RaveThe A.V. Club\"Time Zone J abandons panel borders and any conventional presentation of setting and character, unfolding as one long continuous image that embeds the narrative in a sea of other drawings. The printing for Time Zone J is particularly distinctive because the pages are folded over and uncut, allowing the art to flow seamlessly across the page turn. The stream of consciousness is never interrupted, and it’s a prime example of how Drawn & Quarterly’s impeccable production design supports the artist’s vision ... reading Time Zone J feels like traveling to a place that exists on no map, pulling you into the chaotic landscape of Doucet’s mind. It’s an initially intimidating read, demanding that readers rewire their brains to process the rush of visual stimuli and Doucet’s rapidly shifting thoughts. The book was drawn from bottom to top and should be read accordingly, but even then, it’s not always clear which way the eye should move. That’s a feature, not a bug, and there’s a level of trust involved here that makes for an especially rewarding experience if you embrace the spontaneity of her work, which is driven by the mercurial sensations of memory.
RaveThe A.V. ClubMurphy succeeds in making this history lesson feel deeply personal by starting with something as relatable as a celebrity fixation, using the need to understand Phoenix’s ending as a way to gain a better understanding of the forces that shaped his environment ... [T]he form enriches Murphy’s personal connection to the material. The fogginess of the wet lines gives the visuals a dreamy quality, and the bleeding inks plus the handwriting creates a sense of spontaneity on the page. It establishes an unexpected tone for a story that is largely about the perseverance of white nationalist ideology across centuries, keeping Murphy’s point of view at the forefront while presenting a wide array of information that says a lot about our current political moment ... I Never Promised You A Rose Garden makes that past feel real with its accessible, emotionally driven storytelling.
PositiveThe AV ClubThe hit rate for jokes isn’t as high as Woman World, and Dhaliwal returns too often to a joke structure where someone misinterprets a simple question and overshares their deepest feelings. But Cyclopedia Exotica has a stronger narrative through line with distinct emotional arcs for the cast, building to some beautiful moments of catharsis ... Dhaliwal has grown as a visual storyteller in the last few years, and the opening sequence does some very cool things with the form as Etna literally emerges from her encyclopedia entry, pulling the white space around her like a bed sheet and warping the words on the page ... ends with an appendix in which Dhaliwal breaks down her intentions behind each character, illuminating the book’s key themes. It also reinforces how well Dhaliwal tackles the complicated subject matter with empathy and humor, offering ample social critique while keeping the focus on how these characters connect with each other—and learn how to love themselves.
RaveThe A.V. ClubWindsor-Smith is known for his meticulous inking, and his cross-hatching gives Monsters’ world and characters remarkable dimension. His inks are mostly very tight and specific, but in the opening sequence, the lines have a wildness that contributes to the chaos ... As impressive as Windsor-Smith’s cross-hatching is, it’s equally powerful when he minimizes the linework ... The superhero influence is strongest at the start of Monsters, and Elias’ mission to rescue Bobby unfolds in an exhilarating car chase that leads to a devastating shootout. The dramatic sound effects punctuate key moments in the action, and the shootout is a showcase of how lettering impacts storytelling, with line weight, letter shape, and balloon placement working together to create a feeling of total mayhem ... Monsters has breakneck action and lots of atmospheric horror, but the majority of the book is domestic and workplace situations, highlighting Windsor-Smith’s skill with character acting. Emotional beats are exceptionally clear, and he pays close attention to the different ways people experience pain, internalize it, and release it. It brings vitality to these characters and conversations, and by withholding information, the script creates a sense of intrigue that keeps the momentum moving forward when there isn’t much in the way of spectacle.
RaveThe AV ClubDrawn in a black-and-white ligne claire style and primarily laid out on a six-panel grid, The Contradictions ’ understated visuals sell the austerity of Sophie’s study abroad experience, which loses its wonder when Sophie understands the personal cost. Some of the most powerful sequences feature Yanow on the phone with her mother, conversations that showcase the cartoonist’s subtle and rich character acting. There’s some very impressive body language throughout The Contradictions , and by abstracting the forms just a bit, Yanow creates geometric shapes that evoke different moods and relationship dynamics.
