Going Graphic

Challengers of the Unknown from DC Comics

Challengers of the Unknown cover

Many people enjoy reading DC Comics’ classic Batman and Superman books, but often forgotten are the other series that were produced during the 1950s and 1960s, the “Silver Age” of comic books. One such series is Challengers of the Unknown, and it is sad that it has been mostly forgotten because it contains many exciting adventures with striking artwork and a panoply of bizarre monsters for the heroes to confront. For readers willing to put up with some of the more dated aspects of its storytelling, Challengers of the Unknown is an enjoyable trip back in time to DC’s Silver Age.

Primates by Jim Ottaviani and Marin Wicks

Primates by Jim Ottaviani and Marin Wicks

Primates captures the fascinating study of several great ape species in the 1960's and 70's. Three women—Jane Goodall, Dian Fossey, and Biruté Galdikas—found their calling and approached their research in very different ways.

Jane Goodall revolutionized animal study with her focus on the chimpanzees in Gombe Stream National Park. She discovered the chimps using tools such as sticks to reach termites, a tasty snack. Before that discovery, the use of tools was thought to be only a human characteristic. Becaue of her work, our definitions have since changed.

Nothing Can Possibly Go Wrong by Prudence Shen

Nothing Can Possibly Go Wrong by Prudence Shen and Illustrated by Faith Erin Hic

Nothing Can Possibly Go Wrong is author Prudence Shen's laser-guided, satirical commentary on a clash of the cliques that has the potential to destroy friendships, dreams, and dozens of deadly, armored robots. 

Hollow Ridge High School is dealing with the fight of the century. In this corner we have the cheerleadering squad. Popular, gorgeous and fierce, these ladies are looking for some brand-new uniforms. Looking for funds throughout the school, merciless head cheerleader Holly has set her sights on one club's unused budget.

In the other corner is the robotics club. Led by their neurotic but clever president Nate, these geeks are not going down without a fight. 

Stuck in the middle of this struggle is poor Charlie, captain of the basketball team. His only crime is being the ex-boyfriend of Holly and Nate's best friend.

Sumo by Thien Pham

Sumo by Thien Pham

Sumo, by Thien Pham, is a quiet tale about a sport of epic proportions. Scott is a twenty-something football player who has missed his shot at NFL glory. Now that his girlfriend has left him, he has no sense of himself anymore. So like any lost youth pining for a change, he moves to Japan to become a sumo wrestler.

Cardboard by Doug TenNapel

Cardboard by Doug TenNapel

There's that familiar anecdote: a child gets a nice, big, expensive toy for his birthday. The parents have spent hours putting it together,. For all of their sweat, pain, and suffering they find that the child is most fascinated with the big cardboard box the toy came in.

Cardboard, by Doug TenNapel, is a clever variation on that premise. Mike, an out-of-work carpenter, has nothing for his son Cam's birthday. A strange old man approaches him with an offer. For just a handful of change, Mike can get his son an amazing gift. It may seem like an ordinary cardboard box, but whatever Cam makes out of the corrugated paper pulp comes to life.

Ghostopolis by Doug TenNapel

Ghostopolis by Doug TenNapel

Frank Gallows has some explaining to do. The burned-out ghost wrangler has just sent an innocent child into the world of the dead. The kid's name is Garth Hale. In the regular world, he's just your average boy...who also happens to have a terminal illness. But Garth discovers that he has some quite extraordinary powers in Ghostopolis.

No living souls have ever made it back to the regular world, so Mr. Gallows is losing his job for this big-time screw up. The fact that Garth didn't have much time to live in the first place makes the situation even worse. Gallows has to hang up hunting those ghosts who wish to remain in the land of the living. He'll never have the pleasure of capturing repeater offender Benedict Arnold. No, Gallows has to right this wrong. Luckily, his ex-fiancée Claire Voyant has a machine that can take you back and forth between the worlds. Frank is going to have to play nice.

Starslip by Kris Straub

Starslip by Kris Straub

As with my review of Altered Carbon, I've arrived at the Starslip webcomic party a little late, as in, the seven-year series is finished.  However, that might add a welcome bittersweet flavor to each strip I read as I come closer and closer to the end.  I have fallen head-over-heels in love with all of author Kris Straub’s characters, his artistic style, and his off-kilter sense of humor as he simultaneously pays homage to and lampoons the best and worst traits of sci-fi soap operas.  With every click of the forward-pointing arrow I know I am coming to the close of an incredible story, but, like with any good book, I can't stop!

Friends with Boys by Faith Erin Hicks

Friends with Boys by Faith Erin Hicks

Friends With Boys is a teenage slice of life story.  Maggie is dealing with the first day of school. Not just the first day of the year, nor is it simply her first day of high school. This is Maggie's first day of school...ever. 

Once homeschooled, the freshman girl's mother and teacher has left home. Luckily, she has three already initiated older brothers to show her the ropes around Sandford High. But Maggie's going to have to get used to the crowds, the schedule, and the fact that her siblings can't always be looking out for her.

Empire State by Jason Shiga

Empire State by Jason Shiga

Most love stories don't end with a snowball to the face. Then again, this is no love story.

Empire State, by Jason Shiga, actually starts in the Golden State: Oakland, California. Jimmy works in a library and runs his own Web site. He finds inner peace through repairing books and geeking out over sci-fi movies. As he leaves work one day, we meet his friend Sara, who greets him...with an unprovoked punch in the arm.

Sara's sarcastic and unsatisfied world view is a million miles from Jimmy's acceptance of his uncomplicated life. Still, they both find some comfort and security in each other's presence. Unfortunately for Jimmy, Sara has a yearning to leave Oakland and enter New York City's publishing industry. When she receives an internship, the call is too powerful to resist.

Bone by Jeff Smith

Banished from their small village, three small, bald cousins aimlessly wander in the desert. The one with a star on his shirt is greedy and sneaky. The tallest one is jolly but dim-witted. The quietest one is a hero in the making, though he doesn’t know that yet. They quickly become separated and when they reunite they are wrapped up in the beginnings of a brutal war involving humans, dragons, and a frightening race of giant rat-creatures…stupid stupid rat creatures.

Jeff Smith’s graphic novel series Bone manages to combine the look and humor of Disney cartoons while tackling the sort of epic adventure that one might find in J.R.R. Tolkien or C.S. Lewis.

Fone Bone, our hero, and his cousins owe their looks to early Disney characters, particularly the work of Carl Barks, who created Scrooge McDuck comics and revolutionized the drawing style of Donald Duck for the company. Recognizing Barks’ influence baffled me at first. Donald was not someone’s subject to be reformed and retooled. Similar to Athena, he sprung forth from Walt Disney’s head, already wearing his sailor suit…without the pants. Right?
 
Apparently not. Just like those famous ducks, the Bone cousins have large heads, round bellies, low centers of gravity, and the same aversion to pants. All of this might make it hard for a reader to take their epic quest seriously, but Smith valiantly strikes at the importance of their mission.