Optic Nerve 13. Adrian Tomine. Drawn & Quarterly. 32 pages. $5.95.
Each issue is an event, and this latest is no less a delight. The autobiographical stuff is as good as ever, and the antics of an odd, semi-recovering couple is imaginative and true — even if it’s not. Tomine’s fine line art and staging continues to improve, no small feat considering how accomplished he already is.
March, Book One. John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, Nate Powell. Top Shelf. 128 pages. $14.95.
This autographical work, illuminating the amazing life of civil rights pioneer and U.S. Congressman John Lewis, is entertaining, enlightening and inspirational. The first of three volumes, focusing on Lewis’ early life and non-violent activism in desegregating Nashville, recounts history in a personal and powerful way. Aydin’s adaptation and Powell’s illustrations portray Lewis’ Alabama childhood and growing social awareness in a naturalistic and compelling manner — the best way to understand history, at ground level.
Solo: The Deluxe Edition. Various Artists. DC Comics. 608 pages. $49.99.
Collecting the full 12-issue run of this limited series — in which a single artist was given 48 pages to write and draw almost anything in and around the DC universe — makes for a fat and fabulous volume. Richard Corben, Howard Chaykin, Paul Pope, Tim Sale, Darwin Cooke and others seized the singular opportunity and made some really imaginative comics. Though many of the stories employed the company’s characters, the artists’ personalities shine through distinctly. Highly recommended.
The Big Feminist But: Comics about Women, Men and the IFs, ANDs & BUTs of Feminism. Shannon O’Leary and Joan Reilly (editors/publishers). $20.
This Kickstarter-funded anthology of comics about the new wave of feminism is a varied collection of narrative and graphic styles. The diversity is an excellent means of conveying the varied angles from which each artist and writer approaches the topic. For most, it’s autobiographical, recounting growing awareness of feminism, identity, gender roles, parenthood, romance and more. It’s entertaining and thought-provoking. Not every strip will resonate with every reader, but there are plenty here that will.
Co-Mix: A Retrospective of Comics, Graphics, and Scraps. Art Spiegelman. Drawn & Quarterly. 120 pages. $39.96.
A retrospective museum exhibition by the Pulitzer-Prize winning Maus creator is abundant justification for this greatest hits collection. A number of Spiegelman’s strips and covers for the New Yorker magazine, sketches, lithographs and stories accompany the more extended narrative pieces. The result is a revelatory and detailed portrait of this visionary artist who invigorated the graphic novel and introduced it to the mainstream cultural world.
The Infinite Wait And Other Stories. Julia Wertz. Koyama Press. $15.
In these days of rampant careerism and overreaching, cartoonist Wertz demurred when the time came to follow up her last book for a major publisher. Instead, she placed this work with a smaller, indie house. But her droll, rude humor and playful art are undiminished. Each story features outrageous, insightful and painfully honest tales from various chapters of her life. Though currently spending much of her time photographing abandoned urban sites, Wertz’s future in comics remains blindingly bright, evidenced by this fine, must-have collection.
7 Against Chaos. Harlan Ellison. Paul Chadwick. DC Comics. 200 pages. $24.99.
Science Fiction Grand Master Ellison has tackled comics a few times in the past with decidedly mixed results. But this, a rare original graphic novel, has the advantage of Paul Chadwick, the award-winning writer/illustrator of Concrete, as its artist. Despite its decade-long development (per Ellison) and secret origin as an unpublished four-part comics series, the rollicking space-and-time opera is an above-average all-ages heroic adventure that’s heady fun.
The Complete Zenith. Grant Morrison. Steve Yeowell. Rebellion. 480 pages. £100 (about $154).
You can’t buy this — yet. Presented in a limited-edition printing that was quickly snapped up when offered online, it may not see the light of day if Morrison (as rumored) mounts a successful legal effort to block it. Why? He claims ownership of the character (with artist Yeowell), and the publisher has yet to produce a signed contract refuting him. But scrutinizing the massive collection from a digital review copy provided by the publisher affords the opportunity to re-read the complete (to this point) saga of the first, albeit decidedly unheroic, superhero. He first appeared in 2000 AD, the venerable British periodical that’s home to the dystopic world of Judge Dredd, starting in the late ’80s and repeating irregularly through the succeeding years. Yeowell’s appealing art holds up remarkably well, and Morrison’s story includes many of the same themes and tropes that dominate his later, more celebrated work. The strip is Morrison’s zenith: audacious, clever, randy and irreverent. One hopes the legal Gordian knots are soon undone so others can share the pleasure.
Richard Pachter is a writer in Boca Raton.