Darcy Van Poelgeest and Ian Bertram
RaveThe AV Club... unsettling, exhilarating ... a narrative that showcases the full range of the artist’s talent ... Colorist Matt Hollingsworth, letterer Aditya Bidikar, and designer Ben Didier give the book a cohesive, distinctive visual identity, the strength of this art team elevating the story by bolstering its emotional content ... balances the blunt, aggressive force of the military storyline with more introspective and poetic material, giving the book more interesting tonal dynamics that also allow the visual language to shift dramatically ... There are a number of cool visual tricks Bertram uses to alter the rhythm of a scene ... The title text flows on the page with its thin, curving linework, and the symmetry of Ben Didier’s design visually ties the title to the book’s thematic content ... Hollingsworth is an industry veteran with extremely versatile rendering skills and a deep well of knowledge when it comes to using color to take readers on a journey ... pairs creative excellence with consumer value ... These first two chapters are meaty reads, packed with rich ideas and executed with precision and passion. It’s a comic that could be a cool movie in the future, but it succeeds because the creative team values the things that make comic books a unique form of storytelling.
RaveThe AV ClubHannah’s experience is highly specific, and because Davis’ storytelling is so natural and lived in, Hannah’s feelings of uncertainty and fear become universal to anyone who feels a surge of panic when they hear about current events ... Davis’ art style is vital to this emotional rapport. When you simplify a character drawing, it becomes easier for the observer to project their own identity onto it...This simplification is an essential reason why cartooning is such an expressive art, and Davis is a master of creating distinct characters with minimalist linework that invites deeper personal connection from the reader. The acting is full of emotion, and Davis captures facial expressions, body language, and gestures with curving, wiry lines that imbue the artwork with both spontaneity and grace ... Davis does not create joyless art. No matter how intense the subject matter, she finds moments of humor that make the reader want to spend time with these characters and emotionally invest in their struggles ... These design decisions all play a part in the book’s emotional tapestry, but the high point of this intersection between design and narrative comes during the book’s final pages. Like the gun moment, it’s a sequence where the act of holding is very important, presenting five two-page splashes all from the same point of view and drawn to scale. This puts the reader even deeper inside the holder’s perspective, and the book’s size is what sells the effect. Each small change from splash page to splash page increases the gravity of the life-affirming event, ending the story by presenting readers with a physical embodiment of hope in the palm of their hands.
PositiveThe A.V Club...page after page of childhood trauma and the creative, professional, and sexual frustrations of adults. The subject matter is far from fun but the creative choices are invigorating, driving the book’s momentum to prevent it from becoming a miserable slog ... The thrill of Ware’s innovative graphic storytelling always has a comedown, typically via a gut punch that reinforces a character’s isolation or despair. This feeling in the reader echoes what these characters experience as they are enthused by life’s opportunities and crushed by inevitable failure ... For Ware, the high of graphic experimentation hooks people, then he drags them through the dirt of existence. The narrative content on its own is heavy, but when paired with Ware’s intricately designed artwork, Rusty Brown becomes flat-out overwhelming. Reading a 351-page Chris Ware graphic novel won’t take me as long as reading a prose novel of the same length, but it can feel like an even bigger commitment because there’s so much happening on each page ... There’s always a reorientation that occurs when you turn the page and immediately encounter new visual information. And with Chris Ware, you are getting a lot of information ... It’s this interior excavation that makes Ware’s comics so powerful and so draining.
RaveThe AV ClubOne of the biggest takeaways from Roberts’ comics is that nothing is too small to appreciate. She’s always been enthralled by tiny objects and dolls, a recurring motif in Rat Time, and her books are largely composed of relatively insignificant personal interactions that perk up her spirit. That focus on small things informs Roberts’ art, and some of the most detailed elements of her work are these objects ... The relationship between Roberts and her daughter is the strongest emotional through line of her books, and it’s a delight to see how that relationship changes as Xia grows up ... [Roberts] is in a much more comfortable place in her latest book.
PositiveThe AV ClubRoad trips are fascinating experiences that facilitate bonding, but also aid introspection, thanks to those moments when the talking stops and you’re left alone with just your thoughts and the landscape zooming past your window. Walden is deeply in tune with this dynamic, and she always finds time for quiet pages that let the reader sit with the information revealed in Bea and Lou’s conversations. This book is filled with beautiful natural imagery, with Walden’s blend of delicate linework, thick pools of black, and vibrant coloring imbuing the landscape with a sense of mystery and wonder. The sprawl of this environment often overtakes panel borders, which helps to reinforce an ethereal atmosphere ... Walden is very sensitive to how readers will respond to potentially triggering material. When Bea shares the story of why she ran away from home, Walden doesn’t visualize any of the dialogue, instead focusing on the water that Bea drags her feet through. This captures how Bea tries to wipe away the details of past events, but it also puts the reader in Lou’s position, gaining no extra context for the trauma beyond what Bea tells her. The emotional impact is there, but Walden doesn’t immerse the reader in an agonizing past. Instead, she keeps the action in the present, highlighting the bravery of Bea sharing her story with another person and choosing not to suffer alone.
