League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: Century #1

Written by Alan Moore
Art by Kevin O’Neill
80 pages, color
Published by Top Shelf Productions

One of the things I’ve always appreciated about Alan Moore’s career is that he’s never seemed willing to "play it safe." So with the return of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, it would certainly be easy enough to follow the pattern of the first two mini-series, having the group confront a very specific problem, and call it a day. With The League of the Extraordinary Gentlemen: Century, though, Moore’s casting his net a little wider in terms of his story-telling, taking a bit of a chance—and so far it seems to be working out rather well.

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Swallow Me Whole

By Nate Powell
216 pages, black and white
Published by Top Shelf Productions

Looking at the cover of Swallow Me Whole, I’ll admit that my first reaction was one of unease. There’s something creepy about it, with the character of Ruth levitating around the treetops, with insects all around her body even as Ruth looks back over her shoulder. It took me a few minutes to realize what had struck me so much about it; Ruth doesn’t look so much like she’s flying, here, but rather as if she’s being carried away by someone or something beyond her control. It’s that lack of control that I think punctuates all of Swallow Me Whole, making Nate Powell’s graphic novel a journey to somewhere very uncomfortable.

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How to Love

By Mira Friedmann, Batia Kolton, Rutu Modan, Yirmi Pinkus, David Polonsky, and Itzik Rennert
144 pages, color
Published by Actus Independent Comics; distributed by Top Shelf Productions

There are some books that are really worth waiting for, and high among them is a new release from the Actus Independent Comics collective. A collective of Israeli comic artists, you never know what you’re going to find from them. It could be a box of miniature comics, maybe an anthology of stories all written by Etgar Keret, or comics where everyone’s protagonist is named Victor. I think they’re at their best, though, when they all work off a theme; their Happy End book really showed a wealth of ways to tackle that idea, and their new book How to Love shows a really varied group of attacks on just that.

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Too Cool To Be Forgotten

By Alex Robinson
128 pages, black and white
Published by Top Shelf Productions

“What if you could go back and do it all again?” It’s a pretty familiar question, one asked both in real life as well as in fiction. Generally speaking, my immediate reaction has always been, “Why on earth would I want to?” With his new graphic novel Too Cool To Be Forgotten, though, Alex Robinson has found a satisfactory answer to that question and in a way that actually makes me wish I really could go back.

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Tonoharu Vol. 1

By Lars Martinson
128 pages, two-color
Published by Pliant Press; distributed by Top Shelf Productions

Every once in a while, a book appears in front of you that makes you really pause the second you see it. That was absolutely the case for me with Tonoharu: Part One by Lars Martinson. It’s perhaps a bit unfair to get your hopes up based strictly on the production values and book design, but that’s exactly what happened here. It had been a while since I was surprised by something that was both simple and beautiful, and if the interior craft matched the exterior, well, I knew I was about to read something great.

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That Salty Air

By Tim Sievert
120 pages, black and white
Published by Top Shelf Productions

What is it about the ocean that seems to inspire so many works of literature? Maybe it’s because it, unlike land, is part of the world that we still haven’t really conquered. We visit it and travel through it, but the ecosystems and order of life within the ocean is one without mankind living in it, one that most people still don’t really understand. It’s probably why Tim Sievert chose it as a backdrop for his debut graphic novel That Salty Air. When you need a nemesis that is both living and inanimate, and both logical and irrational, it’s hard to go wrong with the sea.

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Ghost Stories

By Jeff Lemire
112 pages, black and white
Published by Top Shelf Productions

Do you ever feel like you’ve already read a book before you even begin? It’s not a sense of déj? vu, but rather a sense of familiarity about the book’s story. That’s how I felt like when reading Jeff Lemire’s Ghost Stories, like I’d somehow already experienced the story, and that I was being reunited with an old friend.

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Korgi Vol. 1

By Christian Slade
80 pages, black and white
Published by Top Shelf Productions

So often, books that are marketed as all-ages are really meant just for children. It’s a fine line between the two, finding something that will appeal to adults while still being appropriate and interesting for younger readers as well. Christian Slade’s Korgi is the sort of book that falls squarely into all-ages but considering his past as a Disney animator that probably shouldn’t be surprising. In many ways, Korgi is a prime example of how to handle an all-ages book. With just the right level of surprise and adventure, it’s determined to hook older readers just as quickly as children.

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110 Per¢

By Tony Consiglio
136 pages, black and white
Published by Top Shelf Productions

There are some targets that are easy to pick on. Take the whole “boy band” phenomenon, with its endless (and interchangeable) series of generic line-ups of young men trotted out to the sound of thousands of shrieking teenagers. On that level alone, Tony Consiglio’s 110 Per¢ succeeds in its sarcastic look at the whole movement. What makes the book really work, though, is that Consiglio’s greater target isn’t the latest fad, but rather the people who develop obsessions around them.

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Cry Yourself to Sleep

By Jeremy Tinder
88 pages, black and white
Published by Top Shelf Productions

Some books sound like a punch line the second you begin to describe them. An aspiring novelist, a rabbit, and a robot seems like a strange combination from the very first second, but at no point does it seem like a set-up for a bad pun. Instead, we’re getting a strange little story about jobs and storytelling and souls and building nests. (That’s a not a set-up either.)

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