Best of the Rest – August 2013

Ads, previews, press releases … every week, we get loads of info on the latest and greatest books coming out in single issues and trade. Not as well covered are the myriad other works that fill the shelves of comic shops and bookstores. From the graphic novels published by comic publishers like Fantagraphics, First Second, and Drawn and Quarterly to the comics made at traditional publishing houses, there’s a whole world of comics that aren’t promoted on the back cover of the most recent Batman. There are great non-fiction works, translations of foreign comic albums, and reprints collectiong out-of-print classics. Truly, these books can offer a refreshing perspective on comics. Best of the Rest is a monthly series looking at the best upcoming works you may otherwise miss out on.


War is Hell, Redux

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There are loads of graphic novels and memoirs dealing with World War II, and many of them are seminal works. (Maus and Alan’s War come to mind, though there are plenty more.) World War I, the “forgotten World War’ gets considerably less attention. Goddamn This War continues Jacques Tardi’s exploration of the conflict. Written 15 years after It Was the War of the Trenches, Tardi and Verney take a year-by-year – the book is split into six parts – first-person look at the war. It’s a masterful work, different in the telling and tone from Trenches but just as captivating.

GODDAMN THIS WAR!
by JACQUES TARDI, JEAN-PIERRE VERNEY
Fantagraphics Books
On Sale August 3, 2013
Hardcover | 152 pages | $24.99

Created 15 years after the completion of his Eisner Award-winning World War I masterwork It Was the War of the Trenches, Tardi’s Goddamn This War! is no mere sequel or extension, but a brand new, wholly individual graphic novel that serves as a companion piece to Trenches but can be read entirely on its own. Vastly different sequentially (eschewing Trenches’ splintered narrative, Goddamn is split into six chronological chapters, one for each year of the war), graphically (Tardi deploys his more recent pen-ink-and-watercolor technique, with the bold colors of the early chapters fading into a grimy near-monochrome in the later ones as the war drags on), and narratively (all of Goddamn is told, with insight, dark wit and despair, as a first-person reminiscence/narration by an unnamed soldier), Goddamn This War! shares with Trenches its sustained sense of outrage, pitch-black gallows humor, and impeccably scrupulous historical exactitude. In fact, Goddamn This War! includes an extensive year-by-year historical text section written by Tardi’s frequent World War I research helpmate, the historian and collector Jean-Pierre Verney, including dozens of stunning rare photographs and visual documents from his personal collection.

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Teenage Wasteland

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The End of the Fucking World starts off like pretty much any coming-of-age story; James and Alyssa, two teenagers, are young, in love, and kind of bored with the world. The book jumps between their perspectives, quickly illustration an affection for each other and a nihilistic disdain for everything else. Pretty typical teen stuff, right? This is what Salinger was writing about decades ago. Things get much darker when James starts to exhibit violent sociopathic behaviors, first as fantasies and later as actions. It’s dark, disturbing stuff, make all the more unsettling by Forsman’s Charles Schulz-esque style. Like Derf’s excellent My Friend DahmerTEotFW is a frightening look at a leap from teenage disaffection to terrifying sociopathy.

THE END OF THE FUCKING WORLD
by CHUCK FORSMAN
Fantagraphics Books
On Sale August 3, 2013
Paperback | 136 pages | $19.99

TEotFW follows James and Alyssa, two teenagers living a seemingly typical teen experience as they face the fear of coming adulthood. Forsman tells their story through each character’s perspective, jumping between points of view with each chapter. But quickly, this somewhat familiar teenage experience takes a more nihilistic turn as James’s character exhibits a rapidly forming sociopathy that threatens both of their futures. He harbors violent fantasies and begins to act on them, while Alyssa remains as willfully ignorant for as long as she can, blinded by young love. Forsman’s story highlights the disdain, fear and existential search that many teenagers fear, but through a road trip drama that owes as much to Badlands as The Catcher in the Rye. Forsman’s inviting, Charles Schulz-influenced style lends a deadpan quality that underscores the narrative’s tension. The End of the Fucking World is certain to be one of the most talked-about graphic novels of 2013. Forsman is arguably the most acclaimed talent to come out of the Center for Cartoon Studies, a school founded in 2004 by graphic novelist James Sturm and educator Michelle Ollie in White River Junction, VT. Forsman graduated in 2008 and is a two-time Ignatz Award-winner for his self-published minicomic,Snake OilThe End of the Fucking World is his first graphic novel.

