Graphic Novel Round-Up – June

I haven’t written a graphic novel round-up for a while, apologies. Here we are with four great works, each of which deserves your attention. Click on the pictures for a better view.

The Adventuress by Audrey Niffenegger

This is Niffenegger’s very first book reproduced after her success with The Time Traveler’s Wife and so it exposes the raw artist within her. The Adventuress is a story told in pictures with mere captions to push along the narration. Niffenegger’s artwork has a beautiful fragility to it in that it looks unfinished with sparse outlining and colouring.

The story tells of a woman created by an alchemist who is then kidnapped for her beauty and subsequently lives a dreamlike journey of exploration. The captions tell a rather plain story in that the emotion is captured by the art that accompanies each page. For instance, when she gives birth after an affair with Napoleon we see the doctor reach into her womb through her stomach and pull out a small black kitten.

It’s the surreal which makes the book so readable and once the book is closed you believe that only Niffenegger could get away with being so brazenly obtuse. She has crafted a beautiful book in which the reader fills in the blanks and becomes immersed in a story of fantasy.

Days of the Bagnold Summer by Joff Winterhart

Ahh, a graphic novel with so much familiarity. This novel tells of Daniel Bagnold, a 15 year old heavy metal fan who is stuck with his 50 something Mum during the school Summer holidays after his absent father cancels their holiday in America. What transpires is a heartfelt and often heartbreaking account of mother and son as Mum tries to bridge their estranged gap and son tries to live his dream of being a heavy metal superstar.

The Angst inside Daniel is so familiar to anyone who went through the usual teenage period of sticking two fingers up at authority and many readers will laugh not only at Joff’s blatant jokes but at his hints of nostalgia. Poor Sue, Daniel’s mum is a typical woman of her age – obsessed with keep fit regimes, her need to look beautiful for everyone else and a brimming pride in her son despite his best efforts to push her away.

The communication between characters is wonderful and again, familiar. Ky, Daniel’s best friend is the hollow chested, confident, hat wearing friend we all had and Daniel is often in awe of him but also intimidated. This comes off brilliantly through their stilted and awkward conversations. The same can be said for Ky’s new age mother who is often mentioning ones Chakra and their “spirit”. Many panels featuring her are cringeworthy and lend to the lighter humour. 

Winterhart’s black and white artwork lets the story speak for itself and is rather played down for his dialogue. His art has that scrappy but pretty ideal that we generally get with Cape graphic novels and is all the better for the reader to project themselves into the panels. There are moments of laughter and moments that will create a lump in your throat.

Jerusalem by Guy Delisle

This is the first time I’ve come across Delisle’s work (shame on me) and once I tore through Jerusalem I wanted to read more and more of his books. This graphic novel is a travel memoir about his time spent in the holy land and it leads to both an enlightening tale and genuine humour. It’s great to see how Guy ventured there to live (his wife is part of Doctors Without Borders) and expressed gusto and excitement at the idea of spending time in such a historic place. He is utterly normal and his normal outlook on life heightens the tensions felt in Jerusalem.

The book centres around the hardships of people living a life around the recently constructed wall that separates communities and religions. We see all of these aspects through, essentially, innocent and perhaps even naive, eyes. The novel has bags of charm as Guy attempts to live his life while maneuvering his work and kids around the restrictions in place around him. His mishaps of driving on the Sabbath are both funny and a little scary. The same can be said for his encounters with tourists that surround the security wall as they both oppose the structure and take pictures of it.

Delisle’s artwork is just stunning and accompanies the tale brilliantly. His simple and typically “cartoon” style is so pleasing on the eye that it makes his work ever more readable. It’s books such as this that give a warm sensation to know they exist with their hardbound covers, startling stories and sublime artwork. I am desperate to read more of Delisle’s work and will have to attempt to get my hands on his other books ASAP.

Adamtine by Hannah Berry

We all know that anyone who says women don’t have a place in the comics world is an idiot, but Hannah Berry is here to make them all feel even smaller with easily the best graphic novel I’ve read this year. I’ve read plenty of scary and suspenseful books in my time but none have quite pushed me to the edge of my proverbial seat like this. Adamtine is essentially a murder mystery with some supernatural nods included but the twist is that the story doesn’t follow the killer, nor their victims, but those on the outer circle.

The story takes place over two threads, one that shows the main characters stuck on a train carriage in the middle of nowhere and one that shows their past and the connection to the killer in the plot. Berry’s pacing of the story leads to untold amounts of tension as we see the characters stuck inside this train with no idea why. All we’re told is that whenever they read a certain note that is found throughout the story a blackness will surround them and they vanish.

Berry plays with traditional horror tropes such as surrounding the panels and the cast in darkness and using only sporadic colour. Also, her actual use of the traditional comic panel is inspired as sometimes to get the full story you have to explore what is around you. An example of this is when we’re told that the suspected killer is standing in a nearby waiting room and we see that between the panels he lingers with his face pressed to clouded glass. Her art is lovely and has a solid Western feel that brims with a noir feeling.

Both the story and the art are just brilliant and I’ve never felt the fear of a story communicated better. I won’t say anymore about the plot as each twist and turn is utterly captivating and the ending is both shocking and inventive. I could go on and on… but I won’t. Buy it, get it from the library, borrow it, just read it! This was the first I’d heard of Hannah Berry and I’m very impressed, more please!

One thought on “Graphic Novel Round-Up – June

  1. Brenna (@LitMusings)

    That Niffenegger graphic novel sounds so interesting. I read The Night Bookmobile last year and really liked it. She does a fantastic job with her artwork and how she uses it to tell the story with more than just words.


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