They call him Ruslan, the last human. Rescued from Seraboth by the Myssari, he does not remember his real name. Humanity all but destroyed itself due to violence. The once far-reaching human empire of many worlds eventually succumbed to the Aura Malignance, a contagious infection caused by a biological weapon that was developed by humans, which killed only humans and could not be stopped.
Ruslan has been kept alive by the Myssari for many years as a highly valued and well respected, last human specimen. The Myssari are more honest, kind, friendly, trustworthy and less violent than humans. Ruslan respects those qualities and appreciates their care. Still, he does not control his own destiny. The Myssari wish to preserve the record of human civilization and restore the species while he thinks it is a waste of time and resources. Ruslan believes that humans deserved their fate. He views humans as opportunistic exploiters of just about anything. The Myssari offer to search for any other living humans and to try to find the planet Earth. Together, they travel to several different worlds in search of humans and encounter many obstacles, competing species and a variety of unusual outcomes.
Any reader who lasts through Chapter 8 may wonder why the story is so long and drawn out and may be tempted to quit there. But it gets more interesting fairly quickly. The characters are well developed and this is a good story that has a surprise ending. Relic could be adapted as a very interesting movie.
Comics are a medium, one that comes in an many formats. Below is a short guide to the rich variety of these publications.
Album – European comics with larger page size and higher number of pages than comics in the U.S. See Pamphlet
Anime – Animation, for TV or the movies, made in Japan, and for the Japanese market. For more info, see our Manga and Anime FAQ
Animation– A form of film using drawings (and sometimes other techniques) to create the illusion of motion
Asian Comics– Comics are called manga in Japan, manhwa in Korea, or manhua in China. For more info, see our Manga and Anime FAQ
Audio Comics – A form of audio narrative that is structured like a comic when created. Important elements such as action and setting are explained in detail. Sound cues are used to indicate shifts from panel to panel. For people who are not blind, it sounds something like an old-time radio serial
Bande Dessinée (or BD) – French term for Comic Books. They are usually published in the Album format
Bluesies – See Tijuana Bible
Caricature – a drawing style that exaggerates features, particularly of the face, to portray individuals in an easily recognizable manner. Often used in editorial cartoons.
Cartoons (when not animated) – Typically, these are single panel comics of an editorial nature
Chick Tracts – Short Pamphlet with Evangelical Christian themes. This type of comic gained its name from the most prolific publisher of the form, Jack Chick
Comic Art– A form of Sequential Art
Comic Books (or Comics) – The most generally used name for individual issues of comic art; often they are Soft-bound(Comics). See Pamphlet
Comics Strips – Short pieces of comic art to be published in a periodical (such as a newspaper or magazine), most often to be read horizontally
Comics with hand-sewn spines – Comics assembled like a scrapbook
Comics with tête-bêche binding– A rare format for comics wherein two different comics are bound together back to back, each reversed from the other so they share the same spine. Tête-bêche is French for, roughly translated, “head to tail.” These works are sometimes called double books or reversible books
Crossover – The placement of two or more otherwise discrete fictional characters, settings, or universes into the context of a single story. They can arise from legal agreements between the relevant copyright holders, or because of unauthorized efforts by fans. Most of these comics are not part of the canon of any of the original works
Digest-sized (Comics) – Comics which are roughly the size of paperback books
Digital Comics– Comics that are released digitally. They may be Motion Comics or Webcomics
Film Comics – Sometimes known as Cine-Manga or Ani-Manga. Manga works which use illustrations directly found in an Anime rather than original art, and which utilize dialog from that anime
Flipbooks – Comics where each page’s art varies slightly and when flipped creates the illusion of motion
Floppies – See Soft-bound (Comics)
Foldable Comics– Comics that are shaped in some manner (like a work of origami) and are to be read as the shape is unfolded
Fumetti – Italian term for comic books as a whole. Some use this term to designate a specific format using photographs and word balloons (which was very popular in Italy during the 1940’s and 1950’s). In the English speaking world, this specific format is known as the Photonovel
Graphic Adaptations – These are works that use a story from another medium (poetry, movies, or novels are most common) but translate them into a comic format. They may also be called Tie-Ins with relation to a particular current popular work (where they act primarily as advertising for that work)
Graphic Novels – In the purest form, a stand-alone comic of book length with a clear beginning, middle, and end to its story. However, the term is often used interchangeably with Trade Paperback
Hard-bound (Comics) – Publications with a stiff cover (like a book or graphic novel)
Hybrid Comics– Printed comics that are read in tandem with digital content
Illustrated Book – A book with words and pictures but where the story is coherent without the pictures. Contrast with Wordless Comics
Infinite Canvas – A format for comics on a computer wherein the monitor does not replicate the printed page. The screen is seen as a window to a story told in any direction, theoretically ever-expanding. Hyperlinking and touch options may add interactive elements to works
Light Novel – A Japanese publishing format of short stories, liberally interspersed with manga illustrations. Typically, the story is about what would be classified as a novella in the U.S.
