by Geneviève Castrée (Drawn & Quarterly)
Signing at Floating World Comics, 400 NW Couch, Thurs March 7, 6 pm
THE DEBUT graphic novel from Quebec-born comics artist Geneviève Castrée has the look and feel of an autobiographical comic, though it's not marketed or presented as such. The book feels so personal, though, that it's hard to believe it's fictional.
The story follows a girl named Goglu from childhood to adulthood in Quebec. She's mostly raised by her mother, and by a borderline-abusive stepfather; her elusive birth father disappears and reappears. (He lives in British Columbia, which is "like a mythical kingdom where dads go to disappear.") Her young mom is a heavy drinker who likes to party on weekends, and some of the book's most profound and uncomfortable moments are of a mother's recklessness filtered through the perception of a tiny child.
It's a slim volume, but Castrée's tiny cursive lettering means it takes a surprisingly long time to decipher each page—also she's prone to drawing speech bubbles that crowd and jostle, approximating a jumble of voices talking at once. As absorbing as it is, though, it should be longer—Goglu's childhood is more fully realized and more enlightening than her teen years, which speed by in a blur of drugs, boys, and ever-increasing family strife. ALISON HALLETT
by Brian Wood and Carlos D'Anda (Dark Horse)
IN DITCHING DECADES of ramshackle mythology and picking up directly after the 1977 movie, writer Brian Wood is on target to make Star Wars the best Star Wars comic out of roughly 48 billion Star Wars comics. True, this new Star Wars is only on its second monthly issue, and who knows how long it'll go for, given Disney's recent acquisition of Lucasfilm—it's hard to imagine Disney, which also owns an obscure small-press publisher called Marvel, will keep letting Dark Horse crank out Star Wars books.
But put aside the doubts and focus on why this Star Wars is smart and punchy: Wood's keen storytelling, Carlos D'Anda's exacting renditions of a galaxy's worth of starships, and a welcome focus on Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, and, most importantly, Princess Leia—who's ditched her dumb gown in favor of a pilot suit, and now leads a secret squadron of Top Gun-style X-wing pilots. It's been too long since Star Wars has been this fun, this accessible, and, well... Star Wars-y. ERIK HENRIKSEN
by Ryan North, Shelli Paroline, and Braden Lamb(Kaboom!)
IS ANYTHING better than Adventure Time? Not really, and the endlessly clever and charming Cartoon Network series translates brilliantly to comics. The editor who assigned Dinosaur Comics creator Ryan North to write the Adventure Time adaptation deserves a bonus and a raise, because North nails the humor, heart, and general weirdness of the beloved show. (Which, for the last time, is NOT just for stoners and children.)
The new trade paperback collects a four-issue arc that sees our heroes battling bravely to save their planet. The story is full of punching, fist bumping, and feelings-having princesses, and North cracks jokes along the bottom gutter of most pages, making the whole thing surprisingly dense. The book's end materials are packed with the single issues' antic, candy-colored covers, as well as a quick "from script to page" featurette that illustrates how artists Shelli Paroline and Braden Lamb translate North's scripts into a playful visual language. My only complaint: Each single issue of the comic comes with a two-page supplemental story from the likes of Paul Pope, Shannon Wheeler, and Anthony Clark. These are nowhere to be found in this trade, which I can only assume means we'll be paying for them as a collection of their own at some point. ALISON HALLETT