Relish: My Life in the Kitchen

By Lucy Knisley
176 pages, color
Published by First Second Books

When I read Lucy Knisley’s travel/food memoir French Milk back in 2009, I closed out the review by saying, "Knisley is definitely a creator to watch; she’s on her way towards greatness." You might think this is me leading up to gloating that I was completely right, that Knisley’s new memoir Relish: My Life in the Kitchen—a book about growing up around food—in fact proves that earlier prediction. As it turns out? I am. Relish is one of those charming books that delivers everything it promises and more.

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Sumo

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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Anya’s Ghost

By Vera Brosgol
224 pages, two-color
Published by First Second Books

With a lot of young-adult oriented books and graphic novels, you know exactly how they’re going to turn out as soon as you start reading. Vera Brosgol’s Anya’s Ghost deliberately flouts that predictability, thankfully; it’s a book that not only doesn’t treat its readers as stupid, but delights in providing logical yet surprising turns of events from start to finish, resulting in a graphic novel that entertains on a continual basis.

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Marathon

Written by Boaz Yakin
Art by Joe Infurnari
192 pages, sepia-tone
Published by First Second Books

It’s no secret that I’ve been a distance-runner for a little over a decade; I ran my first marathon in 2001, and have run 11 of the events (plus numerous half-marathons and shorter distance races, and more recently a handful of triathlons). A comic about the origin of the marathon, as a result, should be the ultimate attraction to me as it mixes two of my obsessions. What I found in Marathon by Boaz Yakin and Joe Infurnari, though, was a graphic novel where one of the creators does all of the heavy lifting.

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Bloody Chester

Written by J.T. Petty
Art by Hilary Florido
160 pages, color
Published by First Second

One of the things that I appreciate about First Second’s graphic novel line is that they don’t seem to ever confine themselves to one specific genre or mood. It means that there’s room for books like Bloody Chester by J.T. Petty and Hilary Florido, a Western about a teen who agrees to go on a mission to burn down an abandoned town in order to break free from his tormentors, but finds just as many problems at his destination. It’s an odd little book, but one that grew on me the more I thought about it.

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Moon Moth

Original short story by Jack Vance
Adapted by Humayoun Ibrahim
128 pages, color
Published by First Second Books

Jack Vance is one of those authors who’s been successful in multiple genres (science-fiction, mystery, fantasy, autobiography) and doesn’t get half of the attention he deserves. With so much material published (there’s a 45-volume "integral edition" of his works out there, by way of example) it’s easy to have not read even a fraction of Vance’s writings, so hopefully The Moon Moth will help introduce a new audience to this author’s works. The original novella that The Moon Moth adapts was published half a century ago, but it says a lot about both Vance and adaptor Humayoun Ibrahim that it still feels fresh and original even now.

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Baby’s in Black

By Arne Bellstorf
208 pages, black and white
Published by First Second Books

I’ll admit that before reading Baby’s in Black: Astrid Kirchherr, Stuart Sutcliffe, and The Beatles, I knew remarkably little about Stuart Sutcliffe, one of the early members of the Beatles. So it was with that in mind that I was eager to read Arne Bellstorf’s biography of Sutcliffe and photographer Astrid Kirchherr’s life together, a glimpse into the early days when the Beatles were a five-piece band and playing in Germany. What I found was a book that answered a lot of questions, but ultimately left me feeling a little frustrated by what I had and hadn’t learned.

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The Silence of Our Friends

Written by Mark Long and Jim Demonakos
Art by Nate Powell
208 pages, black and white
Published by First Second Books

The retelling of events that you personally lived through is harder than it looks. Being there for what happened will automatically have a greater impact than hearing about it afterwards, and trying to bring that emotional connection to a wider audience can be difficult. The Silence of Our Friends is based on Mark Long’s childhood in 1968 Houston, and the end result is an interesting story, but one that isn’t quite as engaging as I suspect it was for Long.

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Friends With Boys

By Faith Erin Hicks
224 pages, black and white
Published by First Second Books

I think most comic book readers have at least one creator whose works they’ve kept meaning to try out, but never gotten around to. Some of us even have lists; one of the people on mine for a while now has been Faith Erin Hicks. I’ve heard good things about her past books (writing and drawing Zombies Calling and The War at Ellsmere, and illustrating Brain Camp), and so with Friends With Boys due to be released just around the corner, now seemed a good a time as any to finally give Hicks a whirl. Fortunately, this is one of those situations where it was worth the wait.

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Feynman

Written by Jim Ottaviani
Art by Leland Myrick
272 pages, color
Published by First Second Books

I’ll admit right off the bat that I had no idea who Richard Feynman was a month ago. Feynman tells the story of the Nobel Prize winning physicist who not only worked on the Manhattan Project but had a lot to do with quantum electrodynamics and was kind of a big deal. This hardly sells the idea of reading a biography of the man, though. More importantly, Jim Ottaviani and Leland Myrick’s book tells the story of an eccentric genius who was one of the odder people you’d meet, and in a good way. Reading Feynman did what few other books about scientists have done for me; it made me think, "I wish I’d met this guy."

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