Darkroom: A Memoir in Black & White

By Lila Quintero Weaver
264 pages, black and white
Published by University of Alabama Press

I’ll be the first to admit that I was a little surprised when I heard that the University of Alabama Press published a graphic novel. It’s not the usual suspect for this sort of thing, but within a handful of pages of Lila Quintero Weaver’s Darkroom: A Memoir of Black & White, it was easy to see why they’d stepped up to the plate. Latina in 1960s Alabama where everything was viewed as either black or white, Weaver’s memoir offers a perspective from someone unclaimed by either side in a racial struggle.

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Letting It Go

By Miriam Katin
160 pages, color
Published by Drawn & Quarterly

Miriam Katin is a comic creator whose work I’ve been following for over a decade now; encountering her stories in the Monkeysuit anthologies, watching her make a jump to the oversized Drawn & Quarterly Vol. 4, and then her first graphic novel We Are On Our Own. Her stories of her life as a Jewish Hungarian immigrant offer a glimpse into a life that will be unfamiliar to most, and she’s always had a strong skill as a storyteller. Her new graphic novel Letting It Go is in many ways the most personal one yet, focusing on the news that her son is planning to move to Berlin. What results is a frank and slightly comedic story about trying to let go of one’s anger.

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Sunny Vol. 1

By Taiyo Matsumoto
224 pages, black and white, with some color
Published by Viz

I’ve always appreciated that you never know quite what you’re going to get with a Taiyo Matsumoto comic. Some are rooted firmly in reality (Blue Spring, Ping Pong), others utter fantasy (No. 5, Tekkon Kinkreet/Black and White), and a few a strange mixture and melding of the two (Go-Go Monster). In the case of his latest series, Sunny, it’s a book that might at first look to fall into the latter category. But as you read more about this book’s group of young children and the car that can bring them anywhere they want to go, the more you’ll find yourself glad that it’s one without any magical elements whatsoever.

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Herobear and the Kid Special #1

By Mike Kunkel
32 pages, black and white, with spot color
Published by Boom! Studios

It’s been over a decade since Mike Kunkel’s original Herobear and the Kid comic was published. Running just five issues, it managed to make a huge splash as readers were wowed by the light story about a kid named Tyler and his stuffed bear that transforms into a superhero, as well as the animation-inspired art. Since then Kunkel’s had a couple of small projects here and there, but his comic book output has been few and far between. With a new Herobear and the Kid mini-series scheduled for later this summer, though, Kunkel and Boom! Studios are kicking off the comic’s return with a new one-shot to presumably draw in new readers.

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By Jon J Muth
Based on the screenplay by Thea Von Harbou and Fritz Lang
192 pages, color
Published by Abrams Books

I remember when the first issue of Jon J Muth’s adaptation of Fritz Lang’s film M was originally published as a joint venture by Arcane Comics and Eclipse Comics, back in 1990. I was instantly taken by the strange style of painted art—something that is much more common now, but wasn’t at the time—and was intrigued by the idea that it had adapted a film that I’d heard of but never seen. And then, inexplicably, I never bought any of the four-issue adaptation. Fast forward to the present, and the original had long gone out of print, but was rescued a few years ago in a new hardback collection. Picking it up, I found myself wondering if those glimpses that I’d long held in my head could compare to the reality of what I was about to finally buy and read.

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Road to Oz

Adapted by Eric Shanower
Based on the novel by L. Frank Baum
Art by Skottie Young
136 pages, color
Published by Marvel

It’s no secret that one of my favorite childhood novels was Ozma of Oz, and that I thought Eric Shanower and Skottie Young’s adaptation of the book was fantastic. Even better, having only read the first three Oz novels as a child, I’ve been delighted that Marvel has continued to hire Shanower and Young to create adaptations of the books that followed. Road to Oz is the fifth Oz book, and it’s also a very peculiar one. Shanower himself notes in the introduction that many fans consider it one of the weakest Oz novels. So should you read it? Now that I’m done, I’d have to say… yes.

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Passion of Gengoroh Tagame

By Gengoroh Tagame
256 pages, black and white
Published by PictureBox

There’s no mistaking what you’re going to get with The Passion of Gengoroh Tagame. Subtitled "The Master of Gay Erotic Manga" and with "Adult Content for Mature Readers" emblazoned on the side, as soon as you open the book you’re greeted with skillful drawings of naked men. After having encountered so many volumes of the yaoi manga genre in years past—in which the gay male characters more often than not barely do more than kiss—I couldn’t help but wonder what a book like this would look like. What I found was a volume that actually had a lot more to offer than just drawings of men having sex.

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Abe Sapien #1-3

Written by Mike Mignola and Scott Allie
Art by Sebastian Fiumara
32 pages each, color
Published by Dark Horse

Back in the day, Mike Mignola’s signature creation Hellboy begat a spin-off series, B.P.R.D., which started as a series of mini-series but eventually became an ongoing title. With over 100 B.P.R.D. comics now published and the book still going strong, it’s a healthy title with no signs of faltering. And now, added to the mix is a a spin-off from B.P.R.D., an ongoing Abe Sapien comic. (Yes, Sapien was created in Hellboy, but that’s not where his story has been for quite some time.) But in reading the first three issues of the series, I must admit that one question is jumping out at me more than others, and it’s not one that I think the creators would want. Namely… why?

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Lazarus #1

Written by Greg Rucka
Art by Michael Lark
32 pages, color
Published by Image Comics

If you already read Greg Rucka and Michael Lark’s collaboration (plus co-author Ed Brubaker) on Gotham Central back in the day, the fact that Rucka and Lark are teaming up on this new series Lazarus is probably all I need to tell you in order to make you run out and buy a copy right now. But if you haven’t (and if that’s the case, it’s all collected into four volumes and you owe it to yourself to buy it), then you might need some convincing. And either way, here’s the good news: the first issue is excellent.

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By Becky Cloonan
31 pages, black and white
Published by ComiXology

If you asked me what I buy every year at the Small Press Expo above all else, the answer would be easy: mini-comics. Because they don’t go through the distribution channels the way that bigger publishers’ books do, finding them can be difficult at best more often than not. That’s one of the things for which I’m especially thankful for when it comes to digital comics; the idea that finally there’s an easy way to get hold of comics that otherwise might be out of reach, between distance and limited print runs. Take, for instance, Becky Cloonan’s Demeter. This dark and spooky comic is one that I almost certainly never would have seen otherwise. But now? I can’t get enough of it.

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