Peter S. Beagle
Adaptated by Peter Gillis
Art by Eduardo Francisco
32 pages, color
Published by IDW

With IDW’s successful comic adaptation of Peter S. Beagle’s novel The Last Unicorn, it only makes sense that they’d dip back into that well again with another novel-to-comic conversion. This one is from Beagle’s first novel A Fine and Private Place, with Peter Gillis scripting and Eduardo Francisco tackling the art. And while A Fine and Private Place doesn’t have the same instant hook that a project like The Last Unicorn possessed, this quieter story is a pleasant and interesting read.

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Polterguys Vol. 1

Written by Laurianne Uy and Nathan Go
Art by Laurianne Uy
192 pages, black and white
Published by Mumo Press

Laurianne Uy and Nathan Go’s Polterguys Volume 1 was one of those books that randomly showed up in my mailbox one day. I’m always a sucker for a book that won a Xeric Grant, and with the foundation having handed out its final publishing grants, getting hold of one of those books was a pleasant surprise. What I found was a book that clearly gets its main inspiration from certain manga tropes, but also adds enough of its own twist to keep it from being too predictable.

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Secret of the Stone Frog

By David Nytra
80 pages, black and white
Published by Toon Books

Toon Books is known for creating a smart synthesis between children’s books and graphic novels; their books appropriate the storytelling traditions and techniques of both and turn them into a bridge between the slightly different formats. With The Secret of the Stone Frog, though, Toon has published a full graphic novel for younger readers by David Nytra. And as it turns out, it was well worth the wait with a graceful, dreamy story that captures the imagination.

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Talon #0

Plot by James Tynion IV and Scott Snyder
Script by James Tynion IV
Art by Guillem March
32 pages, color
Published by DC Comics

Talon is, at its heart, a slightly odd book at a glance. It’s a book that has obliquely spun out of the last year’s worth of Batman issues and its Court of Owls storyline, but the main character didn’t actually appear in any of those issues. But at its heart? Talon #0 reminded me of not one but two different past DC Comics series, and has merged them into a title that I think can end up working quite well.

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