Graphic Novel Friday: Best Graphic Novels of April

IWOT_interiorWelcome to our picks for best comics and graphic novels of April. This month, we feature four emotionally charged narratives in fiction and non-fiction, from slice-of-life to superhero.

 

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Imagine Wanting Only This by Kristen Radtke (Pantheon): Kristen Radtke’s debut graphic novel is a study of micro and macro ruination, from her own body to city structures, and the shared truth at the center of each. At a young age, Kristen visits her dying grandmother in the hospital (and touches her grandmother’s feet in her first encounter with decay), only to be told by her mother that heart disease is a familial trait, a terrifying but necessary realization. At a later age, Kristen explores an abandoned cathedral and discovers rotting photographs from a single artist, and she brings them home (again, the tactile exploration of the finite). The decaying nature of the photographs will prove the core of Kristen’s exploration (“We all do it.  Fantasize disaster.”) as they begin to bleed in her shared apartment. The black and white illustrations are stark in character details but flourish in backgrounds, and her figures appear awkwardly posed, as if caught in the space between the shutter of a camera. Likewise, in the eight chapters of Imagine, readers see Kristen at various stages in her life, both propelled by and struggling with the nature of life and loss, and the brief, in-between moments that exist to inspire.
 

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Black Hammer Volume 1: Secret Origins by Jeff Lemire and Dean Ormston (Dark Horse): Leave it to writer Jeff Lemire to shake up the superhero game. In Spiral City, a disparate group of champions once protected the populace in classic superhero style, until a cataclysmic battle erased them from existence. Now, six of the heroes live in secret on a rural farm, held there by a mysterious force that prevents them from returning home. On the farm, the former celebrities grow weary in isolation, and while some of them explore the possibility of escape, others begin to chafe at their bonds. In this first volume, the origins of the six heroes are revealed (spoiler: they are all tragic), while the greater mystery is teased. Lemire’s script is illustrated by Dean Ormston, an artist whose jagged, nightmarish figures elevate this tale from weird to haunting. It’s a perfect pairing.
 

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Hostage by Guy Delisle (Drawn and Quarterly): Writer/illustrator Guy Delisle built a cartooning career in exploring destinations less-traveled like Pyongyang, Burma, and Jerusalem. In Hostage, however, Delisle breaks character and studies the harrowing months of kidnapping and imprisonment in the life of Doctors Without Borders administrator Christophe André. In 1997, André is captured in the Caucasus and subsequently handcuffed to a radiator in a cell for over 100 days. During this time, he has no communication with the guards and is unchained only to use the toilet and eat. Delisle employs a blue hue in his pages, showcasing the repetitive and muted existence of imprisonment, where André must use his own mind to stave off despair. It’s this boredom that Delisle showcases over 100 days of little variation, where the reader, in turn, must raise the stakes in his or her own mind, questioning the nature of hostage negotiations and witnessing the demoralization of captivity. At over 400 pages, it’s a bleak read but never less than fascinating, a surprising and welcome shift in Delisle’s already impressive catalogue.
 

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All Star Batman Vol. 1: My Own Worst Enemy by Scott Snyder and John Romita Jr. (DC Comics): How about a palate cleanser from all this drama? In the first volume of superstar writer Scott Snyder’s series, where each arc features a different big name artist, Snyder takes Batman on a roadtrip with Two-Face, illustrated by John Romita Jr. and featuring brilliant colors by Dean White. Ever the dark optimist, Batman seeks to cure Harvey Dent of his villainous Two-Face alter ego. By adventuring outside of Gotham City, Snyder exposes Batman to a light outside Crime Alley, but betrayals and violence continue to cling to his cape no matter how far he travels. Amidst the chases and cliffhangers (and a chainsaw!), Snyder makes the most his moments, giving readers a new look at the relationship between Batman and Two-Face and offering enough disquieting Bat-philosophy (“Because Maybe Two-Face is right. Maybe he is stronger. Maybe we are all uglier on the inside than I want to admit.”) for fans of both explosive action and pathos.
 
--Alex
 

 

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