Thursday, 31 August 2017

ReaditDaddy's Middle Grade / YA / Adult Comics Roundup - August 2017

Welcome, welcome to an all new idea we've been working on for the blog. Now we're ready to embrace the digital age, we've been wading through the utterly amazing comic world with an aim of bringing you the very best children's and young adult comics and graphic novels (with a few grown up ones thrown in for good measure) in a regular monthly roundup.

There are so many comics to cover, so we're going to take the approach of rounding them up like we do with our Chapter Book Roundups, but obviously reviewing some of the more spectacular comics in boxed-out reviews too. Each month we'll take a look at a mixture of kid friendly and not-so-kid-friendly material.

From the start, we'll make it absolutely clear whether the comics are kid-friendly or strictly for YA / Grown Ups in each roundup and review, so without further ado, let's get going!

First up is the divine "Cici's Journal: The Adventures of a Writer in Training" by Joris Chamblain and Aurelie Neyret. This one is fantastic for kids and middle graders, particularly those who love fabulous artwork and interesting stories to pique their curiosity.

We join in the adventures of curious Cici as she spends her time people-watching in her local neighbourhood, chronicled in a fantastic scrapbooking style, beautifully written with huge appeal to middle graders

Stunning artwork from Aurelie Neyret (who, by rights, deserves to win a truckload of comic awards in the coming year) really helps to bring the story to life.

As Cici's investigations broaden, she begins to home in on one particular character - an old man - who mysteriously disappears into the forest every Sunday armed with tins of paint. He always come back from the forest looking sad. What is he up to? Cici is determined to find out!

A fabulous and atmospheric adventure, "Cici's Journal" by Joris Chamblain and Aurelie Neyret will be released on 7th November 2017, published by First Second. 

Next up, the current fantastic run of "The Vision" penned by Tom King with Gabriel Hernandez Walta and Jordie Bellaire is (thankfully) being collected together in a superb "Director's Cut" edition. This one is probably most suited to the older end of middle grade and into YA.

Breaking out one of the most interesting comic characters to come from Marvel's extended comics and movie universe into such a fantastic series has proved wildly successful, with Tom's "Vision" comic being bandied around for a ton of awards.

Collecting together the current run where The Vision, the all powerful superhero, begins to crave a normal 'human' life, we follow this amazing character as he travels back to the place of his birth - Ultron's Lab.

Creating a family for himself, The Vision soon discovers that his ultimate quest - some would say obsession - to become merely a man, is the toughest challenge of all for a superhero. A destiny sought that will bring him into conflict with some of the most powerful superheroes in the Universe.

It's been a stunning, stunning comic, easily one of the best things to come from Marvel this century.

Catch up with the entire story arc in "The Vision: The Director's Cut" when it's released in January 2018, published by Marvel Comics. 

I've become hoplessly addicted to Gumballs. No, don't worry, it doesn't mean I'm going to end up a giant flabby mess...

(Well no flabbier than usual anyway). "Gumballs" (with three issues currently available) is a fantastic YA / Adult comic anthology collection of stories from Erin Nations.

Like a lot of the most fascinating comics around at the moment, Erin is obsessed with the human condition - and an avid people watcher, contributing to his awesome wry humorous view of a world populated by geeks, freaks and chics.

Told from the perspective of a young trans author-illustrator, Erin's brilliant observational comedy nudges us in the ribs over the course of several story threads.

Life growing up as a triplet, or dealing with difficult (or just plain weird) customers in a grocery store - plus some of the funniest faux personal ads you'll ever see are all part and parcel of Erin's fantastic collection.

Really hoping these are eventually gathered together in one massive volume, but for you ComixOlogy / Kindle folk, they're up for grabs in issues 1-3 with more to follow.

"Gumballs" by Erin Nations is published by Top Shelf Comics and the first three issues are available now. 

Next it's "Butter and Blood" by Steven Weissman, best described as a YA / Grown Up collection of the most bizarre and surreal mini comic strips you'll find this side of Pittsburgh.