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Climbing Over the Wall

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Over the Wall is one of those debuts that makes you ask “where has [creator] been all this time?” Wartman is a designer by trade and an accomplished webcomic artist, most notably of Shipwreck Planet. His first graphic novel is an all-ages book in the Disney and Pixar mode, telling a fairly simple story that resonates with deeper meaning on subsequent readings. When the unnamed main character’s brother disappears into a forbidden city, she must go over the wall and into the metropolis to try and bring him home. Over the Wall succeeds most in its lavish illustrations of the mythological city. I’m a nut for maps, worldbuilding, and architecture, and Over the Wall creates a fully-imagined place that inspires exploration of every panel. It’s a great book about friendship and family and coming-of-age, and one that fill fit comfortably on any readers shelf next to the Bone and Amulet books.

OVER THE WALL
by PETER WARTMAN
Uncivilized Books
On Sale August 6, 2013
Paperback | 80 pages | $14.95

A great wall separates a magnificent metropolis from the surrounding countryside. All humans are banned from ever entering the city. A young girl is determined to enter the forbidden city in search of her lost brother. When she crosses over, fantastic adventures ensue in narrow medieval streets, ancient temples, and abandoned bazars of the haunted city. To save her missing brother, she must grapple with mythical creatures, explore the mystery of the missing inhabitants, and cure the amnesia of an entire civilization. Over the Wall immerses the reader in a richly imagined world of coming of age rituals, lost worlds and the nature of memory. The beautiful two-color art vividly brings to life the fantastical architecture of mysterious metropolis and faintly evokes the crisp lines of Japanese anime. Over the Wall is a stunning debut from a young and talented cartoonist Peter Wartman.

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“Day 536 Without Monster Attack. Disappointment Palpable in Streets.”

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Much like Over the Wall, Rob Harrell’s Monster on the Hill is an all-ages read that totally works for kids and adults. Harrell’s work is much, much sillier and goofier. Set in an alternate (anachronistic) 1800s England, Harrell’s book imagines a world where every little English berg is terrorized by a unique monster. And they love it. The monsters are something of local mascots for the townspeople, and the wild attacks are great for tourism. That is, except for Rayburn, a monster who has totally failed at attacking Stoker-on-Avon. The town’s own Marty and Doc Brown, street urchin Timmy and eccentric Dr. Wilke, set out to make Rayburn into a more monstrous monster. It’s an effortlessly funny read, and pulls off the same monster/mate relationships that made How to Train Your Dragon so much fun.

MONSTER ON THE HILL
by ROB HARRELL
Top Shelf  Productions
On Sale August 6, 2013
Paperback | 192 pages | $19.95

In a fantastical 1860s England, every quiet little township is terrorized by a ferocious monster — much to the townsfolk’s delight! Each town’s unique monster is a source of local pride, not to mention tourism. Each town, that is… except for one. Unfortunately for the people of Stoker-on-Avon, their monster isn’t quite as impressive. In fact, he’s a little down in the dumps. Can the morose Rayburn get a monstrous makeover and become a proper horror? It’s up to the eccentric Dr. Charles Wilkie and plucky street urchin Timothy to get him up to snuff, before a greater threat turns the whole town to kindling. Monsters of all ages are sure to enjoy this tale about life’s challenges, the power of friendship, and creative redemption, packed with epic battles and plenty of wild beasts!

