Tag Archives: Graphic Novels

The Fun Family by Benjamin Frisch

So-o-o-o, um, yeah…

…let’s just say that The Fun Family by Benjamin Frisch is anything but fun. I’m warning you now. It is probably one of the most messed up comics this side of the works of Daniel Clowes or Kaz. Don’t blame me if you have nightmares, especially after viewing the final page.

This graphic novel is an investigation, albeit phantasmagorical, into the spiritual despair of our current age of ever-mounting anxiety and nostalgia. The tale begins with cartoonist Robert Fun, Frisch’s stand in for Bil Keane, and his family having lighthearted fun at Thanksgiving time. Their holiday meal is interrupted by an automated message from the hospital that Robert’s mother has died. It is this terrible news that cracks apart the family’s facade of harmony and seeming perfection.

Marsha Fun, Robert’s wife and mother of their four children, is clearly unhappy with Robert’s work and his detatchment from the family, which only gets worse after Grandma’s funeral. Eventually, Marsha decides that she can no longer sit on her simmering disappointments and asks for a divorce. The children – Robby, Molly, Mikey, and J.T. – are left to cope with the turmoil in their own ways.

Granted, the adults in this work are clearly self-absorbed which is a fault that many readers will not be able to get past. In a work that initially models a perfect family, it’s fracture is bound to lead to finger-pointing. That the parents should have stepped up will stick in the reader’s craw, no doubt. I would argue, though, that this is one of the many points that Frisch is making along the way, that family dysfunction often occurs at the expense of children.

Despite the trauma, The Fun Family is completely worth the ride. The story clearly works as a deconstruction of that old comic strip chestnut, The Family Circus, and other kitschy Americana. Warning number two, here there be creepy porcelain dolls, Big Eye art, and angel painting!

But more importantly, the work examines – breezily – different spiritual approaches found in modern times. The first is represented by Molly, who sees (or thinks she sees) Grandma in angel form, finding solace and direction through communication with the spirit. The second is Martha’s kooky path of ever-shifting psychological self-investigation of the Human Potential Movement variety, combined with New Age elements. The third is Robert’s own retreat into self-expression as a means of organizing his life, first as the creator of the comic strip and later of sacred paintings. The final path is that of Robbie, the oldest child, who lives, and works as a replacement artist on his dad’s strip, in order to recreate a childhood tableau in which he felt secure.

It is arguable – and is argued strongly by the story’s ending – that this final approach is deeply troubling and damaging as a project. Life continues to move on, people continue to change, and such moments in time were perhaps not as real as they may have seemed at the time. To dedicate one’s life to pursuits that strip mine the past, to succumb to unironic nostalgia, leaves one continuously chasing a dream that can never be realized. This way opens one to a constant sense of disappointment, even despair.

Formats Available:  Graphic Novel

Reviewed by Tony, Main Library


If you are interested in discussing this title or other works of sequential art, please join LFPL’s Graphic Novel Discussion Group.

Meetings are held at the Main Library on the second Monday of every month, starting at 6:00 PM.

Upcoming meetings will take place on the following dates:

  • Monday, June 12, 2017 – Wonder Woman

**Note: The live-action movie Wonder Woman will be released on June 2, 2017**
  • Monday, July 10, 2017 – Marvel’s Spider-Heroes

*Note: The live-action movie Spider-Man: Homecoming will be released on July 5, 2017*
  • Monday, August 14, 2017 – Warren Publishing

 

Top Picks: Graphic Novels of 2016

Well, time has rolled around again for my annual best of list.  This year, I’m going to go about it a little differently.  I’m choosing one selection from each of the 2016 meetings of the Graphic Novel Discussion Group.

The list is in chronological order by month rather than any ranking by preference.  I have included the topic we covered for that month as well.  There are some of the selections where I have only listed the stand-alone work or the series as a whole.

All right, let’s get to it…

Craziness, that’s all I’ve got to say!  If you like the tough-kid Borribles series (a major influence on writers like China Mieville) and the twisted narratives of David Lynch‘s movies then you will love this graphic novel by Farel Dalrymple.

