Big Kahn

Written by Neil Kleid
Art by Nicolas Cinquegrani
176 pages, black and white
Published by NBM

I’ve been looking forward to The Big Kahn ever since Neil Kleid first announced it. The basic concept is one that might have been done before, but to me it sounded so original and smart that it was an instant, "I can’t wait" moment. After all, con men stories are a dime a dozen. Con men stories involving not only religious institutions but a member of your own family? Well, as it turned out, The Big Kahn really was worth the wait.

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Mijeong

By Byun Byung-Jun
240 pages, black and white with some color pages
Published by NBM

Assembling a book of short stories—be it by a single creator or an anthology—is a delicate undertaking. You can’t front load the book with the best material because if the weaker pieces are all at the end, you run the risk of the final impression for the reader being disappointment. On the other hand, saving the best pieces for the end has its own problems, where the early entries aren’t strong enough to have someone continue to read the book. All of this came to mind for me when reading Byun Byung-Jun’s Mijeong, a collection of the author’s short pieces. At the end of the day, I can’t help but think that whomever decided the order of this book could have done a slightly better job.

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First Time

Written by Sibylline
Art by Alfred, Virginie Augustin, Dominique Bertail, Capucine, Jérôme d’Aviau, Dave McKean, Cyril Pedrosa, Rica, Olivier Vatine, and Vince
112 pages, black and white
Published by NBM

What happens when art meets erotica? In the case of First Time, that seems to be exactly what the book is trying to find out. Writer Sibylline and ten different comic artists team up for a wide variety of "first time" stories, each with the artist’s own signature style. The end result, though? Despite one writer on each of these ten stories, the book’s contents are wildly variable in terms of tone and quality.

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Why I Killed Peter

Written by Olivier Ka
Art by Alfred
112 pages, color
Published by NBM

I suspect that people who pick up Why I Killed Peter based solely on the name might be a little disappointed. They might be expecting a thriller, probably about a murderer, perhaps with some action and suspense built into it. It’s certainly an evocative title for a book, which is no doubt why Olivier Ka and Alfred chose it. What you’ll actually get with Why I Killed Peter, though, is a disturbing autobiographical story that shows just how hard it can be to truly let go of childhood traumas.

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Miss Don’t Touch Me

Written by Hubert
Art by Kerascoet
96 pages, color
Published by NBM

One of the nice things about NBM’s program of translating foreign comics into English is that often they will combine two 48-page albums into one 96-page volume. That’s definitely to the advantage of Miss Don’t Touch Me, because it means that you get the entire story in one fell swoop instead of having to track down two separate books. In the case of Miss Don’t Touch Me, the second half is just different enough from the first that it’s an interesting experience having the two combined into one omnibus.

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Nocturnal Conspiracies: Nineteen Dreams

By David B.
128 pages, two-color
Published by NBM

At a glance, a new book from David B. published in English is a reason to celebrate. His autobiographical Epileptic was nothing short of outstanding, and its follow-up Babel has proven to be worthy of attention as well. When I looked a little closer, though, I must admit that I was worried about B.’s Nocturnal Conspiracies. Dream diaries can be a hard sell by their very nature—would this one manage to rise above the rest?

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Metronome

By Veronique Tanaka
64 pages, black and white
Published by NBM

There are times when the back cover copy to a book can actually be a turn-off. Let’s take Veronique Tanaka’s debut graphic novel Metronome, which states, "Just when you thought that nobody could create something new in the comic medium, here comes Metronome […] a ‘silent’ erotically-charged visual poem, an experimental non-linear story using a palette of iconic ligne clair images. Symbolism, visual puns and trompe l’oeil conspire in a visual mantra that could be described as ‘existential manga’…" Now maybe I’m in the minority here, but this sounds so snooty that my first reaction was to not want to read it. Honestly, if it hadn’t been for the introduction by Jeff Smith mentioned on the front cover, I might have passed it by. But you know something, I’m glad I took the time to read it—despite the best efforts of the copy writers.

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Little Nothings Vol. 1: The Curse of the Umbrella

By Lewis Trondheim
128 pages, color
Published by NBM

Over the years I’ve seen all sorts of stories from Lewis Trondheim; slapstick comedy, apocalyptic futures, hapless alien invaders, and long-form slice-of-life stories. I must admit that of all of the different things that he’s dipped into, the one I wouldn’t have expected to enjoy the most was a collection of single-page autobiographical comics. Once again, though, Trondheim’s vast talents are fully on display.

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Museum Vaults

By Marc-Antoine Mathieu
64 pages, black and white
Published by NBM

When I first heard about the Louvre commissioning four graphic novels set within the art museum itself, I was a little intrigued and, at the same time, worried. The idea seemed sound enough, but I couldn’t help but fear that each book would either so gushingly about the Louvre that it would become off-putting, or alternately sanitized to the point of boredom. In the case of Marc-Antoine Mathieu’s The Museum Vaults, though, I was quite surprised to find something extremely different.

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Dungeon Parade Vol. 1: A Dungeon Too Many

Written by Joann Sfar and Lewis Trondheim
Art by Manu Larcenet
64 pages, color
Published by NBM

I really have to give Joann Sfar and Lewis Trondheim credit when it comes to their series Dungeon, in that in just about any other hands it would no doubt go horribly wrong. It’s not enough that there are three “main” series (Dungeon The Early Years set in the past, Dungeon Zenith being the “present” glory years, and Dungeon Twilight the apocalyptic future of the series), but they even went and created spin-offs. One of these spin-offs is Dungeon: Parade, additional stories set in-between the first two volumes of Zenith, additional light-hearted romps starring Marvin the Dragon and Herbert the Duck. And you know what? Sfar and Trondheim are clearly inspired by all of these routes and side-tracks, because Dungeon Parade shows no signs of stopping the high levels of enjoyment here.

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