It’s summertime and all the happenin’ sites have advice about bikinis, manscaping, quick cool meals and reading lists. I have no idea what to tell you about beachwear, other than you do look cute in that, but I do have some reading suggestions.
Here are some comics, manga, trade paperbacks and graphic novels spanning the crazy and the literary and even the crazy literary, for you to enjoy by the pool , at your cottage or cabin, or lounging in your backyard or balcony with a cold one on the fanciest of staycations. They have it all, epic scope, romance, drama and mystery. There’s also a lot of fighting, talking animals and more fighting.
Hulk: Planet Hulk (Marvel, 2008) Greg Pak, writer; Carlo Pagulayan and Jeffrey Huet, artists
Planet Hulk is pure, brightly-colored comics concentrate. It’s shameless in the best sense. Shot through space, betrayed by friends, the Hulk becomes the cosmic gladiator savior of a planet that’s all swords and science. The Hulk is way, way better than John Carter of Mars because he is the Hulk as a cosmic barbarian organizing the people against a tyrannical overlord. Planet Hulk is everything that Jack Kirby taught us to love.
Scott Pilgrim (Oni) Bryan Lee O’Malley
Scott Pilgrim lives in Toronto where he meets and falls in love with American delivery girl, Ramona Flowers. Ramona will only date Scott if he defeats her seven evil exes. Scott Pilgrim is fun and smart, whether you get the game and manga referencees or not, which gets Bryan Lee O’Malley extra points as far as I’m concerned. Aside from being one of the most fun stories around, Scott Pilgrim also has a good format for summer reading. It’s pocket manga-sized and, at one evil ex per book, Scott Pilgrim is a happy medium between endless ongoing series and collections and finite one-shots and miniseries. You can even catch up to the soon-to-be released movie and final volume.
Mouse Guard (Archaia) David Petersen
Beset by predatory enemies as well as internal divisions, the mouse
communities are in desperate need and only the Mouse Guard can save
them. Following works like Watership Down and The Lord of the Ring, The Mouse Guard is
straight up epic fantasy with swords, quests and schemes. The art, however, is stunning. It’s worth sitting in the sun looking at Petersen’s exquisitely drawn leaves from Mouse Guard: Fall: 1152 or cooling yourself down when you have no AC with the snowy trees of
Mouse Guard: Winter: 1152. Plus, the collections are well-bound and have convenient squared ratios, perfect for leaning on your knees.
Asterios Polyp (Pantheon, 2009) David Mazzucchelli
If you prefer your graphic novels literary, there is none more literary than Asterios Polyp. Asterios is an architect who teaches, a romantic who has trouble with relationships. And somehow he seems like the man in almost every New Yorker cartoon. The book is also a tour de force, which is a way of saying it demonstrates an insane mastery of the medium—using color, geometric shape, lettering to create the story and move it forward, to fill out characterization, to affect the reader directly. A lovely, well-made book.
The Color of Earth (First Second, 2009) Dong Hwa Kim
The Color of Earth is a book I would love to read listening to the singing of cicadas. It concerns a young girl’s coming of age and her mother’s return to
love in pastoral Korea, before the war and before much of the country was industrialized. A funny, direct book, seemingly effortlessly drawn and written.
Hung #3: Lonely and Tylenol (self-published, 2007) Shannon Gerrard
Shannon Gerrard collaborated with the Gutter’s own Jim Munroe on their graphic novel, The Sword of My Mouth and it is a worthy summer read*. But Gerrard created an earlier autobiographical series that never really got the attention it deserved, Hung. Each issue reads with the intimacy of a zine, but issue 3 is the best. It is painful, exquisite work displaying the love and terror felt when a partner discovers a possible tumor. Hung renders human vulnerability—both physical and emotional—with lithography, the truth of someone’s heart burned in stone.
Black Blizzard (Drawn & Quarterly, 2010) Tatsumi Yoshihiro
Black Blizzard is one of Tatsumi’s crime manga from the beginning of his career, a novella straight from 1956, long before his autobiographical masterpiece, A Drifting Life. It’s completely pulp, even the pages are yellow-edged. Accused of a murder he doesn’t remember, a pianist is taken into custody and put on a train with a gangster. The train wrecks and, chained together, the pianist and yakuza escape. There are secrets, close scrapes and an underlying fear that the yakuza will do anything to escape.
The Chuckling Whatsit (Fantagraphics, 2003) Richard Sala
Desperate for money, Broom is hired as an astrology columnist, only to discover that astrologers all over his city are being murdered. He investigates and encounters many of the complicated secrets of a Sala book: mysterious organizations, knife-wielding maniacs, vulpine ne’er do wells, girl adventurers, tragic ingenues, outsider art, dreams and lonely madness. Sala’s deep blacks, scritchy lines, German Expressionist settings, noir tone and classic horror narrative are always wonderfully grim.
* Full Disclosure: I did some beta-reading for Sword of My Mouth.
Carol Borden also reminds you not to run on the pool deck and to apply sunscreen frequently. Always wear sunglasses with polarized lenses for maximum UV protection.