 

This is an incredibly detailed 24 foot-long panoramic drawing by Joe Sacco that tries to capture the full events of just one day of battle in World War I. The set also includes a 16-page booklet to give viewers some historical context.

 

  • The Sandman series (by Neil Gaiman and J.H. Williams III) – Sandman Overture

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Neil Gaiman finally returns to his award-winning, beloved Sandman series with a prologue tale that explains just how Morpheus was captured in the very first issue of the series.  The art by J.H. Williams III is gorgeous and appropriately psychedelic as befits the adventures of the Lord of Dreams across the galaxy as he attempts to right a wrong from long ago.

 

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This volume of the first Civil War series collects the prequels to the main tale.  In it we get to see how key players such as Doctor Strange, Mister Fantastic, Namor, Professor X, and Iron Man form the ultra-secretive Illuminati, as well as how Spider-man is drawn into the conflict between the forces of government control and those superheroes who wish to retain their autonomy.

 

  • May 2016: We did not have a meeting in May so I’m going to put up a comic that I read in 2016 and just loved, Gotham Academy!

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Gotham Academy is a prestigious boarding school with a ton of secrets.  Mystery, magic, and the bonding of a special group of students make for a creepy thrill-ride.

 

Brian K. Vaughan and Marcos Martin have beautifully crafted a future where all our expectations about privacy have been turned upside down after a major event that shuts down the Internet for good.  In this world, our main character, a private investigator, and his femme fatale client break rule after rule in search of her missing sister.  Along the way they stumble into a conspiracy that threatens to shake the very foundations of this new social order.

 

Strangers in Paradise was the 13 year project of indie comic writer and artist, Terry Moore.  It was a complicated series of interlocking stories told in a realistic style with a dedicated fan-base addicted to the intensely personal quality of the main characters’ interaction. It mixed several sub-genres – romance, crime drama, and autobiography – while always feeling fresh and compelling.

 

  • Valiant Comics – Harbinger (by Joshua Dysart)harbingah

Honestly, I could have picked a few other titles such as The Death-Defying Doctor Mirage, Archer & Armstrong, or The Eternal Warrior as my favorite Valiant Entertainment selection but Harbinger is the title that originally attracted me to their line of comics.  It is the tale of Peter Stanchek and other teens like him who have psionic powers and are trying to escape Project Rising Spirit, who have been holding them prisoner and conducting experiments on them.  Joshua Dysart‘s pacing is tight and his dialogue is crisp, letting the reader get to know the characters while keeping thrills coming one right after the other.

 

A classic and a cornerstone of many introductory Comic Studies courses, Scott McCloud‘s Understanding Comics is more than just that.  It is also an entertaining comic in itself.

 

Mike Mignola has created one, excuse the pun, hell of a quintessentially quirky supernatural comic character with Hellboy.  This trade is a collection of the various one-offs and other ephemera about Hellboy that were published in other titles.  Also, there is a short story, King Vold, that was created especially for this particular compilation.

 

Well, what can I say?  Doctor Strange is one weird dude and so are most of his stories.  I honestly can’t pinpoint a particular one that I’d suggest because I tend to like him best when he is part of a team, be it The Defenders, the Illuminati, or as Dr. Doom’s sidekick in Jonathan Hickman‘s Secret Wars.

 

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This series is hard to quickly summarize because there have been three different creators, all brothers, with different visions who have participated across the 30+ years of its existence.  The primary two creators have been Jaime Hernandez, whose focus has been on the punk scene of a primarily Latino community in California (presumably East Los Angeles), and Gilbert Hernandez, who has spun out a rich set of stories about a mythical Latin American town called Palomar (and the immigrants in the U.S. who’ve hailed from there).

My personal favorite are the stories that focus around the characters Maggie and Hopey, also known about town as the Locas.  You can see them in action in the above now-iconic picture from Love & Rockets #24.

 


If you are interested in discussing these titles or other works of sequential art, please join LFPL’s Graphic Novel Discussion Group. Meetings are held at the Main Library on the second Monday of every month, starting at 6:00 PM.

Upcoming meetings will take place on the following dates:

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Formats Available:  Graphic Novel

Reviewed by Tony, Main Library

Graphic Novel Round-up – Strong, incredible, daring females!

Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur, Vol. 1: BFF by Amy Reeder and Brandon Montclare

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Imagine having a colossal T-Rex as pet in the modern day Marvel Universe.

And on the other end, imagine having a plucky and fearless teenage girl as a pet.

 

Patsy Walker, A.K.A. Hellcat! Vol. 1: Hooked On a Feline by Kate Leth and Brittney Williams

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Patsy has been to hell and back (literally) but nothing compares with having to find a job in New York City.

 

Spider-Woman, Vol. 2: New Duds by Dennis Hopeless and Javier Rodriguez

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Reporter Ben Urich joins Jessica Drew as she attempts to make a new life for herself separate from the Avengers.

A surprise Silver Age character joins their motley crew as they set out on a comical road trip across America.

 

Lumberjanes, Vol. 4: Out of Time by Shannon Waters and Noelle Stevenson

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Jen and the Lumberjanes find a way to save the day, again!

If you haven’t been introduced to Jo, April, Mal, Molly and Ripley you are seriously missing out.

A hilariously entertaining ragtag band of brave and wondrous girls.

 

In the Sounds and Seas by Marnie Galloway

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A deep and thought-provoking wordless graphic novel.

If I had to make a pile of nice things to leave for a house guest to look at during a visit, this would be in it.

A positively beautiful book, check it out.

 

Ghosts by Raina Telgemeier

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A fantastic graphic for kids and teens (and adults!) about the Day of the Dead and letting go of the things that scare you.

Telgemeier magically and subtly conveys how at the end of the day, love transcends life and death.

I adore Raina’s books, I think this one is my very favorite of hers.

 

DC Comics: Bombshells, Vol. 2: Allies by Marguerite Bennett and Marguerite Sauvage

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Wonder Woman!  Batgirls!  Supergirl!  Stargirl!  Batwoman!  Mera!  Zatanna!  Catwoman!  Amanda Waller!  Big Barda!

Need I say more?

As World War II storms across Europe some of the most extraordinary women in the DC universe band together to fight an old villain rising from the grave.

 

Ms. Marvel Vol. 4.: Last Days by G. Willow Wilson and Adrian Alphona

msmarvl4

In my opinion the very best of the Ms. Marvel volumes so far.

When the world is ending do you keep fighting or give up?

Or…dance it out!

Jersey City and Kamala are just the best.

Not to mention a cameo from Carol Danvers herself!

Formats Available: Graphic Novel

Reviewed by Heather, St. Matthews

Waiting for The Walking Dead

So you love The Walking Dead but it’s killing you that you have to wait until October for the new season, right?  Well, I’ve come across two really great graphic novel series that you may enjoy while you wait.

The first series, written by Robert Kirkman, is called Outcast. This series is focused on a man named Kyle Barnes who sees demons.  For a recent review by a fellow staff member, click here.

outcast

These installments (currently the library has three volumes) fascinate me because the main threat comes from within people rather than from something external like the zombie apocalypse. Outcast is a complete contrast to The Walking Dead series but also shows that Kirkman is a great writer of horror graphics.

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The second series is Postal by Matt Hawkins. The main character, Mark Shiffron, lives in a town where not everything is quite as it seems. His mother, Mayor Shiffron wants Mark, a postal worker, to provide her with transcripts of all of the mail that enters the town. Seems legit, right? Mark, on the other hand, has Asperger’s and sees thing in a way that others don’t. Is this a good or bad thing?

I really recommend both series. Drop me a comment and tell me what you think.

Formats Available:  Graphic Novel

Reviewed by Damera, Okolona Branch

My Top Ten Graphic Novels of 2015

Man, 2015 was a killer year for the graphic novel format and especially for the library’s ever-expanding collection of graphic titles (thanks to LFPL’s graphic novel selector and manager of the Newburg Branch, Kerry Hunter).

I’ve been sitting on this top ten for so-o-o long because I keep on changing my mind about what should make it and what shouldn’t.  Since it’s way beyond late for best-of lists, let me drop it on you as is…ten picks in alphabetical (rather than rank) order.

