Life Sucks

Written by Jessica Abel and Gabe Soria
Art by Warren Pleece
192 pages, color
Published by First Second Books

If there’s a genre that has almost no permutations left these days, it’s vampire fiction. Each new spin has been seen before, and every new project can be traced backwards, somehow, to something else. In many ways, though, that’s actually a good thing. It means that people who do write in the genre have a wide variety of avenues available to them that automatically feel familiar to the audience; it lets the creators focus more on the story itself and less on the trappings. In the case of Life Sucks, that’s a good thing—the basic idea may hardly be original, but it’s the characters that help drive the book.

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Laika

By Nick Abadzis
208 pages, color
Published by First Second Books

You can know the ending to a book and, if itís well crafted, still enjoy the experience. Thatís absolutely the case with Nick Abadzisís Laika, his telling of the dog sent into orbit inside Sputnik 2 in 1957. People who are even remotely familiar with Laikaís place in history know the ultimate fate of her and the Sputnik 2 mission, but thatís not the important thing. Here, itís about how Abadzis tells Laikaís story that will keep you intrigued as a reader, and ultimately feel sadness for a brave little dog.

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Professor’s Daughter

Written by Joann Sfar
Art by Emmanuel Guibert
80 pages, color
Published by First Second Books

One of the great things about so many foreign language comics not yet being translated means that there’s forever a wealth of comics that may be old to its original audience, but about to become new to someone else. Joann Sfar and Emmanual Guibert’s The Professor’s Daughter is one of those books; it may be relegated to little more than a footnote in France, but in its new English-language edition it’s something to get excited about. Having seen Guibert and Sfar team up for Sardine in Outer Space already, I figured this would be another silly but fun romp. The end product, though, was something a little more peculiar and intriguing, almost determined to keep itself from being pigeon-holed in any one genre.

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Garage Band

By Gipi
128 pages, color
Published by First Second Books

Up until now, the only works by Gipi that I’d seen in English were Wish You Were Here and They Found The Car, stories of people with dubious morals in noir settings. The idea of a book by Gipi not only being in full color but involving young adults starting a band seemed rather alien to me. Was this really the same Gipi? And would I be able to get the same level of enjoyment out of Garage Band? Well, as it turned out, the answer was yes and no.

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Fate of the Artist

By Eddie Campbell
96 pages, color
Published by First Second Books

Eddie Campbell is probably best known in comics as the artist for From Hell (written by Alan Moore), or as the creator of his ten-volume Bacchus series. His most personal creations, though, are his autobiographical Alec graphic novels that show Campbell’s life in an unflinching and honest manner. The Fate of the Artist, then, is an almost metafictional response to Alec. Detailing Campbell’s disappearance, this strange documentary journey into Campbell’s life is truly like nothing else in comics to date.

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Lost Colony Vol. 1: The Snodgrass Conspiracy

By Grady Klein
128 pages, color
Published by First Second Books

With most books, you can tell pretty quickly if it’s the sort of thing you’re going to love or hate. Be it the plot, or the style of storytelling, the author’s work just falls into place in such a way that you quickly grasp where you stand. I think that’s ultimately what’s so intriguing for me with Grady Klein’s The Lost Colony Vol. 1: The Snodgrass Conspiracy; by the time I was done with the book I still wasn’t entirely sure what I thought of it.

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Sardine in Outer Space 2

Written by Emmanuel Guibert
Art by Joann Sfar
128 pages, color
Published by First Second Books

It’s hard to market a series of short stories. There are a handful of regular anthologies being published, butt getting a single slot for a short story there can be difficult, let alone multiple installments. That was one of the initial attractions of Sardine in Outer Space 2 for me, interestingly enough; when I opened up the book and discovered that it wasn’t a single long story but twelve 10-page stories, I was intrigued. Thankfully, Emmanuel Guibert and Joann Sfar didn’t disappoint.

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Kampung Boy

By Lat
144 pages, black and white
Published by First Second Books

There’s something about books set in a foreign culture that just enthralls me. It’s a chance to live in someone else’s shoes and experience through their eyes what a location halfway around the world (that I’d never otherwise see) is really like. When First Second Books announced they were publishing the first of Malaysian comics giant Lat’s Kampung Boy books, my attention was suitably grabbed. Here was a chance to travel not only to a different country, but with the story set in the 1950s it would be a different time as well. But once one gets past the initial thrill of a different culture, the question still remains: is the book actually any good?

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American Born Chinese

By Gene Luen Yang
240 pages, color
Published by First Second Books

A couple of years ago, Gene Luen Yang began to release segments of American Born Chinese as mini-comics. I’d remembered his work from comics like Gordon Yamato and the King of the Geeks and Duncan’s Kingdom and that was enough to persuade me to give this new project a try. At the time, I remember thinking that I had absolutely no idea where this was going, and was more than a little unsure of it as a whole. Now that the book is complete and published as a single unit, my only real question is why I’d ever doubted him in the first place.

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