Monster on the Hill

By Rob Harrell
192 pages, color
Published by Top Shelf Productions

I’ve never read Rob Harrell’s comic strips before (Big Top and Adam@Home), so I had to rely solely on the cover of his first graphic novel Monster on the Hill to pull me in. There was something about that grabbed my attention, though. Part of it was the generally attractive nature of the illustration; the strange colored roots of plants, the glimpses of the dirt hanging underneath the exposed side of the hill, the the strange character design of the monster himself. But more than anything else? It was the "get me out of here" expression on the monster’s face. That was when I knew I had to check this book out.

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Gamma One-Shot

Story by Ulises Farinas and Erick Freitas
Art by Ulises Farinas
32 pages, color
Published by Dark Horse

Originally serialized in Dark Horse Presents #18-20, the Gamma One-Shot is a strange beast. It serves as both a complete story in its own right, as well as what feels like a pilot for future comics down the line. It feels like a mixture of Pokemon and Godzilla, but while Ulises Farinas and Erick Freitas wear their influences on their sleeves, it goes into places and directions that the originals would never touch. But best of all? There’s no doubt in my mind that the Gamma works better as a collected comic than it did as a serial.

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Avery Fatbottom: Renaissance Fair Detective #1

By Jen Vaughn
24 pages, black and white
Published by Monkeybrain Comics

I will freely admit that while you can’t judge a book by its cover, sometimes a book’s title is more than enough to get me to buy a copy. That was the case with Jen Vaughn’s new comic Avery Fatbottom: Renaissance Fair Detective #1. And while the end result might not be exactly in line with what you’d imagine with a title like that, there’s more than enough to amuse in this whirlwind tour of life at a Renaissance fair.

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Lobster Johnson: A Scent of Lotus #1

Written by Mike Mignola and John Arcudi
Art by Sebastian Fiumara
32 pages, color
Published by Dark Horse

Lobster Johnson: A Scent of Lotus #1 is the latest comic starring Mike Mignola’s character who straddles the pulp crime and horror genres. In an ever-expanding universe of titles spun-off from Hellboy, it’s easy for some of the comics to fade into the background more than others. But reading Lobster Johnson: A Scent of Lotus #1, I appreciate that Mignola, John Arcudi, and Sebastian Fiumara do their best to keep this comic memorable thanks to some particularly strong images that they’ve conjured up.

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Darkroom: A Memoir in Black & White

By Lila Quintero Weaver
264 pages, black and white
Published by University of Alabama Press

I’ll be the first to admit that I was a little surprised when I heard that the University of Alabama Press published a graphic novel. It’s not the usual suspect for this sort of thing, but within a handful of pages of Lila Quintero Weaver’s Darkroom: A Memoir of Black & White, it was easy to see why they’d stepped up to the plate. Latina in 1960s Alabama where everything was viewed as either black or white, Weaver’s memoir offers a perspective from someone unclaimed by either side in a racial struggle.

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Letting It Go

By Miriam Katin
160 pages, color
Published by Drawn & Quarterly

Miriam Katin is a comic creator whose work I’ve been following for over a decade now; encountering her stories in the Monkeysuit anthologies, watching her make a jump to the oversized Drawn & Quarterly Vol. 4, and then her first graphic novel We Are On Our Own. Her stories of her life as a Jewish Hungarian immigrant offer a glimpse into a life that will be unfamiliar to most, and she’s always had a strong skill as a storyteller. Her new graphic novel Letting It Go is in many ways the most personal one yet, focusing on the news that her son is planning to move to Berlin. What results is a frank and slightly comedic story about trying to let go of one’s anger.

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Sunny Vol. 1

By Taiyo Matsumoto
224 pages, black and white, with some color
Published by Viz

I’ve always appreciated that you never know quite what you’re going to get with a Taiyo Matsumoto comic. Some are rooted firmly in reality (Blue Spring, Ping Pong), others utter fantasy (No. 5, Tekkon Kinkreet/Black and White), and a few a strange mixture and melding of the two (Go-Go Monster). In the case of his latest series, Sunny, it’s a book that might at first look to fall into the latter category. But as you read more about this book’s group of young children and the car that can bring them anywhere they want to go, the more you’ll find yourself glad that it’s one without any magical elements whatsoever.

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Herobear and the Kid Special #1

By Mike Kunkel
32 pages, black and white, with spot color
Published by Boom! Studios

It’s been over a decade since Mike Kunkel’s original Herobear and the Kid comic was published. Running just five issues, it managed to make a huge splash as readers were wowed by the light story about a kid named Tyler and his stuffed bear that transforms into a superhero, as well as the animation-inspired art. Since then Kunkel’s had a couple of small projects here and there, but his comic book output has been few and far between. With a new Herobear and the Kid mini-series scheduled for later this summer, though, Kunkel and Boom! Studios are kicking off the comic’s return with a new one-shot to presumably draw in new readers.

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By Jon J Muth
Based on the screenplay by Thea Von Harbou and Fritz Lang
192 pages, color
Published by Abrams Books

I remember when the first issue of Jon J Muth’s adaptation of Fritz Lang’s film M was originally published as a joint venture by Arcane Comics and Eclipse Comics, back in 1990. I was instantly taken by the strange style of painted art—something that is much more common now, but wasn’t at the time—and was intrigued by the idea that it had adapted a film that I’d heard of but never seen. And then, inexplicably, I never bought any of the four-issue adaptation. Fast forward to the present, and the original had long gone out of print, but was rescued a few years ago in a new hardback collection. Picking it up, I found myself wondering if those glimpses that I’d long held in my head could compare to the reality of what I was about to finally buy and read.

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Road to Oz

Adapted by Eric Shanower
Based on the novel by L. Frank Baum
Art by Skottie Young
136 pages, color
Published by Marvel

It’s no secret that one of my favorite childhood novels was Ozma of Oz, and that I thought Eric Shanower and Skottie Young’s adaptation of the book was fantastic. Even better, having only read the first three Oz novels as a child, I’ve been delighted that Marvel has continued to hire Shanower and Young to create adaptations of the books that followed. Road to Oz is the fifth Oz book, and it’s also a very peculiar one. Shanower himself notes in the introduction that many fans consider it one of the weakest Oz novels. So should you read it? Now that I’m done, I’d have to say… yes.

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