Stuffed!

Written by Glenn Eichler
Art by Nick Bertozzi
128 pages, color
Published by First Second Books

Even under the best of circumstances, family can be difficult to deal with. That’s how Stuffed! opens itself to the reader, a story about a bizarre inheritance that freaks out the two brothers who find themselves with the delicate situation of dealing with its contents. It’s a basic story premise that’s been around for ages, with people having to either come together or be driven apart by a stressful third party. But while Glenn Eichler’s script is an amusing one, the element that’s missing in its pages may actually surprise you a little bit.

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Photographer

Written and drawn by Emmanuel Guibert
Photography by Didier Lefèvre
Design, color, and layout by Frédéric Lemercier
288 pages, color
Published by First Second Books

I’m a little mortified to admit that it’s taken me a couple of months to finally read The Photographer, the story of photojournalist Didier Lefèvre’s journey with Médecins Sans Frontièrs (Doctors Without Borders) into Afghanistan in 1986. It seemed like the kind of book that I couldn’t take lightly, that I wanted to reserve extra time to read. Finally, the rest of the world slowed down around me, and over the course of two days I dove into the book. What I found made me wish that somehow I could relive that initial experience of reading it all over again.

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Bourbon Island 1730

Written by Appollo and Lewis Trondheim
Art by Lewis Trondheim
288 pages, black and white
Published by First Second Books

When is a pirate book not a pirate book? Appollo and Lewis Trondheim’s Bourbon Island 1730 perhaps fulfills the answer to that rhetorical question, set on the Indian Ocean of Bourbon Island (present-day Réunion) as the age of pirates is slowly coming to an end. It’s a combination of adventure and historical fiction showing off the social interactions of the island, but I’m not entirely convinced that the book entirely succeeds on either front.

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Color of Earth

By Kim Dong Hwa
320 pages, black and white
Published by First Second Books

When the manga boom first really erupted into North America, a lot of publishers began also translating Korean comics (or manhwa) into English. One of the big benefits was that manhwa already is read left-to-right, so it didn’t have to go through the whole issue of "flipping" versus reading right-to-left. These days very little manhwa is being translated as the boom has settled back down into a more reasonable level, but occasionally a new manhwa shows up, like Kim Dong Hwa’s The Color of Earth. I think most people would agree that it’s books like The Color of Earth that are a good reminder why ignoring manhwa would cut us off from a whole wealth of really good comics.

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Eternal Smile

Written by Gene Luen Yang
Art by Derek Kirk Kim
176 pages, color
Published by First Second Books

Two and a half years ago, Gene Luen Yang’s American Born Chinese was released with huge (and well-deserved) critical acclaim. While he’s had a few books from other publishers years ago, since then the wait for a new Yang book has begun. Fans of American Born Chinese will no doubt be eager to hear that his new book, with artist Derek Kirk Kim, is now out. And, happily? There’s a lot to love here, too, with three stories that one-by-one tear the veil away from their initial situations to reveal something slightly different.

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Alan’s War

By Emmanuel Guibert
336 pages, black and white
Published by First Second Books

Have you ever read one of those books that you absolutely cannot put back down? That was absolutely the case for me when it came to Alan’s War: The Memories of G.I. Alan Cope. What was a strictly chance meeting—comic creator Emmanuel Guibert and World War II American soldier Alan Cope—spawned not only a long friendship, but the retelling of Cope’s experiences in the European theatre in the 1940s. As the last of the World War II veterans are vanishing, a book like Alan’s War in many ways is more important than ever, recording those memories with such great ability and power.

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Amazing Remarkable Monsieur Leotard

Written by Eddie Campbell and Dan Best
Art by Eddie Campbell
128 pages, color
Published by First Second Books

One of the best things about Eddie Campbell is that, as a creator, I never feel like he’s fallen into a rut. Each new project always seems very different from the previous one, trying out new ideas and storytelling tactics. Sure enough, his and Dan Best’s new book, The Amazing Remarkable Monsieur Leotard, is completely different from the last book of Campbell’s I read. And in some ways, I think it’s my favorite book from Campbell in a long while.

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Little Vampire Vol. 1

By Joann Sfar
96 pages, color
Published by First Second Books

Five years ago, two of Joann Sfar’s all-ages Little Vampire books were translated into English… and then, nothing. Now, finally, First Second has brought Little Vampire back from the dead, if you’ll pardon the bad pun. Little Vampire Volume 1 collects the first three stories by Sfar, and they’re just as much fun as I’d remembered.

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Kaput & Zosky

Written by Lewis Trondheim
Art by Eric Cartier and Lewis Trondheim
80 pages, color
Published by First Second Books

There are times where I almost feel like a broken record, but I feel that it bears repeating over and over again—Lewis Trondheim is one talented creator. What always surprises me is how he’s able to switch genres and styles at the drop of a hat, going from serious slice-of-life to slapstick comedy with the greatest of ease. One of his latest efforts translated into English, Kaput & Zosky, falls into the latter category. That said, if there’s one thing Trondheim is especially good at here, it’s being able to skewer modern-day society even when he’s writing about incompetent conquest-loving aliens.

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Three Shadows

By Cyril Pedrosa
272 pages, black and white
Published by First Second Books

Reading Cyril Pedrosa’s Three Shadows, I couldn’t help but think about the brief author’s biography provided in the end-flaps of the graphic novel. In it is the mention that Pedrosa was inspired to create the book after watching close friends lose a young child. It seems like a particularly grim thing to put up front, but at the same time I think it’s actually the smart thing to do. Providing context for this story makes what might feel like an overly long book instead makes its padding work in its favor.

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