• Larceny in My Blood: A Memoir of Heroin, Handcuffs, and Higher Education. Matthew Parker. Gotham. 288 pages. $20.
Kudos to whoever decided to publish this amazing book. I would have passed on it, as Parker’s art is crude, with almost nonexistent storytelling, the flow that creates a sense of continuity. But the story of his life of crime, drug addiction and prison, then redemption through education and sobriety is true and well told. Perhaps collaborating with a real artist might have caused something to be lost in translation, but the book is still a fascinating and compelling document despite the visuals.
• Economix: How and Why Our Economy Works (and Doesn’t Work) in Words and Pictures. Michael Goodwin, Dan Burr. Abrams ComicArts. 304 pages. $19.95.
Like the great Larry Gonick’s Cartoon History series and NPR host Brooke Gladstone’s The Influencing Machine, this witty and elegant volume takes on a number of complex issues — in this case, economics, history and finance — and makes them comprehensible for mere mortals. Burr’s illustrations are clear and sharp, ably complementing Goodwin’s narrative. If you want to gain a better perspective on our ongoing monetary tribulations, you could do far worse than turning to this dense but highly enjoyable book.
• Superman — Action Comics Vol. 1: Superman and the Men of Steel. Grant Morrison, Rags Morales. 256 pages. $24.99.
This first chapter of Morrison’s final (for now) Superman graphic novel, parsed out over 17 monthly issues of the re-launched monthly Action Comics, at first seems radically different from his much-lauded All-Star Superman. But that’s mostly due to the wonderfully kinetic and frenetic art of Rags Morales, polar opposite to the Frank Quitely-Jamie Grant All-Star illuminations. Though purported to be a fresh reimagining, returning Superman to his working-class roots, with boots in the city and cape in the cosmos, is clearly Morrison’s intention. The new-old story is mostly successful and light-years better than the stunningly moribund companion Superman series.
• Underwater Welder. Jeff Lemire. Top Shelf. 224 pages. $19.95.
Lemire’s scripts for Animal Man and Frankenstein are among the highlights of DC’s line, and Sweet Tooth, which he writes and draws, is similarly excellent. This fine indie book, done in between those regular gigs, is a labor of love — and it shows. Lemire may not have the slickest line, but his art is true and real, as is this fantastic tale of love, loss, remembrance and the unbreakable connection between childhood and parenthood.
• Right State. Mat Johnson, Andrea Mutti. Vertigo. 144 pages. $24.99.
This taut political tale, set in the near future, would rival the Bournes and Mission Impossibles in the suspense department if it ever were made into a movie. Johnson is a master storyteller, and Mutti’s superb art is no-frills and natural. The plot involves an assassination attempt on the eve of the second African-American president’s reelection, with the hero that’s an icon of the right, in this visceral and thoughtful American drama.
• Whatever Happened to the World of Tomorrow? Brian Fies. Abrams ComicArts. 208 pages. $14.95.