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Please, sir, I want some more

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What? You haven’t read Will Eisner’s classic Fagin the Jew? Well you’re in luck. The book, first published in 2003, is getting a lavish reprint this year courtesy of Dark Horse Comics. Fagin the Jew retells the story of Oliver Twist‘s Fagin from the point of view of the “merry old gentleman.” After a career spent writing about the Jewish working class, Eisner was the perfect fit to tell Fagin’s story. Twist is often pointed to as portraying Fagin as antisemetic stereotype (The first two-thirds of the book refer to Fagin by his racial and religious origin an astounding 257 times, and often equate this with his worst qualities), but Eisner recasts him as a much more complex and interesting character. Dark Horse’s new edition is a handsome hardcover version, and it adds introductory text from both a Dickens scholar and comics man-about-town Brian Michael Bendis.

FAGIN THE JEW
by WILL EISNER
Dark Horse Comics
On Sale August 14, 2013
Hardcover | 136 pages | $19.99

Comics luminary Will Eisner takes on literary giant Charles Dickens, in this fascinating retelling of the life of Oliver Twist’s Fagin! Imagining Fagin’s impoverished childhood in the slums of London and his initiation into the criminal underworld, Eisner’s story counters the anti-Semitism of Victorian literature as his gorgeous brushwork creates an evocative portrait of the era.

* Now in hardcover with Eisner’s previously unused full-color cover art!

* Foreword by Brian Michael Bendis!

* Introduction by Dickens scholar Jeet Heer!

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Brought to you by WorkJuice Coffee and Patriot Cigarettes

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First came the book and movie adaptations into comics, and then the video game adaptations. Now, The Thrilling Adventure Hour marks the first (I think?) podcast-to-comic transition. Born from TAH‘s successful Kickstarter campaign, the book is an anthology that collects stories from the many different worlds of the stage show and podcast. The ten stories, written by Acker and Blacker (who, as the authors of Wolverine: Season One, are no strangers to comics), bring show favorites like Down in Moonshine Holler, Sparks Nevada, and Captain Laserbeam to life on the page. Art comes courtesy of Tom Fowler, Evan Larson, Evan “Doc” Shaner, and a bunch of other fantastic artists. The book doesn’t offer up introductions to any of the various worlds – like the show, it drops readers in and lets them figure it out themselves – but reads as accessible to both newbies and long-time fans of the Thrilling Adventure Hour.

THE THRILLING ADVENTURE HOUR
by BEN ACKER, BEN BLACKER
Archaia Entertainment
On Sale August 20, 2013
Hardcover | 136 pages | $19.95

Based on the popular Hollywood stage show and Nerdist Industry podcast, The Thrilling Adventure Hour is a rip-roaring adventure anthology in the tradition of old-time radio serials, brought to you by a carnival of Hollywood and comic’s finest! In a timeless collection of original genre tales that harken back to the heyday of old-time radio entertainment, The Thrilling Adventure Hour brings to life the wild and wonderful worlds and characters serialized on stage by co-creators Ben Acker and Ben Blacker, and performed regularly by fan-favorite actors and comedians such as Paul F. Tompkins, Paget Brewster, Busy Philipps, Nathan Fillion, Linda Cardellini, Patton Oswalt, Neil Patrick Harris, and many, many more. And now those serialized characters will come to life on the pages of this hardcover anthology featuring all-new stories from the worlds of the TAH universe by top artists from the comics community! Each stand-alone tale celebrates and reinvigorates a new genre from the radio comedies of yesteryear, including science fiction, fantasy, westerns, superheroes, horror, war dramas, and many more. A unique, timey-wimey blend of silver age pulp and post-modern pop, this one-of-a-kind anthology promises something for everyone as this cult phenomenon jumps off the proscenium stage and onto the page for the first time in over eight years and 100+ consecutive shows around the globe!

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Crossing the … well, you know.