Many of the titles are ongoing series so I’ve just named each series as a whole rather than any specific volume. I have included artists when listing creators but some titles have multiple artists so then I’ve only listed the writer.

  • Batgirl by Cameron Stewart/Brendan Fletcher — Barbara Gordon is off to college, living in a new part of town, and Batgirl is changing along with her! The stories are well-paced and the art by Brendan Fletcher is a fresh change of pace from typical superhero fare.

batgirl

  • Bitch Planet by Kelly Sue DeConnick/Valentine De Landro — Imagine The Handmaid’s Tale if it was a women-in-prison exploitation film…set in space!  The art by Valentine De Landro perfectly reflects the 1970’s grindhouse aesthetic that co-creator Kelly Sue DeConnick is evoking.  However, rather than titillating the male gaze, DeConnick serves up an entertaining kick to the groin of Patriarchy!

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  • Deadly Class by Rick Remender — Set in 1987, this tale of punk rock rebellion mixed with a twisted take on the classic boarding school setting is a non-stop thriller.  Rick Remender once again deftly develops his outsider character, here named Marcus Lopez.  Lopez clearly has a lot of heart, screwed up as it may be, as he trains to be an assassin and falls in love with the wrong girl.

deadly class

  • Finder by Carla Speed McNeil — Whoa! It is hard to describe this series as Carla Speed McNeil, both author and artist, has spent the better part of 20 years developing this sci-fi/fantasy tale about a futuristic society that may or may not be here on Earth.  The main character, Jaeger, is the titular Finder, his aboriginal society’s title for a certain kind of shaman.  Issues of race, class, the nature of work, the power of reading, magic, and sexuality are all explored as we follow Jaegar’s travels.

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  • Ms. Marvel by G.W. Wilson — Kamala Khan is a nerdy but cool first generation Pakistani-American teen just trying to get through school and keep up with her fan obsessions (one of whom is Carol Danvers, a.k.a. Captain Marvel) when she is exposed to the mysterious Terrigen Mist.  Once exposed, Kamala finds herself with new powers, ones that she she uses to keep her hometown safe – even though she has strict immigrant parents, a curfew, and the constant monitoring of the Inhumans to boot.

msmarvel

  • Nimona by Noelle Stevenson — Nimona is one heck of a little hell-raiser and don’t you forget it!  She forces her way into the life of the villain Lord Blackheart so that she can become his apprentice.  As Lord Blackheart battles his arch-nemesis Sir Goldenloin, he finds Nimona just may be too wild to guide.  Noelle Stevenson’s art can be said to be simple and cute but is sophisticated enough to portray the darkness of the soul when needed.

nimona

  • Outcast by Robert Kirkman/Paul Azaceta — Demon possession is tackled by Robert Kirkman, the writer who brought us The Walking Dead.  Kyle Barnes’s life has been ruined by demons by the time he meets Reverend Anderson, who is trying – and failing – to successfully perform an exorcism. The art by Paul Azaceta is creepy, allowing the story to breathe as it unfolds at a psychologically compelling pace.

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  • Polarity by Max Bemis/Jorge Coelho — Can a drifting young man with bi-polar depression be a superhero?  This question is explored in a visually stunning tale from Max Bemis and Jorge Coelho.

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  • Phonogram by Kieron Gillen/Jamie McKelvie — I’m a sucker for comics about music and Phonogram is just that.  But it’s also about identity, magic, the nature of reality, and really great tunes!  Kieron Gillen is an old hipster for sure but he’s got none of the out of touch boringness that such a label suggests…yes, Gillen knows how to keep you coming back for more.  Jamie McKelvie renders the characters and the setting in crisp lines but the real magic is in his facial expressions…every character is clearly their own.  This is a boon as many comics with what I call the “indie autobiographical style” of art fail to strongly differentiate anyone but the main character.

phonogram

  • Rat Queens by Kurtis J. Wiebe — Quick synopsis: four party-hardy women in a medieval world roam the countryside and slay monsters.  Yeah, this could have been stereotypical sword and sorcery fluff but Kurtis Weibe slips in subtle, convincing character details for all four warriors along the way. He also is great with writing banter so I found myself laughing all the way, too.  Roc Upchurch was the artist on the first few issues and his character designs are gorgeous.

