First up is Eisner Award winning 'Mom's Cancer' by Brian Fies. Fies started an online comic journal when his Mom was diagnosed with metastic lung cancer. This isn't the agony filled book you might expect, its a very honest look at a family confronted with cancer. Its funny, informative, sad and down right easy to read. The online version won the Eisner Award for Best Digital Comic and since then its been collected and printed by Harry N. Abrams and is nominated for a rack of different awards, including two further Eisner's and three Harvey awards. (If you don't know what these awards are that I'm talking about, lets just say they are the equivalent of an Oscar or Bafta but for the comic industry). The book itself costs £7.95 (UK), hardback.
Second is David Petersen's 'Mouse Guard'. This is the collection of the high sought after six issues from Archaia Studios Press (art previews on theire site). In fact I have all the issues bar number two so if you see a cheap copy (ha, you won't by the way) let me know please. I'm not a big fan of cute animal comics but your going to be hard pressed to not like the work and detail that has gone into this work. I'll let the cover intro tell you what its about:
Mice struggle to live safely and prosper among all of the world's harsh conditions and predators. Thus the Mouse Guard was formed. They are not simply soldiers that fight off intruders; rather, they are guides for common mice looking to journey without confrontation from one hidden mouse village to another. The Guard patrol borders, find safe-ways and paths through dangerous territories and treacherous terrain, watch weather patterns, and keep the mouse territories free of predatory infestation. They do so with fearless dedication so that they might not just exist, but truly live.
Follow the adventures of three of the Guard's finest – Lieum, Saxon and Kenzie – as they seek to uncover a traitorous plot against the Guard, in a critically acclaimed book named by Wizard Magazine as best Indy Adventure Book of 2006, by Canada's Metro News as Best Mini-Series of 2006 and by IGN.com as Best Indie Book of the Year!
Personally I the artwork does it for me and the story is very entertaining. This is again a hardback book retailing at £14.99 (UK), a softback edition is due in Spring of 2008.
Last (or third, but these aren't in any particular order of preference) is Bryan Talbot's 'Alice in Sunderland' (loads of previews there) printed in the UK by Jonathan Cape, hardback for £16.99.
Wow, what a size of book this is, 328 pages, roughly A4 in format, its a big read. Here's the blurb:
Alice in Sunderland is a graphic novel like no other. Bryan Talbot takes the city of Sunderland and the story of Lewis Carroll and Alice Liddell (the ‘real’ Alice) as the spine of his story and around them spins a spectacularly diverse range of different stories. He explores Carroll’s links with Sunderland and shows how the city inspired his masterpieces. He delves into the city’s history, from the Venerable Bede to George Formby, from its heyday as the greatest shipbuilding port in the world to its present multicultural mix.
Talbot’s artwork is a spectacular mixture of different styles: black and white ink line and pencil drawing, watercolour, collage and digitally manipulated photographic artwork. His stories are told from the stage of the Sunderland Empire theatre, an Edwardian music hall, and the book is a genuine variety performance. In Alice in Sunderland he shows – triumphantly – how local history is national history in microcosm, how one story begets another. The result is a landmark book in the graphic field.
When I first saw this book I was undecided how I would appreciate it, I mean I knew that the story and the research that Bryan has put into the book would impress me and most likely win me over that way. The art however I was unsure of, not in terms of his ability as Mr Talbot has shown time and time again that he can draw the socks off anyone. Check out his work on Nemesis in 2000AD form book five onwards, The Adventures of Luther Arkwright (wow), countless others but importantly his book The Tale of One Bad Rat (you gotta check that out).
This book has all his usual style of work but it also features a montage style of Photoshop work that may have left me a little tired. He uses a lot of effects and filters that many users of Adobe's fine product will have seen, tested and abandoned a while back. I was scared that I would view the work as someone starting out in Photoshop and therefore be downhearted at he results. He hasn't created on each page a wonder of Photoshop knowledge but it hasn't stopped me from enjoying the results, I've found I haven't been distracted by the montage side of the book and it still contains a lot of his illustration work and style. I haven't even got a fifth of the way through this book but I am enjoying it immensely. This is a work of effort and its shows and shines for it. You don't have to have a love for Sunderland to get this book.
Three very different books. If you haven't tried a graphic novel before, then I'm sure one of these could tempt you. Mom's Cancer will take you 45 minutes to read, Mouse Guard is a solid nights read or a week of enjoyable episode per day, and Mr Talbot's Alice book will take you a good long time. You pick, try one or get them all.