The number of graphic novels on my coffee table right now is a lot. It's a flock of graphic novels, a mountain of graphic novels, a herd, a murder, a gaggle. In fact, I am going to make up a collective noun for graphic novels RIGHT NOW.
What I have on my coffee table right now is a CATASTROPHE OF GRAPHIC NOVELS! It is so great a catastrophe that I have had to split this roundup blog post into more than one part. Today's entry:
Graphic Novels on My Coffee Table Early April 2011, Part One: The Early Years
One graphic novel that I don't have on my coffee table right now - but I'm going to fix that, even if I have to arm every mutual friend Dan Santat and I have with Peep guns and malted milk bombs and send them to (nicely) threaten his editor - is Sidekicks. It's a full-length kids' graphic novel from the man who illustrated the Barnett-penned Oh No! Or How My Science Project Destroyed the World and Always Lots of Heinies at the Zoo by Milo and Inky's mom. Mutual friends, see?
There's a trailer. Even if you're not a book trailer person, watch this one. Dan Santat always has the best trailers.
Next! Looking forward to the print version of Medusa's Daughter, a fantasy graphic novella for teens written by Jonathon Scott Fuqua with art by Steven Parke. I have to recuse myself from writing an actual review of this one, as Steve and his family are good friends.
(Little-known rule of thumb: when you are friendly enough with a creator that you have made up a nickname for that creator's kid, you are not allowed to review that creator's book. There are other rules of thumb, like if your mom and the creator compared notes on their pregnancies before you were born, you are not allowed to review that creator's book. If you and the creator will stay up late drinking rum on your deck as often as time and travel allow, you are not allowed to review that creator's book. But you can get your friends to do it.)
image copyright Steven Parke, http://www.steveparke.com
Anyway. I can candidly and objectively say that Medusa's Daughter is the best collaboration yet from the team that brought us the very good In the Shadow of Edgar Allan Poe and Catie and Josephine. The story is dark and fanciful and Steve's manipulated photos are beautiful and hideous in turn. The settings are lush and dreamlike, the characters expressive and intimate. Not a review, just an opinion: I really like this one.
Also in the category of sneaky-peekiness is the third Frankie Pickle book, Frankie Pickle and the Mathematical Menace. We've had a copy of the story at the house for months and both my kids lapped it right up, even without most of the art... but now I have a PDF with the final art and I have to say, Frankie just keeps getting better and better.
Eric Wight is such a confident artist. In the course of studying for a math quiz, Frankie and his fabulous imagination take on a dragon, aliens and trolls. He is a football star, a futuristic gladiator, and a magician's apprentice. Best of all, it's his interactions with his family and friends that help him see that math is all around us, and it's not as intimidating as it seems.
Similar to Eric Wight in his willingness to send his characters anywhere is Stephen McCranie, whose webcomic Mal and Chad has been turned into a graphic novel (called Mal and Chad: The Biggest, Bestest Time Ever!), due out in May. Mal is a middle grade science genius who has something of a rough time in school, and Chad is his dog.
The comic has a distinctly Bill Watterson look, and may appeal to the same kids, but it's more exploit-oriented than the somewhat contemplative Calvin and Hobbes. I had to warm up to this one: in the first few chapters, Mal is not only misunderstood and insulted by his peers, he is also not getting much support from his single mom. But it's a light, likable story with some real sweetness at the end, and I'll be looking forward to more Mal.
Then there's some crap on my coffee table too: in honor of Cowboys and Aliens coming soon to a theater near you, and yes it might be AS AWFUL as Sucker Punch, which even the video-game-playing hipster boys at my library were appalled by, but it has Daniel Craig in it, so until the new James Bond comes out in 2012, basically ON my birthday and I can't think of a better present, thank you very much MGM, I will go to the movie theater with my friend Chelsea and see Cowboys and Aliens, and in preparation for such a field trip I have read the graphic novel.
And oh, it's bad. Bad in a fun way. It has that gleeful disdain for anatomy, dialogue, and sense that you expect from a good, dumb, action comic. It never met a cliche it didn't embrace. Not just embrace: Cowboys and Aliens grabs that cliche, wraps it in its arms, gives it big wet sloppy kisses, and cops a feel. There's a little swearing in this comic, but it's a fine plate of chow for most teens and even middle school-age kids. I read it eating a bowl of pho on my lunch hour.
Also bad, and NOT in a good way, is James Patterson's The Murder of King Tut, adapted by Alexander Irvine, with art by Ron Randall and Christopher Mitten, based on The Murder of King Tut by James Patterson and Martin Dugard. That's a lot of people. But James Patterson is the name in all caps on the cover, and that's James Patterson narrating the last 22 pages, concluding that, "Maybe Howard Carter can rest a little easier now that the mystery is solved. Maybe so can Tutankhamun." Oy vey.
Stay tuned next week for Graphic Novels Part Deux: I Know What You Did to Arthur Conan Doyle, or: Just How Many Graphic Novel Adaptations of Alice in Wonderland Can Fit on One Coffee Table?