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If you are interested in talking about these comics or others, LFPL’s Graphic Novel Discussion Group is the place for you!  The Group meets at the Main Branch on the second Monday of every month at 6:00 PM.

ThePrivateEye
Join us on June 13, 2016 as we explore the future-noir world of The Private Eye by Brian K. Vaughan (co-creator of the New York Times best-selling series Saga) and Marcos Martin.

Formats Available:  Graphic Novel

Reviewed by Tony, Main Library

In Real Life by Cory Doctorow and Jen Wang

In Real Life is a book about gaming, economics, politics, and labor. Sounds like a tall order for a graphic novel, right? Not for Cory Doctorow!

InRealLife

Anda discovers a new online game when a guest speaker comes to her tech class. Miss Liza McCombs, a gamer herself, introduces Anda and her classmates to one of the fastest growing multiplayer role playing games, Coarsegold Online. Anda begins to spend most of her free time on Coarsegold. It’s a place where she can be different than her real life self; strong, independent, a fighter, a leader and a hero. She also gets to meet people from all over the world and make new friends. And for Anda gaming is fun and a good thing.

However, things become problematic when she befriends a gold farmer, who turns out to be a poor Chinese kid whose avatar in the game collects valuable objects illegally and sells them to players from developed countries. This kind of behavior is against the rules in Coarsegold and Anda discovers the line between right and wrong is not black and white, especially when it comes to someone’s livelihood. Anda finds herself learning about the consequences of your actions and the courage to stand up to bullies.

Doctorow explores heavy topics such as poverty, culture clash, and the addictive nature of gaming. Yet he also delves into the advantages of gaming, including the self-confidence and cross-cultural benefits Anda gains throughout her online experience.

In Real Life is a timely read for adults and teens in an age of online gaming, digital addiction, and ever increasing dependence on technology. Doctorow and Wang have created an immensely fun, engaging and fast paced graphic novel for gamer girls and guys of all ages. Here’s hoping for more adventures with Anda!

Formats Available: Graphic Novel

Reviewed by Heather, St. Matthews

The Elaborate Life of Stan Lee

stanleeA memoir in graphic novel form?  Say it isn’t so!

Stan Lee, creator of a vast universe of superheroes (The Avengers, Fantastic Four, The Punisher, and Spider-Man to name just a few), recently released a memoir of his journey to becoming an icon in the world of comic books, entitled Amazing Fantastic Incredible: A Marvelous Memoir.  Early in his adolescent years, Lee could always be found with a book close within reach, reading anything he could wrap his hands around.  Lee was greatly influenced by classic characters found in pulp literature (such as Edgar Rice Burroughs‘ Tarzan), as well as Shakespeare’s works of drama and poetry.  These literary influences were combined with images of what a human could become to produce his intriguing, well-rounded characters for Marvel Comics.

While much of the book is devoted to his character development of the superheroes and villains, there is also a more serious side that details Lee’s time in the military.  One of his first duties was as a graphic artist for a campaign on sexual abstinence.  He also developed materials focusing on how American troops should act in other countries.

Readers also learn about how Lee came to do hysterical cameos in recent Marvel movies.  One such example from the recent Avengers: The Age of Ultron shows him sitting around a table with the characters discussing stories over a few beverages.  Lee is as proud of his appearances as all the work he has done over the years.

Lee presents his memoir to readers as if one were to meet him at a Fandom Fest or Comic Con.  Read Amazing Fantastic Incredible and meet the man behind the worlds of some of your comic and film characters.  Hard work, dedication to his craft, and a roller coaster ride of events in his life have formed Stan the Man, a man who has brought joy to millions around the world.

Lee also dedicates portions of his memoir to staff editors, writers, and artists who have contributed to his career.

For the reader who may traditionally prefer reading graphic novels, this selection will possibly open other opportunities to read similar autobiographical texts.  A brief list of works available through the library can be found below.