PositiveThe AV Club... a deeply introspective character study ... feels like a stretch to call this book a love story when it’s so heavily focused on one man’s anger and frustration ... by using animal characters for his graphic novel, Sturm is able to openly engage with painful material ... Sturm understands the value of contrasting text with imagery.
RaveThe AV ClubHaluska’s romance with Adrian, her married long-time friend, is complicated by the fact that they both live in a small, off-the-grid \'intentional community\' in the Ozarks, but they’ve found a place where they can disappear to be together, a hidden cavern containing a malevolent presence that thrives on their secrets ... There’s an undercurrent of social commentary, but Powell is ultimately looking at one woman’s attempts to make up for the mistakes of her past, taking a mystical shortcut to absolution that dulls the emotional resonance of the story ... The visual craft of Come Again is impeccable...immersing the reader in an environment and society that is more engaging than the central relationships.
RaveThe AV ClubAline Kominsky-Crumb isn’t fearless, but when it comes to sharing her life experiences, she bravely reveals what many choose to hide. She pioneered how women are represented in art, and her comics aren’t afraid of exposing her anxieties, desires, and personal trauma for all the world to see ... a must-have for underground comix fans, and the frank honesty of these stories has helped them withstand the test of time.
PositiveThe AV ClubWith all of these time periods and geographic locations fostering different attitudes toward women, Bagieu provides a sprawling look at how they have long had to overcome adversity through their own ingenuity ... Each comic ends with a two-page illustration that picks a specific emblematic moment from the subject’s life. Bagieu experiments with composition and rendering to give these images visceral and immediate emotional impact ... After the waves of information in the preceding strips, these clever, bold illustrations give the reader moments to meditate on what they’ve just read, enriching each individual history.
RaveThe AV ClubWhen it comes to beautifully illustrated, formally inventive comics, it doesn’t get much better than the work of Jillian Tamaki ... Her ambition is on full display in Boundless, a new Drawn & Quarterly collection that shows off Tamaki’s range as an artist and storyteller. You never know what direction Tamaki is going to go with her layouts, rendering, and story structure, and that unpredictability is a major part of this book’s appeal. She knows how to adjust her style to enrich the content of whatever narrative she’s trying to tell, and it brings a lot of depth to her work, particularly when she’s doing more introspective character building.
RaveThe A.V. Club\"Let’s get right to the point: Emil Ferris’ My Favorite Thing Is Monsters is a masterpiece. It’s hard to think of a debut graphic novel in recent memory that has the visual splendor, narrative ingenuity, and emotional impact of this 413-page tome, and with this book, Ferris immediately establishes herself as one of the most exciting, provocative talents in the comics industry ... There’s a lot going on here, but Ferris gracefully blends everything together into one cohesive, riveting read ... Ferris isn’t working within a traditional comic structure, often eschewing panels in favor of more fluid, expressive layouts that draw the reader deeper into the individual experiences of the characters ... MFTIM is a book steeped in empathy and the need to understand the complexities of people and their specific experiences.\
PositiveThe AV Club...a fascinating exploration of Hanawalt’s various creative impulses and multidisciplinary artistic talent ... The shorter gags in Hot Dog Taste Test are the things most likely to appeal to BoJack Horseman fans, but it’s the longer pieces that show the depth of Hanawalt’s talent as a storyteller. She recounts her emotional reactions to events in evocative, hilarious detail, and her jovial irreverence makes it easy to get swept up in her writing, which doesn’t take itself or anything else too seriously.
RaveThe AV ClubThe 'cosmic timewarp deathtrip' aspect allows Clowes to move in a more experimental, surreal direction with certain elements of his plot and artwork, but it’s all grounded in a relatable human emotion: love. That foundation makes for a surprisingly upbeat read given how dark the story gets, and the suffering of Clowes’ characters is ultimately balanced by the elation of everlasting love.