Magazines– Serial pamphlets of a larger size than the average comic book in the U.S., often printed on higher quality paper. See Pamphlet
Manga – Comics made in Japan for the Japanese market. In Japan, titles are published first in magazine format as part of a larger anthology. If successful, an individual manga will be reprinted in a collected edition. There are many genres of manga, catering to a wide variety of audiences. For more info, see our Manga and Anime FAQ
Metacomic – In brief, a metacomic is a comic about a comic. The characters are able to take advantage of the comic’s structure to progress in the storyline. Or – if the characters remain unaware of their fictional status, the story itself comments on those structures, conventions of genre, or fan expectations
Mini-comics– Comics which are not professionally published, often having an unusual size. See Zines
Motion Comics –Digital Comics that combine motion, sound, or interactive elements with pictures and words to tell a story. Some feel that Motion Comics are really just a kind of Animation
Pamphlet – A complete publication of generally less than 80 pages stitched or stapled together and usually having a paper cover. There is no particular size requirement, thus Albums or Comic Books or Magazines fit the category of pamphlet if they are not Hard-bound
Phonebook (Comics) – A term for a certain type of collection of previously published comics that is printed on pulp paper and is very thick (like old-fashioned phonebooks). The style was made popular in the 1980’s by Dave Sim when he collected story arcs of his comic, Cerebus
Photonovels – Comics which use photographs rather than drawings. See Fumetti
Picture Book – A book where words and pictures are used to tell a story but where the pictures are of equal value (or are more dominant) in doing so. Most often picture books are for children
Poetry Comics – Comics that use poetic structure rather than the more typical prose style. The term may also be used for Graphic Adaptations of poetic works
Sequential Art – A term defined by Will Eisner as, “an art form that uses images deployed in sequence for graphic storytelling or to convey information”
Soft-bound (Comics) – Single issues of comics with a floppy spine, often stapled in the middle. They are also sometimes called Floppies
Square-bound (Comics) – Publications printed on flexible cardstock that are bound on the side like a book. Known in the publishing industry as a Trade Paperback
Tankōbon– A Japanese term for a book length, stand-alone comic (similar to how Trade Paperback or Graphic Novel are used in English)
Tebeos– Spanish-language term for comic books. In Spain the term is more specific, used to denote a magazine that contains comics
Tie-Ins– See Graphic Adaptations
Tijuana Bible – Sometimes known as Bluesies. Small-sized pornographic comics, often parodies of mainstream comics, that were published from the 1930’s to the 1950’s
Topper – A smaller comic that runs across and/or around the borders of another comic. This was once a popular technique used in comic strips when the size of comic strips and the space allotted to them in the newspaper was much larger than today
Trade Paperback – A book of previously published issues that originally appeared as individual comics. In common parlance, this is often referred to as a Graphic Novel
Treasury-sized (Comics) – Oversized comic books, approximately the size of an unfolded newspaper page
Typography Comics – Comics which play on the graphic element of words to tell a story. They often have pictures to accompany the words
Webcomics– Comics created for and published on the Internet. They may be limited to what is immediately on the screen, hyperlinked to other information, or use the Infinite Canvas format
Webtoons – A style of Digital Comics that originated in South Korea which takes advantage of the Infinite Canvas and which may include animated or audio elements. They are designed to be best consumed on a phone or tablet
Wordless Comics – Stories told using only pictures. Contrast with Illustrated Book
Zines– D.I.Y. Magazines that combine any number of art styles, particularly self-created comics
The hero of the first sequence of poems is the enslaved Stephen Bishop, the early explorer and cartographer of Mammoth Cave. A trusted guide, indeed the master of an underground world, his skill meant he was relied upon completely by educated, wealthy, powerful, white men and women who visited the Cave in its early years as a tourist attraction, yet Bishop was always aware of his station as property of another. The imagined voice McCombs summons in these beautiful, quietly musical, unrhymed sonnets allows us to appreciate the man as more than what was recognized in his own time. Here he is philosopher and naturalist, observer, entertainer, lover…a complete human denied that recognition of his humanity during his lifetime, his voice unheard by the world that benefited from his talents. The credit for his exploits and his fame was co-opted by his master, the Doctor.
