What is Chris Andersen reading?
Chris Andersen is a dude who loves swords, bad movies, D&D throwdowns, and bro time. He also reads books. Mostly comic books.
Writer Ryan North and artist Erica Henderson continue their award winning collaboration on the only superhero comic that matters. Funny, smart, and overwhelmingly fun, Squirrel Girl is packed with equal parts breezy action and positive vibes. Readers familiar with her monthly comic and/or the trades compiling them can find a whole new, never before seen, original graphic novel where our heroine kicks butts and eats nuts on a truly universal scale, and discovers that the only opponent she can not defeat...is herself?
Batman: The Golden Age: Vol. 1 compiles the first thirty-three Batman stories, all for the low-low price of twenty bucks. It's chock full of action, mystery, and suspense; great for readers who are new to comics, or old hands looking who never got around to reading these foundational comics. Bob Kane's artwork is simple by today's standards, but dynamic and effective. Bill Finger's writing is suspenseful and exciting in the classic pulp fiction style, and it's really fun to see how he forms mythos of Batman as we know it over time. For example, did you know that before he had the batmobile, Batman would just drive a normal car around?
A Girl On The Shore is, at it's heart, a romance that tackles all the ugliest aspects of love; how much sex can hurt when it means something different to the people that are doing it; how other people's emotions never feel as real as your own; how two people can love each other, but that doesn't mean it's enough. Koume and Keisuke tell each other that their relationship is purely sexual, but they only believe it when they hear it coming from the other one. Frank, explicit, and unflattering in style and content, A Girl On The Shore is perfect for the romantic and cynic in all of us.
Gina Wynbrandt is brutally, viciously self-effacing in this collection of semi-fictionalized auto-bio comics. She struggles with her body image and raging horniness with an unflinching honesty that pushes the funny/awkward line right to the breaking point. It's also quite fun to look at; the candy-colored pink and blue lines keep you feeling like it's all in good fun, even at it's darkest moments.
As well as any internet kitty cat video, Konami Kanata's Chi's Sweet Home captures the simple joys of watching a kitten simply exist. Chi is a kitten cared for by a small family, and she has simple little kitty adventures. The joy of reading any Chi story is in the simplicity and the simple every day dramas of a little cat trying to figure out a big world. Cat lovers of all ages will enjoy Kanata's beautiful watercolor art work; her light and breezy storytelling as enjoyable and sweet as a creampuff.
Will Eisner is one of the defining voices in American comics, and this collection of recently re-discovered strips offer a rare glimpse into the early works of a future master of the form. The two strips are compiled here (one a simple gag a day strip called Uncle Otto, the other, a serialized thriller called Harry Karry) are a great read for anyone interested in the golden age of newspaper comic strips or curious about the first comics made by the man who would go on to draw some of the best comics ever made.
Benjamin Marra's hyper-masculine pop culture fever dreams are not for the faint of heart. This compilation of previously self-published works allows the reader to wallow Marra's deadpan absurdity with stories featuring a rock band fighting demons in another dimension, a freed slave tearing apart every klan member he meets with his bare hands, and a sexy secret agent version of Maureen Dowd. The look and tone of these comics draw heavily from B-action movies and self-published comics from the late seventies to the early ninteties, and if you enjoyed the pulpier fictions of this era, then this collection is definitely for you.
Anyone interested in comics, be they new to the format or long time readers, can find some great stuff in The Best American Comics 2016. Selections range from the accessible to the more challenging; from autobiography to abstract fantasy to gag strips. From the meticulousness of Chris Ware to the breeziness of Kate Beaton, this collection has something for the everyone who's interested in catching up on the state of the art.
Kristen Radtke's debut graphic novel is a somber meditation on loss and decay. Utilizing an abstracted, realistic drawing style, Imagine Wanting Only This feels like memories of real people and places. Radtke eschews any caricature or exaggeration in her character design, keeping them grounded, but allows for poetic flourishes in her layouts and text. The result is a beautiful but honest elegy for loved ones lost and the world around us as a whole.
Junji Ito's Dissolving Classroom is a little horror anthology that brings some genuine creepiness. Each chapter is its own stand alone story centered around orphaned siblings Yuuma and Chizumi, both seemingly cursed in their own way. Ito lets the dread build in each tale pretty deftly and his artwork is beautifully gross. Just don't read it right before you go to bed.
MariNaomi's graphic memoir chronicles her struggles to embrace her Japanese heritage with a clear-eyed earnestness that feels intimate and honest. Her unpretentious art work helps with this confessional vibe. The book seems to say that it's true that you can't go home again, especially if you've never been there in the first place.
