Graphic Novels: Kominsky-Crumb, a Mythology Collection, and Debuter Birthday | Xpress Reviews

Week ending May 25, 2018

Birthday, Lord. How To Appear Normal at Social Events: And Other Essential Wisdom. Andrews McMeel. Mar. 2018. 120p. ISBN 9781449487966. pap. $14.99. COMICS
[DEBUT] This minimalist, absurdist debut collection from Birthday, aka Chad Murphy, offers laughs aplenty. There’s no overarching plot, aside from a light satire of a self-help book; the jokes are brief; and the art is simple. Based on the author’s wildly popular webcomics, selections generally adhere to the same formula: a depiction of a strange situation followed by a list of sometimes connected, sometimes not, thoughts, actions, or observations about the uncomfortable encounter, often presented in a single-page panel. It works, even though it wears thin after some time.
Verdict Recommended for anyone looking for a quick, easy set of gags in a webcomic style.—Lewis Parsons, Sawyer Free Lib., Gloucester, MA

Kominsky-Crumb, Aline. Love That Bunch. Drawn & Quarterly. May 2018. 216p. ISBN 9781770463059. $29.95. GRAPHIC NOVELS
This collection of Kominsky-Crumb’s work from the 1970s to the present is expanded from its 1990 edition and covers the cartoonist’s life from a troubled childhood and her Beatlemaniac and groupie years to her married life, motherhood, and now grandmotherhood. The black-and-white artwork (save for one color page) is a little messy, homely, grotesque, and perfectly suited to the artist’s material. Her refusal to portray herself as a victim, no matter how humiliating or painful her experiences, will be refreshing to some readers and offensive to others. Her confidence shines through, demonstrated by her willingness to depict her past and present selves unflinchingly and at their most vulnerable. Note profanity, nudity, sexual content/references/situations, and references to bodily functions/odors/secretions make this for mature readers. Although clearly not for all tastes, Love That Bunch is funny, brazen, and affecting enough to make similarly brave readers start thinking of R. Crumb as the person married to Kominsky-Crumb and not vice versa.
Verdict Highly recommended for all mature fans of cartooning—especially of the confessional variety—and/or biographies. [Previewed in Jody Osicki’s “Graphically Speaking,” LJ 6/15/18.]—J. Osicki, Saint John Free P.L., NB

Once upon a Time Machine: Greek Gods & Legends. Dark Horse. Apr. 2018. 223p. ed. by Andrew Carl & Chris Stevens. ISBN 9781616556662. pap. $17.99; ebk. ISBN 9781630083977. LIT/MYTHOLOGY
Editors Carl and Stevens (both, Little Nemo: Dream Another Dream) offer the second volume in the “Once upon a Time Machine” series, moving from new takes on classic fairy tales (presented in their first work) to 30 classic Greek myths reimagined through the lens of sf. Each of the 19 stand-alone stories (several myths are represented by a single piece of art) are written and illustrated by a different creative team, offering a range of bold art styles and storytelling techniques in a format reminiscent of Isaac Asimov’s Science Fiction or Edith Hamilton’s Mythology. Despite dramatically different interpretations of the myths, the authors demonstrate deep understanding of both the original characters and the meaning behind their stories, and readers may find themselves inspired to reread the original legends.
Verdict A beautifully illustrated and highly enjoyable read for mythology and sf fans, middle school through adult.—Tammy Ivins, Univ. of North Carolina at Wilmington

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