In the second and third cycle, McCombs pivots to verse inspired by his own life, including his own time spent as a ranger at Mammoth Cave. No less lyrical, these poems are deeply rooted in the importance of place. The natural beauty of the Commonwealth pours from the pages and invites city-dwellers, confined by routine, a pandemic, and winter storms to plan our own small explorations.
Four friends living in an upscale retirement village who solve cold cases for fun are put to work when the village developer turns up dead. If it sounds a bit like The Golden Girls meets Miss Marple that’s because it is, but in the best way.
Elizabeth is a retired intelligence agent, bored and desperate to keep her mind sharp. Ibrahim is a retired therapist who keeps his old client files close at hand. Joyce is a retired nurse who is struggling to rebuild a relationship with her highly successful and driven daughter. Ron is a former labor organizer and rabble rouser whose stay at the posh retirement home is paid for by his famous boxer son. Four friends with little in common on the surface except for an interest in murder and solving cold cases.
Their group used to have a fifth member named Penny, a retired police officer. Penny is now in a coma, but her old files have kept the group busy as they try to solve cold cases. When the greatly disliked developer of their little village is found dead with a mysterious picture by his side, the friends get to work, teaming up with a pair of police officers who are charmingly mismatched and amused by this quartet.
What makes this book so delightful is not the mystery, though this is a fun “whodunit” that will keep you guessing until the end. Rather, Osman has done a wonderful job of developing each character and giving us a glimpse of their life before they ended up in Cooper’s Chase, luxury retirement village. They are not elderly tropes, or caricatures of senior citizens, but rather fully developed humans who, as senior citizens, are often overlooked and ignored. Osman lets us know that’s shame because this crew has quite a bit to offer. The story is witty and fun and I found myself deeply attached to the folks at Cooper’s Chase. Lucky for me this is to become a series.
The poems in Joy Priest’s Horsepowerspeak powerfully of a Black girl’s experiences growing up in the South End of Louisville. The personal struggle with racism in a family gives way to the wider struggle of racism in society as the three movements of the collection reflect the growth of a racehorse from timid foal to wild filly throwing off her harness. Priest’s study of Louisville captures the push and pull that makes this city so hard to define — horse racing in an urban setting, southern traditions that range from harsh segregation and the KKK to the joys of cruising and muscle cars. This collection of poems is a must-read for any white Louisvillian working through their racism. Priest is uniquely suited for this examination as a Louisville-native herself, as it’s easy for any local reader to picture the old landmarks and streets mentioned, dripping with atmosphere unique to this Weird Louisville (TM).
While this might be her first published collection of poems, I have eagerly been following her work in Best New Poets and other places one wouldn’t expect poets to be published (like her piece for ESPN on “The Athleticism of Beyoncé” ) since 2014. While Priest writes more than poetry in verse, she has a strong poetic voice and sense of atmosphere that can be seen in many of her works, including “Denial is a Cliff We Are Driven Off Of”. Everything she writes is beautiful, something that inspires the reader to connect more directly with both the subject as well as the poet’s past and selfhood. The poems that are included in Priest’s Horsepower collection are no exception.
View Joy Priest’s full list of published works on her website, here.
Doctor Star and the Kingdom of Lost Tomorrows, written by Jeff Lemire with art by Max Fiumara, is a spin-off of Jeff Lemire and Dean Ormston’s Black Hammer series. If you are not familiar with Black Hammer (one of my Top Ten Graphics of 2019), you seriously need to check it out. In that series, a group of superheroes saves the world from an alien threat only to disappear and then reappear in a small town somewhere in Middle America. A small town that they find themselves unable to leave! The mystery of why they cannot leave is slowly tearing them apart until…well, I don’t want to spoil it for you and it’s not what this review is about, other than as backstory.
