Can I Just Talk About Some Books I’ve Liked Lately?

Woof. What a week/month/age in comics, eh? Sure, a year or so from now this will likely all be a forgotten haze (at least we can hope for as much), but right now things are looking bleak. I know my own columns have had a sharper edge of late. Well enough of that, am I right? To paraphrase some Italian bloke, are we here to bury comics or to praise them? This week I’ll try praise, if that fails I can always bury next week.

I was actually bumming out on things, thinking I hadn’t really read anything that had captured me lately. Then I took a moment and really assessed my stack, both recently finished and nearly done. I then realized I was nuts. There is so much goodness out there, some being talked about, some not. So this is a list, but not an ordinal list, no value judgments based on placement, these are simply some ‘comics’ that I’ve dug lately. You might already dig them too. If you don’t know them, you may dig them in the future. Either way, let us play our fiddles while Rome burns.


Sounds of Your Name

by Nate Powell

336 pages / Black and White / Softcover / $18.00

Published by Microcosm Publishing

Nate Powell is everything I enjoy about indie comic creators. He’s a charming guy, working a regular job, and making stellar heartfelt comics on the side. The first book of his I read, Swallow Me Whole, affected me on a truly personal level, besides being genuinely good comics. The next time I saw him at a convention, I bought every other book at his table (I tend to be impulsive in artist’s alley; it’s ultimately a good thing). This book might be thicker than his graphic novel, but it’s basically a one man anthology, which is damn impressive for a man with a band and a meaningful day job. This book is at times a series of silent vignettes and at other times practically graphic novellas. Powell changes his artistic style often enough to keep it visually interesting, but is consistent in his incredible linework and solid storytelling. This is not a book meant for reading straight through, this is a read, ponder, and savor collection and when comic’s wanderlust strikes hard, a book like Powell’s can be your best remedy.


Astronaut Academy: Zero Gravity

by Dave Roman

192 pages / Black and White / Softcover / $9.99

Published by First Second Books

For a lot of books I often think about reviews in terms of backwards engineering the elevator pitch. It usually gives me a good starting point for how to talk about aspects of a book, and Astronaut Academy is no exception. So my pitch is thus: Strong Bad et al. at a school in space. More specifically this might be a Teen Girl Squad kind of comic, and there is nothing wrong with that. The book chronicles the whackiness inherent in attending school in space. Remember that show Space Cases? It’s kind of like that, except I don’t really remember anything about that show. Oh well. This book pulls from elements of manga, webcomics, and soap operas to create a weird world of characters that, sometimes literally, bounce off each other in the most wonderful ways. Everything about this book is a bombastic as the initial concept. The art is expressive and clear, and the dialogue is absurd, almost unnatural, but ultimately playful and funny. The only ding is that sometimes the dialogue is almost so silly that reading it continuously is tiresome, but the plot drives things forward enough to ignore this slight quirk. And while I don’t have kids and can therefore claim no authority on the subject, I dare say the book might be… ALL AGES.



by Kody Chamberlain

120 pages / Full color / Softcover / $14.99

Published by Image Comics

Mardis Gras is next week. I’m hating the fact that I’m not in New Orleans to enjoy it. New Orleans is without a doubt one of my favorite places in the world. It’s a city that will make you believe in magic. So I was thrilled to get a copy of Sweets, a barely pre-Katrina murder mystery set in the Crescent City. While this column is intended as an upbeat revival towards a more optimistic outlook this book can hardly be said to be in that vein. New Orleans was a rough city before Katrina, but it is a city unlike any other in America, or even the world. Chamberlain captures its oeuvre in a way most artists don’t bother to attempt. I think this is parts passion and experience, both important in crafting compelling narrative based on a specific location at a specific time. For lovers of The Wire (I’ve yet to watch Treme, sorry) or even Snyder and Jock’s Detective Comics work, this book should be at the top of your to-read list.


What were you raised by wolves?

by Vera Broogoe

n/a pages / Black and White / Internet / Free

Published by Internet

I figure at this point you’re drooling to read some comics, so I wanted to end things with a freebie. Broogoe has created a short, compelling webcomic that I simply tore through in one sitting. I don’t want to say too much about the story so I’ll do that whole elevator pitch again: it’s the sequel to The Jungle Book with a heavy dose of Conan. The art does all of the heavy lifting in this wordless comic, the only thing that I was ever unsure of was the emotions  of the main character, but I think that’s by design. We’re supposed to project for the moment before emotion is made clear through action. Great stuff, and as a free piece of art something you simply shouldn’t pass up.


Phew, now don’t you feel better? I know I do. I’m hoping this little love-fest was downright infectious. I want to be the patient zero of positivity today, so if you’d please help me in spreading the virus by posting some books you’ve loved lately in the comments I’d be much obliged.


Ryan Haupt is trying to look on the bright side. Hear him sound happy on the podcast Science… sort of.


  1. You had me at “Strong Bad et al. at a school in space.” I will definitely be checking out Astronaut Academy.

  2. I had high expectations for Sweets but I was incredibly disappointed with it. The art didn’t maintain a consistent standard and the ending limped over the line. Easily my biggest disappointment of 2011.

    Sounds Of Your Name however does sound pretty interesting. One to add to the wishlist.

  3. I read WHAT WERE YOU RAISED BY WOLVES? a few weeks ago and it broke my heart 15 different ways. Great stuff.

    • It is. I just saw “Internet/Free” and clicked on the link before reading the description, thinking it would be humorous…and it wasn’t. What a great, little surprise that I wish was in pdf format so I could read it again on my iPad on my way home. Maybe I can sneak in another reading before leaving work.

    • Fantastic. Great recommendation, Ryan. Thanks.

  4. WHAT WERE YOU RAISED BY WOLVES? was fantastic, but it made want to punch humanity in the face.

  5. I haven’t been paying attention to the news much lately. What are we upset about with the bleakness and whatnot? The Kirkman/Moore lawsuit?

  6. What were you raised by wolves? Just read it and I must say that really caught me by suprise, really thought it was a cutesy kinda book and than bang!! I really rather enjoyed it and also made me think about humanity and the way that it is, or actually think about it in kinda of the opossite way and see how many of us just don’t belong in this society and maybe thats the way it really is and we do not fit??


  7. Bleak as in the current state of Syria? the pending results of Whitney’s autopsy? Comics are just fine.

    This sort of reminds me of the letter in last week’s podcast from the guy who was saying “what’s the point?” about reading books (we all assume he meant hero books) where nothing changes. As the fanboys said, there are other creator-owned books out there where things do “change.” Plus, if the guy wants to venture out beyond hero books, he doesn’t have to spend his money at the shelves of monthly titles. Maybe everyone outside the comic-reading community should be told that the enjoyment of the comic art form doesn’t have to be restricted to a monthly intake of single issues. Trades, compilations, etc. are fully illustrated novels, or chapters (which, duh, what they are, but you get the picture). Some are complete, some aren’t.

    I envy whoever picks up the first Scalped omnibus (that will undoubtedly come out) and reads that wonderful story for the first time. There will be an ending to it, yes, and then you go on to the next great story.

    but i digress. Like I said, comics good.

  8. What were you raised by wolves? was great, but it definitely left me feeling sad. Can’t believe it’s free to read, thanks so much for the link.

  9. Halfway through ‘Sounds of Your Name’ after devouring ‘Swallow Me Whole’. I also just picked up ‘Any Empire’.

  10. Gulp…even with my heart of coal, I could barely make out the last few panels of ‘What were you raised by wolves?’ without wiping my eyes.

    So much magic lies within the greatest form of communication – sequential art!