Find out what would happen if Guns and Roses ran a diner (would YOU want to eat soup cooked by Slash, particularly with his reluctance to wear a hair net?) or marvel at animal antics set to make your insides squirm and your stomach churn.

Weissman's acute observational comedy laced with bonkers pop culture references, crazy characters and quite a fair bit of spicy language won't be for everyone's taste (again this is another one of those "don't let the kids near it" titles, but hah, who said comics were for kids anyway, right?)

Entertaining, strange and kinda cool, catch "Butter and Blood" by Steven Weissman, out now from Retrofit Comics. 

Diving deeper into our comic bag now, something that the kids can actually enjoy, but again perfect for middle graders and YA too.

"Elf Cat in Love" by James Kochalka is a cute, quirky and whimsical little tale of a magical elf cat and his floating tennis ball familiar.

She's a sassy little madam for a tennis ball, but Elf Cat is lonely, and on the hunt for his perfect lifelong love interest.

This gentle strip unfolds over a series of encounters with the strange denizens of Elf Cat's fantasy world, but as danger approaches, Elf Cat might finally learn that sometimes the very thing you've looked hardest for has been right under your cat-like nose the whole time.

Charlotte actually ate this one up, and I'd always wondered how simplistic and largely monochrome comic strips would go over with her - as kids these days are so spoilt with richly coloured fabulously overworked comics. This keeps things purposely simple and delivers a rather poignant and touching message within its story. Rather appealing indeed.

"Elf Cat in Love" by James Kochalka is out now, published by Retrofit / Big Planet Comics. 

Let's take a look at another comic that middle graders will enjoy, particularly kids who love stuff like Gravity Falls and Adventure Time. Once again more suited to the older end of Middle Grade and into YA.

"Untitled Ape's Epic Adventure" by Steven Tillotson introduces the most unlikely pairing since Harry met the Hendersons. Untitled Ape is indeed an epic quest for a bizarre shapeless ape-beast and his Ray Winstone-esque cockney chainsmoking new best friend, a cat that basically steals every single scene he's in.

Untitled Ape is a tough hombre with a sensitive side. He has decided he needs to see his family but Cat doesn't think it's a particularly good idea. Before they can deliberate over their planned quest, a massive storm rolls in, and their epic adventure truly begins.

Without no map or much of a plan, they journey through flooded cities and stormy seas, across frozen plains and snowy mountains, and even up into the world of the clouds on their quest to find Ape's home in the jungle. Along the way they make the acquaintance of a cast of incredible characters, who both help and hinder them to equal degree.

Surreal, funny and at times full of moments of excitement that will make you gasp, "Untitled Ape's Epic Adventure" by Steven Tillotson is out now, published by Avery Hill. 

The next one definitely isn't for the once again we're slapping a YA / Grown Up only advisory on this one (don't be fooled by the cover!)

Rachael Smith's "The Rabbit" introduces siblings Eleanor and Kathy, who have run away from school and home.

Playing hooky for the day might sound like fun, but dad is constantly ringing Eleanor's phone, and the local bullies keep cropping up at the most inopportune moments.

After an unfortunate incident with a catapult and a stray shot, Kathy unwittingly injures a rabbit. Seeking to right this wrong, Kathy takes the rabbit under her protective wing and decides to call it Craig. But it soon emerges that Craig is far from the innocent fluffy doe-eyed bunny-wunny Kathy first imagines.

Both sisters are drawn into a bizarre and surreal undercurrent of sugar-fuelled underground parties, badly behaved animals and opportunistic theft as Craig exerts his horrifying influence, growing bigger and more powerful by the second. Is there anything that two brave sisters can do to defeat the emerging monster?

Thoroughly original, as dark as the blackest espresso but undercut with a strong tale of siblings banding together in a crisis situation, this is quite strong stuff but a completely riveting read. Again, fair to stress for YA and adults only.

"The Rabbit" by Rachael Smith is out now, published by Avery Hill. 

Another surreal and YA / Grown up strip from someone I hugely admire. Now and again awesome Donya Todd tweets up a storm on Twitter so let's have a look at "Buttertubs".