Doctor Star takes a look at one of the other heroes of this world who finds his powers and starts adventuring during the World War II era. Dr. Jim Robinson is a brilliant astrophysicist whose research into the Para-Zone, a mysterious and dangerous dimension outside of the normal universe, is funded by the government looking for a way to weaponized it. Eventually, after throwing himself into the work, Dr. Robinson discovers a way to unlock the power of the Para-Zone. Using the tools that help him control it, Dr. Robinson creates his new superhero persona, Doctor Star.
This is how he connects to the rest of the Black Hammer universe, meeting Colonel Randall Weird, the only hero who can traverse the Para-Zone, as well as other heroes along the way. But don’t worry too much about those connections. This short spin-off is firmly anchored in its protagonist’s tragic journey.
Jeff Lemire is good telling at these kind of very human, painful stories. There are so many little character details he throws in that you very quickly feel for the characters. You feel for them even as you watch them damage or destroy what is precious to them.
Artist Max Fiumara is very capable of portraying these little details in a concise manner while still capturing the spirit of adventure the story beats demand. The line work alternates between sharp and quirky, almost fairy tale, style and a muted, grimmer style that feels like a fading memory. Fiumara is known mostly for artwork on Hellboy titles but here, it is more akin to classic pulp than urban horror.
Not only is this a loving tribute to comic author James Robinson’s classic Starman series (Doctor Star’s alter ego is named after him after all), it is also a meditation on how parents and children can become alienated from each other with no malice intended. Here we find a scientist turned superhero who sees the universe and has many adventures in his career but loses something irreplaceable. Something which he only realizes in the final, heartbreaking sequence.
I am glad to say goodbye to 2020, no doubt, but I did get a lot of reading done along the way. Here are a few of my favorite comics from this year (listed in alphabetical order). A few have more than one volume and I have not designated a particular volume if I would recommend the whole series.
From the creator of Upgrade Soul comes a tale of body horror and gentrification with art-comics visuals and snappy dialogue…what’s not to like? Dare to visit…Chicago. The dark side.
Did you like teen detective stories when you were growing up? You know, Nancy Drew, Hardy Boys, that kind of tale? If so, now you can start another such series with a little Twin Peaks thrown in the mix. This first case involves men who go missing, a sinister conspiracy, and plucky teens trying to make sense of what is happening to their small town.
Part of Jeff Lemire’s Black Hammer universe, Doctor Star is a loving tribute to James Robinson’s classic Starman series. Here we find a scientist turned superhero who sees the universe and has many adventures but loses something irreplaceable. A lengthier review can be found here.
Dos Matts (Kindt and Smith) weave a tale of a young man out of synch with his magic-based world who takes on a quest to discover its secrets. Plus, warrior librarians!
Crazy story and amazing art from Marcos Prior and David Rubin about violence devastating modern civilization. Violence right out in the open but excused. What happens when excuses stop pacifying those who hear them?
Cool, moody, and stylish, this comic series from Spanish creators Raule and Roger was originally published for the French market. Each volume is composed of a trilogy of the original comics to tell a coherent chapter in the life of this jazz musician-cum-master thief. The stories are seedy, violent, and sexy, just like the protagonist.
A hilarious take on Egyptian mythology. Hamish Steele regales us with a retelling of the Osiris myth that is by turns violent, insane, perverted, and funny. If you like the kind of literary humor found in Kate Beaton’s Hark! A Vagrant, this is a must read.
I read Book Two this year but would recommend starting with Book One as this volume does build on the previous one. This is the tale of a former superheroine who has decided to try to live a normal life but keeps having to deal with the fallout from her previous life.
Jimmy Olsen is given the assignment of a lifetime, finding out who murdered him. Matt Fraction and Steve Lieber take all the wacky things they loved about those Silver Age Jimmy Olsen stories and go meta all over them. Step through the fourth wall and have a ball!
Part of DC’s Graphic Novels for Young Adults series, this is a short but affecting coming of age story about Jake Hyde, known in the regular continuity as Aqualad. Jake feels like an outsider until he discovers his powers and falls into a romance that will forever change his life.
All of these works can be checked out from LFPL. Each title has a “Check Our Catalog” link that will take you to where you can view the location and status of the specific item in our system. You may have the item shipped to the library of your choice by placing a hold request (using the “Place Request” button on the right-hand side of the item’s catalog entry).
If you are interested in these titles or other works of sequential art, check out LFPL’s Comics and Manga webpage. And if you’d like to see top graphics from past years, click here.