Roughneck is tough little tale, as beautiful and bleak as the Canadian north is depicts. Our hero is a down-on-his-luck former hockey enforcer, reunited with his long estranged sister who is on the run from her abusive ex. The two love each other more than they love themselves, and they'll need that love to get past their past. Just like its protagonist, Roughneck packs a mean punch, but there's a bruised heart beating under that mean exterior.
Wiesner and Napoli invert Hans Christian Andersen's Little Mermaid in their respective debuts as artist and writer of a graphic novel. Instead of an undersea princess, Fish Girl is a captive exhibit in a shady seaside aquarium. She still longs for to be free to see the greater world outside the one she has known; when she befriends a young girl she realizes that her caretaker may not be what he claims. Wiesner's gentle artwork give the book a dreamlike softness, weaving Napoli's undersea spell.
Cathy Malkasian's Eartha hides a cutting social satire within the gentlest of fairy tale wrappings. The titular Eartha is a gentle giant of a lady, living in an isolated fjord village, taking care of her fellow agrarian fjord-ers with her great strength and soothing presence. The fjord's key source of entertainment comes in the form of the dreams of a distant city, which manifest themselves physically, but have been drying up of late. The earnest Eartha is tricked into investigating by the town's head dream archivist, but when she arrives in the city, she finds it on the verge of collapse. The city folk have been driven to the verge of madness and economic collapse by a crippling addiction to news biscuits, bite sized biscuits with bite sized bits of tragedy printed on them from around the globe. Eartha soon learns the sinister purpose of these biscuits, and in the process, she learns about herself as well. Malkasian's biscuits serve as a handy metaphor in this age of social media news and the virtue signalling that comes with it. It would cut too close, were it not for her art work. Working predominantly in colored pencil, the art has a soft dreamlike quality that helps the medicine go down. Relevant but sweet, Eartha doesn't preach but does make you feel like it has a point.
Tom Scioli's American Barbarian does exactly what a comic book should do: you turn the page, look at it and whisper to yourself, "awesome". In a post-apocalyptic fantasy hellscape, only one man can stand against the roving armies that threaten to keep the world in everlasting war: the red, white, and blue-haired American Barbarian. Scioli clearly knows well that the villain should always be as compelling as his hero, and the evil warlord Two Tank Omen (a twenty foot tall pharaoh with tanks for feet) is instantly iconic. Equal parts homage and parody of the pop fantasy fiction of the eighties, American Barbarian is a joy ride for anybody who longs for the apocalypses of yesteryear.
It is true that Matt Rizzo was blinded while committing armed robbery as a teenager, a crime which imprisoned him for life in darkness, as well as a literal prison for several years. It is also true that Matt Rizzo is a good man. The severity of the first truth obliterates any sight of the second just as surely as the shotgun blast obliterated Matt's sight, and so Matt never tells his son Charlie his troubled past until Charlie develops his own trouble with the law. The Hunting Accident, written by David L. Carlson and illustrated by Landis Blair, rushes headlong into the dueling nature of these truths and the question of what it means to be good. Based on a true story (or, perhaps, based on a true story within a false one, within a true one...), The Hunting Accident recounts Matt coming clean with Charlie about his time in prison, where he is celled with Nathan Leopold of Leopold and Loeb fame. The two become unlikely friends through their mutual love of epic poetry and learn that they can hope to become more than the sum of their crimes, waiting for their sentences, their lives, to run their course. Blair's art is murky and black, dense with crosshatching, evoking both the darkness of Matt's blindness and his surroundings, with points of light dappled at the end of metaphorical tunnels. A fun and engaging read fans of true crime and/or epistemology and hermeneutics - I couldn't put it down.
Katie Skelly's comics always exude an effortlessly cool vibe, and My Pretty Vampire is no exception. Her smooth, flowy lines and bold blocks of color have a Coco Chanel elegance to them. Despite the seeming simplicity of her design sense, Skelly draws on a wide range of artistic touchstones, from shōjo manga to 70's mod fashion to Eurotrash horror films (her vampires here owe more to Jess Franco than they do to Bram Stoker). The titular pretty vampire is named Clover. Living a cloistered life in a secluded mansion, she is protected/imprisoned by her doting brother, Marcel. A life of quiet studies and ox blood won't satisfy her and she soon breaks free. On the lam, she can indulge the less savory hungers that have built up in the four years she's spent under Marcel's thumb (some of these indulgences do get a little blue, so maybe keep this one away from kiddies too young to get "the talk", if the nude woman on the cover weren't indication enough). Without a dime to her name and the detective that Marcel hires hot on her trail, it seems as though Clover is destined to burn out before she fades away. Sexy and cool, My Pretty Vampire is the perfect read for a hot summer night.