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It’s not often that I recommend a book on “Best of the Rest” without reading at least some of it first. I’m going to make an exception for Rubicon, based on its audacity alone. Described at a take on Seven Samurai set in Afghanistan, McQuarrie and co’s graphic novel is one-third of a planned movie, video game and comic. All three will focus on the group of SEALs termed the “Lions of Panjshir,” though each will have a distinct story. The slipcased hardcover, published by Archaia and Meteor, will be packaged with a bunch of extras. The bonus material, described as ”artifacts and creative collateral” from the world of Rubicon, includes a reproduction of the tactical map the team uses, commendations and citations, and private correspondence. I haven’t seen much of the book beyond some preview pages, but I’m excited to see how it ends up.

RUBICON
by MARK LONG, CHRISTOPHER MCQUARRIE, DAN CAPEL, and MARIO STILLA
Archaia Black Label / Meteor Entertainment
On Sale August 20, 2013
Hardcover | 136 pages | $24.95

Five paramilitary Navy SEAL operators defend the residents of a remote mountain farming village in Afghanistan from attacks by marauding Taliban. Led by the war-weary Hector, the operators and villagers form mutual bonds of honor and respect leading up to a climactic battle where the “Lions of Panjshir” are desperately outnumbered.

Based on a story concept by Oscar winning screenwriter Christopher McQuarrie (The Usual Suspects, The Wolverine) and co-written by founding member of SEAL Team VI, Dan Capel, and New York Times bestselling author Mark Long (The Silence of Our Friends), this high-caliber, explosive war drama brings military authenticity through its creative team, as well as through the sealed envelope of printed artifacts from within the world of the story, such as maps, memos, letters home, etc, giving added dimension to the reading experience.

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Comments

  1. gobo gobo says:

    I think Sparrow & Crowe might be the first podcast->comic, but I still can’t wait to get my hands on that TAH anthology

  2. Heroville Heroville says:

    “by BEN ACKER, BEN BLACKER”

    That’s not confusing at all.

  3. Paul Montgomery Paul Montgomery (@fuzzytypewriter) says:

    Let’s rename this feature: “Things Josh C. and Paul are Buying or Want to Buy Next Month”

    • Nightwing97 Nightwing97 says:

      That sounds pretty apt! ;)

      But give yourselves some credit: most of these picks turn out to be good. I happen to remember one of you recommending Peter Panzerfaust, and I’ve been loving it!

  4. gobo gobo says:

    TEOTFW might be out in some places already, I saw it in a shop this past weekend. Looked really interesting

    • Yeah, Fantagraphics is fast and loose with their release dates. We already got the Tardi in at my store. But, hey, I didn’t want to disqualify it. ;)

  5. ilovecomics says:

    Ill be picking up that Goddamm this war.. My family never forgot the worst war in human history (for the soldiers). Still have my great grandfathers “participation medal”. PFC McFarlane entered the war a decent guy (from what i hear) and after almost being killed (but surviving with a traumatic brain injury and shrapnel in his skull) his personality changed for the worse and his anger and abuse damaged many generations of my family. In short God damb all wars.

  6. martinNL martinNL says:

    Goddamn This War shouldn’t even have to be mentioned here though. It’s one of the best books ever written and should be on everyone’s shelf already or somewhere during August. Grab It Was the War of the Trenches too if you haven’t already since that’s probably the best European stuff you’ll find. It’s a damn shame Kim Thompson died since Tardi’s new book will probably take ages to get a translation now. And dammit… this book about his father in a WW2 prisoner camp is even better than these other two books and that is saying something!!

    Got TEOTFW on pre-order through FBI. Rubicon and Over The Wall sound like books I would enjoy too. So, nice list!

  7. adrianrigter adrianrigter says:

    The Red Panda from Monkey Brain started as (and still is) a podcast as well.

    • daccampo daccampo says:

      Damn… now i have to see when Red Panda started as a comic to see if I can still wrangle the title of “first podcast to comic” for Sparrow & Crowe… ;)

  8. Tardi as always is an excellent & reliable source, very good read all-round!

    Rubicon sounds & looks quite an exciting treat, may have to purchase that at some point.