LJ Best Books 2016

A jury of our peers discussed, debated, disagreed, and finally declared LJ’s annual Top Ten Best Books of the year, selected by our editors, as well as Top Five lists for genre fiction, nonfiction, poetry, graphic novels, and SELF-e titles. VISIT THE WEBSITE

Graphic Novels from Apatoff, Font, Jurgens & others, Lewis & Co., and Sutter | Xpress Reviews

Week ending January 23, 2015

Apatoff, David & others. The Art of Richard Thompson. Andrews McMeel. 2014. 224p. ISBN 9781449447953. $35; ebk. ISBN 9781449453497. GRAPHIC NOVELS
Richard Thompson (b. 1957) is to modern cartooning what The Band is to American music: his output is both lauded and exemplary of his chosen medium, and his reputation among his peers is almost unparalleled. Although Thompson’s Cul de Sac and Richard’s Poor Almanac comic strips are well known—especially the George W. Bush satire “Make the Pie Higher” from the latter—and his illustrations have appeared in the Washington Post and The New Yorker, among other publications, he’s not a household name. This handsome hardcover retrospective won’t change that, even though it accurately represents the depth and breadth of Thompson’s oeuvre, plus it boasts biographical material from and interviews with such luminaries as Bill Watterson (Calvin and Hobbes) and the Pulitzer Prize–winning Gene Weingarten.
Verdict Thompson’s work has undeniable visual and literary wit, but it’ll be an acquired taste for many. Recommended for fans of Thompson and cartooning alike, but compilations of Cul de Sac and Almanac are more appropriate for most readers and print collections. Some surreal and controversial content; suitable for all readers.—J. Osicki, Saint John Free P.L., NB

Font, Alfonso (text & illus.). Tales of an Imperfect Future. SAF: Dark Horse. 2014. 88p. ISBN 9781616554941. $17.99. SF
“Imperfect” is an understatement when describing the future presented in this collection of cautionary sf tales written and illustrated by Spanish artist Font. The earth’s resources are depleted, and humanity’s diaspora results in exploited planets and disregard for life—more than enough to prompt a warning from the alien who introduces this book to change our ways now. However, interjections of black comedy prevent this work from being a completely bleak read. Two narratives follow the misadventures of Stanley and Arthur, a nod to 2001; a brief story finds a colonist desperately trying to hide from a robot designed to love only him; and the last tale about the final moments aboard a doomed spaceship is unexpectedly touching.
Verdict With stunning monochromatic artwork, this book will appeal to mature sf fans who enjoy 1970s-era sf with Twilight Zone twists.—Terry Bosky, Madison, WI

Jurgens, Dan & others (text) & Lan Medina & others (illus.). Aquaman and the Others. Vol. 1: Legacy of Gold. DC. (New 52!). Jan. 2015. 176p. ISBN 9781401250386. pap. $16.99; ebk. ISBN 9781401257866. SUPERHERO
Aquaman and the Others attempts to bring a swashbuckling sense of fun to one of DC’s older and less-popular heroes. Aquaman is joined by others with superhuman powers to thwart those who would bring about destruction. It reads like James Bond meets Super Friends. The story involves the group coming together again (after breaking up) because each has a powerful artifact that is being sought by an evil hundreds of years old. The narrative by Jurgens, a longtime Superman writer, is capable and safe. This is both good and bad as it is an easy read and everyone’s backstories are explained, but Jurgens doesn’t take any chances. Garcia’s artwork is great at capturing the action scenes, yet at times the facial reactions lean heavily on exaggeration.
Verdict For those who love reading about global espionage, bases on a flying plane called the Living Room, and soap opera–esque story lines to make sure things are resolved without ending. Fans of superhero groups like the X-Men and adventures on a global scale will enjoy this series.—Ryan Claringbole, Coll. Lib. at the Univ. of Wisconsin-Madison

starred review starLewis, John & Andrew Aydin (text) & Nate Powell (illus.). March. Bk. 2. Top Shelf. Jan. 2015. 192p. ISBN 9780606365475. $33; pap. ISBN 9781603094009. $19.95. HIST/MEMOIR
march012315Lewis, Aydin, and Powell (March, Bk.1) continue their best-selling history/memoir of the civil rights movement from Congressman Lewis’s perspective. This volume follows Lewis as he takes on leadership positions in the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. The work begins with sit-ins and other protests in Nashville in 1961, but the focus soon shifts to the Freedom Riders, whose courage is vividly portrayed and seems to leap off these pages, as does the hatred and violence that they faced. The actual March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom in August 1963 ends the volume. Excerpts from Alabama governor George Wallace Jr.’s inauguration speech and Lewis’s own speech at the march, both in 1963, highlight the vast distance that separated the racism and bigotry on one side and the demands for equality on the other. This story is powerful enough that it could have been illustrated with stick figures and still packed a punch, yet Powell’s excellent duotone art nails the emotional range of the characters, from hope and determination to sheer loathing and brutality.
Verdict This second volume by the last living member of the march’s “Big Six” belongs on the shelf of every library as a testament to the bravery and suffering of all who participated in the civil rights movement.—Eric Norton, McMillan Memorial Lib., Wisconsin Rapids

Sutter, Robert Earl, III (text & illus.). Hobo Fires. RES3, dist. by Microcosm. 2014. 336p. ISBN 9780692206034. pap. $30. SF
Sutter (Awesome Future; editor, Alive with Vigor!) offers up a rather optimistic road trip graphic novel set in the not-so-very-distant future of 2137. Humanity has begun to modify itself, and androids and robots are everywhere overseeing corporate interests. A few free souls such as Poenee, Raukkus, and Booska choose to hack the system to ride the rails in search of freedom from the “tools” and a good party. The dialog is well matched to this collection of bohemians, veering from pop psych self-evaluation to discussions of the workings of the universe. “The slow movement of wild animals and plants has become my lover,” says one character, while another later declares “[o]ur consciousness is a quantum process that is fully integrated with the cosmos.” The artwork, which might best be described as advanced psychedelic doodling, is also suited to this tale. There is more detail than in the average notebook, but that artistic lineage is clearly felt.
Verdict The black-and-white journey of these wide-eyed hobos should suit readers who enjoy conversational or geographic rambling, possibly fueled by alcohol or other substances.—Eric Norton, McMillan Memorial Lib., Wisconsin Rapids

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