No, it's not the tale of a cute kick-ass girl and her equally cute kick-ass dog, it's the tale of a sassy madam and her gigantic slimy slithery dog-made-of-butter.

Though Buttertubs has all the trademark bad habits of just about every other dog on the planet, in this surreal world his heart is in the right place and really all he wants is to love and be loved.

But there's always some awkward annoying jealous anti-hero waiting in the wings to mess things up, so as Buttertubs and his 'owner' embark on an epic quest to rescue a princess, things take a turn for the greasy - and it could be the end for our dairy-based canine chum.

Donya's black and white linework is every bit as fantastic, bonkers, weird and surreal as her brilliant colour art. The comic gets a bit sweary and saucy in places but certainly nothing your average YA reader will blanche at. Once again, not for kids, but for adults / YA who love to tread on the more bizarre side of comics.

"Buttertubs" by Donya Todd is out now, published by Avery Hill.

Two brilliant graphic novels next from a relative newcomer to the comics scene, but someone who is already making huge waves in the industry with her amazing and mature storylines and observations. Again a YA / Adult advisory on these, though many parents might want to read these through and assess themselves whether they'd also be suited to the older end of middle grade.

Tillie Walden's "I Love This Part" is the story of two young girls who are the best of friends. From an early age they are inseparable, drawn together by a love of music and a love of just being in each other's space.

They watch videos, share earbuds as they play each other songs and exchange their stories. A deep and unexpected relationship begins to develop, the sort of scary almost overwhelming love that jabs at just about every emotion, sometimes all at the same time.

There are highs and lows, and as the girls take their first faltering steps towards understanding what love is, sometimes the road is rocky and sometimes you can spend as much time worrying about what everyone else will think as you do worrying about what the other person thinks. 

Hugely involving and atmospheric, "I Love This Part" is out now, published by Avery Hill. 

Sticking with Tillie's work, her debut full length graphic novel is also available from Avery Hill.

"The End of Summer" is a sometimes surreal and dark fantasy, drawing together Tillie's trademarks of amazing characters, sumptuous architecture and intricately woven mystery. 

The story takes place in a secluded castle, as the first frosts of a predicted three year long winter start to bite. 

A young boy called Lars is battling a debilitating illness, and as he becomes more immobile he becomes ever more listless and bored. 

The family come up with a solution to offer both mobility and companionship, in the form of a giant cat named Nemo. As Lars' story unfolds, so do the stories of the family around him as we learn the tragic tale of Lars twin sister Maja, and the crumbling relationship between their parents. 

With echoes of Francis Hodgson Burnett and Evelyn Waugh tinging this story of seclusion and the complexity of human relationships, Tillie established herself as a talent to watch closely (astonishing to think she's barely into her twenties and already producing amazing work like this. Just wow). 

"The End of Summer" by Tillie Walden is out now, published by Avery Hill. 

Last but not least, another YA / Mature comic again exploring complex relationships and parent / child issues around a divorce. 

"Libby's Dad" by Eleanor Davis opens with a summertime pool party. Libby's parents have broken up, and Libby's dad has moved into the most incredible house - with a stunning pool.

Libby decides to invite all her friends over for a sleepover, and as the teen girls begin to gossip and fool around, a vicious rumour about Libby's dad comes up in conversation. 

Did her dad really threaten her mum with a gun? 

The girls begin to panic when one of them spills nail polish all over the carpet. What will Libby's murderous dad do when he finds out? 

A short and simple story with glorious artwork and a ton of melancholy moments as the core story is sifted from the nonsense conversation of the teen girls involved. "Libby's Dad" by Eleanor Davis is out now, published by Retrofit / Big Planet Comics. 

That's about it for our first Comics Roundup but keep an eye on the blog as we'll be popping in proper reviews and roundups each month. Hope you've enjoyed this first roundup and if you have any feedback, drop a comment below (or if you've read any of these and want to share your enthusiasm, that's also good!)

See you in September!