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In the stacks: new graphic novels

Posted: July 5, 2012 - 12:04am

The library is adding many new graphic novels for adults to the shelves at all the public library branches – look for two new volumes of Jeff Smith’s RASL, the latest on Archie, Veronica, and Betty (The Married Life), a look at what happened when Steve Jobs met a Zen monk (“The Zen of Steve Jobs”), and a novelization of Jack Vance’s classic sci-fi short (“The Moon Moth”).

“The Graphic Canon,” edited by Russ Kick.

Several years ago, Kick began noticing all the great graphic adaptations of classic literature that were appearing. He decided to bring them to readers’ attention – the result is this tome, the first of three, which brings together pieces excerpted from longer works alongside fragments commissioned especially for this collection. Their inspiration includes one of the first recorded pieces of literature (“The Epic of Gilgamesh”), a Native American folktale, the Tao Te Ching, ancient native stories from Central South America, and more. Keep in mind that not all comics are for kids – in this volume, some pieces are violent (“Beowulf”), some are erotic (“Flea”), and some are eerie (“The Faerie Queene”). Art styles vary widely – look for everything from R. Crumb’s heavily crude black and whites to Micah Farritor’s smooth and detailed elegance. This volume takes readers up to the 1700s – stay tuned for more!

“Rise,” by Tarek Shahin.

Shahin began his strip in 2008, published originally as a daily in the Daily News Egypt. He chronicles the adventures of Omar Shukr, who returns to Cairo from his life in London to run his grandfather’s newspaper. Omar’s friends, family, and coworkers make up much of the cast of this politically-charged strip, and through them, Shahin shows the many varied views held by Egyptians about work, women’s place in the world, the Israel-Palestinian conflict, and other volatile topics. His drawing style is clean, his wit is biting, and his perspective is refreshingly non-Western – fans of Gary Trudeau’s Doonesbury will see similarities here – indeed, Trudeau is one of Shahin’s idols.

“A Distant Neighborhood,” by Jiro Taniguchi.

One afternoon, Hiroshi Nakahara gets on the wrong train - instead of heading home to his wife and children, he finds he’s heading to his childhood home which he hasn’t visited in years. Why should he? His mother passed away 22 years ago, his sister has long-since married and moved away, and his father left the family when he was in eighth grade. The town has changed much since he left, but he finds his way to the temple where his mother is buried. Something unusual happens, and Hiroshi wakes up to find that he’s slipped into his 14-year old body. When he goes back to his old home, he finds his father, mother, sister, and grandmother waiting for him for dinner. Though he’s young in body, Hiroshi’s mind is still that of an adult, and he now notices things about his family that he didn’t the first time around – for instance, the signs that his father is preparing to leave. This is the first volume in a 2-volume set.

“The Silence of Our Friends,” by Mark Long and Jim Demonakos.

It’s 1968 – the war in Vietnam is sending soldiers home in boxes, astronauts are leaving Earth’s orbit, and in Houston, Texas, the race wars are heating up. Long’s semi-autobiographic tale introduces readers to his father, Jack, who is the “race” reporter for the local TV station. Jack is passionate about his job, but hampered by his white skin when it comes to getting the real story when blacks and whites clash until he meets Larry. Larry’s a professor at the local university, a civil rights activist, and a family man whose kids are the same age as Jack’s. As the two men become friends, so do their families, so that when a tragedy occurs and five black men are arrested for the murder of a white policeman, Jack is in a position to help acquit them. Full of the casual racism that permeated the era, this is an eye-opening look at life in a more turbulent time.

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