Welcome all, to this week’s Rae’s Recs! This small, weekly comic recommendation posts every Thursday and I’ll be doing my best to bring you some cool titles you may not have noticed on your first go-round on New Comic Book Day! I recommend two of my favorite single issues for the week, one or two graphic novels or trade comics from the past few weeks, and then two all-ages comics. These have no time frame, but are just some really great titles to share with a kiddo, or even an adult, in your life. One ongoing, one completed.
Thanks so much and I hope you enjoy!
With a short break from my strict no-Marvel-or-DC rule, this week we have Black Bolt from Marvel Comics. Like most books in the Marvel Universe, this issue follows events from several other series taking place now or in the past few weeks. Black Bolt finds himself in prison, muzzled, injured, and bound. He breaks free enough to go find out where he is, what’s going on, only to find that things are much worse than he imagined they could be. Saladin Ahmed debuts in comics with this issue and Christian Ward, artist from Ody-C, brings his visually stunning work to the Inhumans family. The book takes place in the dark, therefore has generally muted colors for good reason, but Ward is nothing if not creative with use of color and his choices in them. Beautifully written and beautifully illustrated, this book was very impressive – even to someone who has never read a book about the Inhuman King himself.
Every kid in the 80’s who played video games – and some who didn’t – knew about the Atari Swordquest series. It was the first time anything of that magnitude was offered as a prize. Literal gold and jewels created as prizes for video games if the players could follow all of the clues. Two of the awards were given; a third was reported to be given, but has no solid evidence that it was awarded; the last two were reported to have been destroyed, but there are rumors that they’re simply hidden. This week, Dynamite has teamed up with Atari for a comic that brings back that event, that wonder and mystery. Written by Chad Bowers and Chris Sims and with art by Scott Kowalchuk we have Swordquest #0 for only 23 cents. Peter played Atari as a kid, but he’s all grown up and overworking at a job he doesn’t like, has just lost his home, and may lose his life. Now, he’s rediscovering his old games and comics and coming up with a plan that might make his life a little more exciting with what time he has left. What else does he have to lose?
One Hundred Demons, written and drawn by Lynda Barry, has been a favorite of mine since college when I read it for the first time as part of a graphic novels course. Since then, though, it’s been out of print – until a few weeks ago. This book is part memoir, part fiction, part exorcism of inner demons and called a “autobificitionalography”. Barry recreates the moments of her life that haunt her in watercolor on lined paper – the kind of moments we don’t realize stuck with us sometimes, or the ones that we’re ashamed or afraid to talk about. Through giving us a very specific insight into many moments of her life, she invites us to examine her and ourselves in sometimes a harsher light and somehow, it helps us to be a little kinder to ourselves.
A manga series for all ages, Non Non Biyori is a cute, fun series that takes places in the tiny little country town of Asahigaoka. Hotaru has just moved from Tokyo to this sleepy country village to find that she is not only the only kid her age – there are only three other kids in the whole town. This sweet slice of life story follows these kids of all different ages hanging out, playing, and going to class. If it doesn’t sound very exciting – that’s a little bit of the point. If you or you kiddo like things that are fun and cute, this is a great story that’s a few volumes long. Similar to books like Yotsuba! and Sweetness and Lightning, writer and artist Atto takes a lot of the small parts of childhood and brings them back to life on the page. When you’re young, sometimes nothing exciting has to happen for you to be excited.
Created by James Sturm, Birdsong is a unique book in a few ways. The most obvious of ways is that it is told in the form of Kamishibai – Japanese paper theater. The story has no words, simply a series of beautifully rendered illustrations. Two cruel children are turned into monkeys and witness the cruelty of the world through new eyes in this story, but without words to guide us and tell what the exact meanings are, we’re free to choose how we understand the more specific details. This book is great for parents to read with their kids, deciding what things mean and learning the lesson of kindness together. This story may not teach your child bigger words or help with pronunciation, but it does an amazing job of developing ideas and understanding, as well as promoting critical thinking in all ages.