In 2018, IDW published this amazing anthology of graphic stories that is perfect for anyone interested in the impact that women have had on modern society. Artists, astronauts, inventors, martial arts experts, musicians, politicians, skateboarders, writers, and more are all featured. They’ve claimed their own power and utterly changed the course of history.
A potential criticism is that while the authors, writers, letters, colorists, and editorial team are very diverse in background, the anthology can be said to be light on women of color. Another criticism is that many stories do not get to breathe due the constraint of each having only three pages for the telling. Lastly, a good number of the stories are really more about the influence of the subject on the writer than a biographical sketch.
I don’t think that any of these are crippling criticisms. The anthology is not one geared to focus on any particular racial or ethnic group as a whole, though approximately a quarter of the vignettes feature minorities. Three pages is quite short but probably helped the writers with their scheduling time constraints, as well as allowing for more subjects to be included. And while biographies would have been more expected, the mix of approaches keeps the anthology from feeling like a text book, making it more engaging overall.
Lurking below the surface are somewhat related criticisms that I have not immediately addressed. Femme Magnifique is, to some folks, damaged by being an avowedly feminist work. And as feminism is a philosophy or political stance that many strongly disagree with on principle, they claim it will not only turn away readers for this work but many other projects (either by the creators or by the publisher).
Then there are others who just disagree on aesthetic grounds. They believe that having a clear politics inherently ruins it because good storytelling is sacrificed to communicate that stance. I think the hidden message is that stories are somehow separate from the world itself and should stay that way.
I’ll take the last one first, the aesthetic argument. It is true, directly communicated politics can ruin a story. Everyone has probably read some kind of work that wore its heart on its sleeve and bored them to tears, but I don’t think it’s necessarily always so. As to the hidden message, that fails to be other than the fervent wish of the aesthete because stories can only exist in the real world, coming and going based on both cultural reasons and on, particularly these days, marketing.
For example, Star Wars is clearly a political tale of a full-blown rebellion of the masses yearning for freedom from the oppressive yoke of an authoritarian empire (one so cruel that it literally creates a way to destroy whole planets at a time to retain its control). But it’s a rousing tale (especially if we skip certain Episodes) that resonates with many. And it is a gazillion dollar real world business that is (seemingly) guaranteed to survive forever.
Criticism of the anthology based on it being feminist is trickier to handle because the label itself can be many different things depending on who you ask. First one has to figure out what the person objecting to it really means. If they just don’t like women, for instance, then why are they reading a 224 page tome of nothing but stories about women? But what if they believe that the movement of women out of the home into the public sphere and out of the secretarial pool into the chambers of power is detrimental to eudaimonia? Further, that failed eudaimonia of an individual is injurious to society as a whole?
Geez, who wants to spend time unpacking that stack of nesting boxes?
But no fear, true believers (and hardcore atheists alike)! That is not a problem in this work. There are some profiles of politicians but the majority are from the fields of arts and other endeavors. There is no specific set of political goals that can be found throughout the book. If anything, Femme Magnifique is a set of aspirational tales for girls and boys alike.
No thrown together or low quality material here. So, who’s herding all these cats to make a satisfying whole out of the “cat-caphony”? (ha ha) We have to give it to the team of editors (Shelly Bond, Kristy Miller, and Brian Miller), colorists (Claudia Aguirre, Jordie Bellaire, Tamra Bonvillain, Kelly Fitzpatrick, Irma Kniivila, Lee Loughridge, Fabi Marques, Rick Taylor, and Hi-Fi), and sole letterer (Aditya Bidikar). This team took all the individual tales, sequenced them, got them to the finish line, and made them all pop.
Now it’s your turn topop…on over to the library and pick up this fantastic collection!
Carmichael’s Kids and LFPL present a free Facebook Live event on Thursday, November 19, at 6:00 p.m.: An Evening with Danica Novgorodoff.
Danica, a Louisville native, is a graphic novelist, designer, and illustrator now living in New York City. During this free online event, Danica will discuss her creative process and her work with author Jason Reynolds on adapting his New York Times-bestselling book, Long Way Down, into a graphic novel.
Just for teens ages 12-19, AnimeCon is a FREE annual festival celebrating Asian cultural experiences, cosplay, and Japanese-style animation. Due to COVID-19, Animecon 17 will be held virtually through the Library’s website and on Discord.