The fantastic graphic novel You & a Bike & a Road by Eleanor Davis is part travel journal, part sports memoir, part social criticism, and all parts wonder. The piece is comprised of the full collection of Davis’ of-the-moment impressions of the American landscape, road, and people she encounters as she pursues an epic solo bike tour from Tuscon, AZ to Athens, GA. The raw quality of the pencil-drawn images add to their beauty–it reminds us that Davis was creating these drawings as her muscles were throbbing, when she was laughing or crying about her monumental physical goal, in tents and hotels and McDonald’s. This piece is an important one about why we challenge our own limits, both physical and emotional, and what we do when we know we’ve exceeded them. It’s also a sensitive and telling portrait of the southern border of the United States as represented by its people, policing, and passageways. Highly recommended, especially for endurance athletes (and those who love them).
Do you remember being a kid, somewhere around 10 years old, and just getting lost in your own imagination for hours–inventing islands, monsters, and great journeys? Taking themes from stories or movies and re-casting yourself in the hero’s role? That feeling is exactly what reading this delightful graphic novel feels like. Isabel Greenberg’s The Encyclopedia of Early Earth is filled with the warmest cold weather tales you’ll ever witness. That warmth comes equally from her hilarious subtle humor, illustrations that are somehow gorgeous and adorable at once, and the rich well of myth that she pulls her source material from. This is not a story that makes sense… not really. It’s more about the role of storytelling itself in culture and in our lives. The power to save our lives and make people fall in love lies within Greenberg’s mischievous, ambitious pages. I can’t imagine a more wonderful thing to read.
In My Favorite Thing is Monsters, Emil Ferris creates a visual atmosphere that places this 400-page beast of a graphic novel into some truly special territory. As she weaves dual narratives of a young girl living on a tough side of the tracks in late 1960s Chicago and the abusive past of a woman coming of age under the Nazi regime in Germany, Ferris makes absolute magic on the page, serving a whole lot of sorrow and mystery on a zany, frenetic, cartoony plate. This volume (the first of a two-part series) showcases the author’s artistic virtuosity as she blends styles of 1960’s pulp horror artwork, traditional cartooning, caricature, classical fine art, and everything in-between. The story itself is demanding—it does not shy away from pain or inner demons, and in fact goes out of its way to help us understand how the world takes easy advantage of children without the means to defend themselves. And yet, the heroine’s voice is humorous, plucky, and determined: a trustworthy guide on a gritty voyage. The book can definitely hold its own with other masterworks of the graphic novel genre—Ferris’ visual voice is an important one, and I’m so glad that she decided to publish her first graphic novel in her fifties. It is a gift.