Formats Available: Book, Audiobook, eBook

Reviewed by MicahShawnee Branch

Something for Everyone in Five Comics Books

Whether you have always loved comics or you never picked one up in your life, if you want to read about cape-and-tights heroes or curl up with something trendy and artsy, then this list has something for you.

The Arrival – Shaun Tan

The Arrival is proof that a good story doesn’t even need words. A stunning narrative of an immigrant’s experience in a new and alien land, it’s like having someone play solos about hope and isolation on your heartstrings.

Barbarian Lord – Matt Smith

This is the comic book that Vikings would have written if Vikings wrote comic books. Sure, there are other comic books that try to capture the age, or even just borrow the aesthetic, but Barbarian Lord reads like a deadly-serious re-telling of one of the Icelandic Sagas.

Marvel Illustrated: The Picture of Dorian Gray – Oscar Wilde; Roy Thomas; Sebastian Fiumara.

It’s a hard task to adapt a longer book to graphic format, but Marvel does a fantastic job with The Picture of Dorian Gray. Taking a dark, psychological, Gothic novel and adapting it successfully to graphic format – that’s nothing short of a miracle.


Astro City: Confession– Kurt Busiek; Alex Ross; Brent Anderson.

If you never read comics because you felt superheroes were flat characters and the world they are set in simplistic, Confession will change your mind. Smart, sensitive, and nuanced.  The storytelling will keep you glued to the page.

Hellboy: The Chained Coffin and Others – Mike Mignola

Although the third in the Hellboy series, this volume of short stories speaks to the soul of the series: respect for the source material. If you like gritty, pitch-perfect renditions of folklore and mythology, and a bit of dry humor on the side, this is the book for you.

Formats Available:  Graphic Novel

Reviewed by Katherine, Highlands-Shelby Park Branch

EDITOR’S NOTE:  Originally posted on LFPL’s Teen Blog at http://blogs.lfpl.org/teen/2015/01/07/something-for-everyone-in-5-comic-books/

Best Graphic Story Nominees for 2015 Hugo Awards

 

Hugo

The nominees for the 2015 Hugo Awards (named in honor of Hugo Gernsback, founder of the pioneering science fiction magazine Amazing Stories ) were recently announced.

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The Hugo Awards are given to the creators of the year’s best science fiction and fantasy works. Winners will be announced at this year’s Hugo Awards Ceremonies during the 73rd World Science Fiction Convention (also known as Worldcon), which will be held at Sasquan, August 19-23 in Spokane, WA.

Today we’ll be focusing on those for Best Graphic Story.  The following nominees can be found in the LFPL catalog:

Ms. Marvel: No Normal by G. Willow Wilson and Adrian Alphona

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Rat Queens Vol. 1: Sass and Sorcery by Kurtis J. Wiebe and Roc Upchurch

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Saga, Vol. 3 by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples

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To see the complete list of this year’s categories and nominees, visit www.thehugoawards.org.

Pyongyang: A Journey in North Korea

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Pyongyang: A Journey in North Korea is Canadian animator Guy Delisle‘s cartoon diary of his stay in North Korea while working in an animation studio. While other books focus on North Korea’s history, leadership, or place in international politics, this one examines with dry humor and sharp wit the day to day experience of living as a foreign guest worker in Pyongyang, and the tension between what is there, what visitors are allowed to see, and what everyone is allowed to say. The huge fake smiles plastered on the faces of the accordion girls – the illustration chosen for the cover – mirrors the ongoing theme of this bizarre masquerade.

Delisle’s style is classic cartoon, with clean line art and caricature, and he uses it to best effect, telling his story – presented as a series of vignettes – directly, effectively, and with great clarity and force. While other presentations of the same material could come off as heavy-handed or unrelievedly grim, Delisle manages the mood with a keen eye for the absurd, and pitch-black humor.

This often-surreal travelogue benefits from the distance of the author’s outside perspective, a remove that allows for humor and wit. Despite this, Pyongyang remains good-natured and compassionate, as well as insightful and entertaining. If you’re looking for a short but incisive and genuinely funny perspective on life in North Korea (at least the parts foreigners are allowed to see) this is the book for you.

Formats Available:  Graphic Novel

Reviewed by Katherine, Highlands-Shelby Park Branch