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June 21, 2007

Summer Reading - Graphic Novel Suggestions From Benn Ray

When I am searching out something interesting to read, one of the first people I ask is Benn Ray. Benn is a veritable encyclopedia of pop culture, and I value his recommendations (whether about books, comics, music, or toys), and his knowledge and love for graphic novels and comics is unmatched.

Benn is the owner of the Baltimore independent bookstore Atomic Books, and has been the sponsor of the Largehearted Boy 52 Books, 52 Weeks reading program since 2005. Read his blog, Mobtown Shank.

Photo courtesy of Rachel Whang

Benn Ray offers graphic novel suggestions for your summer reading pleasure:

1. Snakepit 2: My Live In A Jugular Vein by Ben Snakepit

This collection of diary comics (from 2004 - 2006) takes readers along with Ben's adventures of pot, beer, punk rock, parties and love. Each entry has a theme song - and the book includes a CD soundtrack featuring J Church, Fleshies, Blotto, The Methadones, The Arrivals, The Ergs!, Toys That Kill and more!

2. Stuck In The Middle: 17 Comics From An Unpleasant Age by Ariel Schrag (editor)

Did you love middle school? If so, this book isn't for you. It's for the other 99.9% of us who loathed the experience. This anthology illustrates the agonies of middle school, with the help of comics artists Dan Clowes, Joe Matt, Lauren Weinstein, and others.

3. American Elf Book 2 by James Kochalka

This second volume of Kochalka's diary comics collects the years 2004 and 2005, just as James wrestles with beginning fatherhood. Often profound, consistently touching.

4. Exit Wounds by Rutu Modan

Modan's graphic novel is a look at life in modern Israel, where death can appear suddenly.

5. Fun Home by Alison Bechdel

New in paperback, this acclaimed comic memoir not only deals with Bechdel's discovery that she is gay, but also the discovery that her father was also gay.

6. House by Josh Simmons

A wordless graphic novel about a teen love triangle and a mysterious abandoned house that the kids explore.

7. The Black Diamond Detective Agency by Eddie Campbell

For fans of Deadwood. A local train explodes and takes with it a majority of a town, John Hardin suddenly finds himself on the run from the Black Diamond Detective Agency.

8. The Boys Volume 1 by Garth Ennis & Darick Robertson

This dark and twisted look at superheroes has been highly controversial. Find out why.

9. Three Paradoxes by Paul Hornschemeier

Paul Hornshcemeier proves he's as precise a storyteller as he is an artist with Three Paradoxes. This story within a story (Paul gets a magical instrument and tries to figure out what it does) boasts chapters with completely different styles that come together as a whole in the end.

10. Astonishing X-Men by Joss Whedon & John Cassaday

Ordinarily, superhero comics aren't my thing (especially Marvel characters), but Buffy creator Joss Whedon imbues his characters with such personality, and constructs such snappy dialogue, it would be easy to forget they're mutants if it wasn't for all the action.

11. Y: The Last Man by Brian K. Vaughan, various

What would happen if you were the last guy on earth? Not the last person, mind you. There are plenty of women left. Just the last guy? Vaughan's series (now coming to a close) takes what could be an adolescent male fantasy and turns it into a futuristic, dystopian nightmare.

12. Fables by Bill Willingham, various

Willingham's series takes fairy tales and ingeniously recasts them in the modern world. These fables live among us, with their own society, their own rules, and their own problems.

13. DMZ by Brian Wood, various

With our military too busy fighting the terrorists over there so we don't have to fight them here, the government fails to keep watch on our own, homegrown terrorists (like the ones responsible for Oklahoma City bombing): militias. Wood takes a look at a future America torn apart by civil war, casting a demilitarized zone in New York City. Fascinating, and, sadly, not requiring much suspension of disbelief.

14. Loveless by Brian Azzarello & Marcelo Frusin

A modern take on the old western that mixes Sergio Leone spaghetti westerns with Deadwood.

15. Pyongyang: A Journey To North Korea by Guy Delisle

Soon to be released in paperback, Delisle's Pyongyang takes us into a mysterious world - the modern capital of North Korea. Bizarre, fascinating and compelling - find out what's really going on in one of the capitals of the "Axis of Evil."

16. Spent by Joe Matt

Joe Matt's comics are must-read for any serious comic fan. He has referred to this story as a study in addiction (in his case, to pornography). And while he clearly has problems (editing and re-editing his greatest hits porn tapes and indulging in marathon masturbation sessions while becoming more and more de-socialized), Spent is more a story of depravity, bottoming out and depression. But brilliantly so.

17. Buddha by Osamu Tezuka

From the grandfather of manga, this 8 volume epic tells the story of Buddha with such finesse, it's hard to imagine any other epic coming close to accomplishing this level of greatness. Simply magical.

18. Mome by Various

With 8 volumes so far, this is the most literary of comics anthologies and features many of today's most important comics creators, from Kurt Wolfgang, Sophie Crumb, Jonathan Bennett, and many more. This is a great entry point into the world of alternative cartooning.

19. Garage Band by Gipi

When an amp blows, the band turns to theft to replace it. Events spiral out from there and are illustrated by Gipi's captivating watercolor/pencil art style.

20. Phonogram Volume 1 by Kieron Gillen, Jamie McKelvie

Britannia may be dead, but Britpop will never die. Depending on your point of view, this is a good thing or bad.

also at Largehearted Boy:

Benn' Rays previous contributions to Largehearted Boy
previous lists

Book Notes (authors create playlists for their book)
Note Books (musicians discuss literature)
guest book reviews
musician/author interviews
guest book reviews
52 Books, 52 Weeks (2007 Edition)
52 Books, 52 Weeks (2006 Edition)
52 Books, 52 Weeks (2005 Edition)
52 Books, 52 Weeks (2004 Edition)