Power Within

Written by Charles "Zan" Christensen
Art by Mark Brill
32 pages, color
Published by Northwest Press

The Power Within is that sort of comic where I find myself wishing that comics in general had a wider readership. Inspired by the number of bullying-related suicides of teenagers over the past few years, Charles "Zan" Christensen and Mark Brill took the 24-Hour Comics Day challenge to create The Power Within, where the lead character goes through his own particular trial by fire. And while those not in its target audience will probably miss out on a lot of the emotional heft in this comic, its core message is strong and it makes me like to imagine copies of the comic ending up with the kids who need it the most.

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Troop 142

By Mike Dawson
272 pages, black and white
Published by Secret Acres

Troop 142 is a prime example of how reading an online comic versus a collected edition can be quite a different experience. I originally read Mike Dawson’s latest book in a serialized fashion, checking out the latest uploads to his website every time they trickled out. And read in that fashion, I enjoyed the book a great deal. It was fun, that sort of story about young men at camp that instantly feels real. But reading again a year later, all in one sitting? There’s a much stronger emotional heft to the story that I think is slightly lost in serialized format. Now that I’ve read it in both formats, I feel like the collected edition is the way to go.

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Malinky Robot: Collected Stories and Other Bits

By Sonny Liew
128 pages, color

Many years ago, I first encountered Sonny Liew’s comics thanks to a Xeric Grant funded comic called Malinky Robot: Stinky Fish Blues. It was inventive and entertaining, and instantly made Liew a creator that I would plan on watching out for in the future. He’s gone onto a lot of great comics since then (like My Faith in Frankie, Re-Gifters, and an adaptation of Sense & Sensibility) but I’ve always had a soft spot in my heart for Malinky Robot. With the release of Malinky Robot: Collected Stories and Other Bits, now you can get a chance to see just why he’s a creator whose work I’ll always keep an eye out for.

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Bunny Drop Vol. 3

By Yumi Unita
224 pages, black and white
Published by Yen Press

It’s always sad to see a book store closing, but sometimes it ends up steering me toward books I might not have otherwise read. For example, I’d heard good things about Yumi Unita’s Bunny Drop, but with so many other series fighting for my money, hadn’t gotten around to reading it. Then a store going out of business had the first two offered at 50% off, and the next thing I knew? Well, not only had I bought and read them, but I just bought and read the recently-released third volume at my regular store. For a book with such a relatively simple concept, it’s a surprisingly rich book.

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Yotsuba&! Vol. 9

By Kiyohiko Azuma
208 pages, black and white
Published by Yen Press

There are a small handful of comics that when it comes to reading, I stall. New volumes don’t show up on a regular basis, and I know that as soon as I’m done with it, the wait for the next volume is painful. That’s why I’ve sat on Yotsuba&! Vol. 9 for three months; not because I had better things to read, but rather because I knew that I didn’t have anything else that would even remotely compare. For a series with such a relatively simple concept, it’s shocking how I’ve yet to find a book which replicates everything that’s wonderful about Yotsuba&!.

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Green Monk

By Brandon Dayton
132 pages, black and white
Self-Published

I wish I could remember where I picked up a copy of Green Monk. My best guess is at the Small Press Expo, but your guess is honestly as good as mine. The reason why I say I wish I could remember, is because I also have no recollection of how it ended up trapped between my couch and the wall it’s next to for at least a year or so. (Oops.) The sad thing is that I wish I’d found it earlier so I could have already spread the word about how much I love Brandon Dayton’s art.

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Gaylord Phoenix

By Edie Fake
256 pages, two-color
Published by Secret Acres

It’s hard to try and describe Gaylord Phoenix, Edie Fake’s collection of mini-comics of the same name. Mythological journey? Beat poetry in a visual format? Stream of consciousness? Explosion of sexuality? It’s all and none of those, and while it’s not a book that is the easiest to read (or accessible to all), for those willing to try and decipher its puzzle I think there’s a reward to be had.

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Pat the Zombie

Written by Aaron Ximm
Art by Kaven Soofi
16 pages, color
Published by Ten Speed Press

Over the years I’ve seen a lot of extremely strange and silly books show up at my doorstep. One of the most memorable ones in that regard, though, has got to be the upcoming spoof children’s book Pat the Zombie. A tongue-in-cheek version of the classic Pat the Bunny (in which very young readers get to pat a fluffy bunny and in many others ways interact with pages), this takes everyone’s favorite mashup subject, zombies, and sets them loose on the hapless reader.

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Tintin and the Broken Ear

By Hergé
64 pages, color
Published by Little, Brown

I promised myself late last year, after reading Charles Burns’s X’ed Out, that I would make 2011 the year that I finally sat down and read the collection of Tintin albums that I got for a steal back in the day, but had never actually gotten around to starting. It’s a rather obvious omission in my comic reading vocabulary (despite growing up reading a friend’s Asterix books, but never trying the Tintin books sitting right next to them), and it’s been an interesting process going through them in order. With Tintin and the Broken Ear, the sixth book from Hergé, I’m happy to say that I feel like I’ve finally gotten far enough in that I can see what all the fuss is about.

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Complete Ouija Interviews

By Sarah Becan
192 pages, sepia-toned
Published by Shortpants Press

I think all you have to do is say the words, "Ouija Board" to get a strong reaction out of anyone. Love them, hate them, believe in them, scoff them, there’s always an opinion just waiting around the corner. Sarah Becan over the years created four mini-comics that illustrate sessions she was part of using a Ouija Board, and thanks to a grant from the Xeric Foundation, collected them all into a sharp looking little book last year.

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