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In the Library with a Comic Book Favorite Comics of 2014


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In the Library With a Comic Book Presents:
The Top Graphic Novels of 2014
by Jack Baur and Amanda Jacobs Foust
CLA Annual, November 9th, 2014

Note! This list is totally subjective and far from exhaustive!
Did we miss your favorites? Let us know!
Need more suggestions? Just ask!

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Listen to the podcast at!

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In the Library with a Comic Book Favorite Comics of 2014

  1. 1. In the Library With a Comic Book Presents: The Top Graphic Novels of 2014 by Jack Baur and Amanda Jacobs Foust CLA Annual, November 9th, 2014 Note! This list is totally subjective and far from exhaustive! Did we miss your favorites? Let us know! Need more suggestions? Just ask! Reach us at Listen to the podcast at! Kids Bell, Cece. El Deafo. Harry N. Abrams, 2014. 248p. 978-1419712173. This heartfelt and charming memoir details four-year-old CeCe’s hearing loss and childhood adapting to being different. In clean lines and clear prose, CeCe shares how she learned to cope with her deafness, the social stigma of her bulky hearing aid, and the challenges of reading lips. The comic format is used perfectly by Bell to convey what it’s like to see but not hear those around you. El Deafo is also the story of Bell forging her own identity, navigating her friendships, and learning to accept the support of her family. Kids with disabilities will be able to relate to the need to develop an identity other than “different,” and other kids will empathize with CeCe’s struggles. A charming and essential comic for young readers. Dauvillier, Loic (auth.) with Greg Salsedo (auth.) and Marc Lizano (illus.). Hidden: A Child’s Story of the Holocaust. First Second, 2014. 80p. 978-1596438736. One night, a young girl discovers her grandmother crying and prompts her to share what is making her sad. What follows is the grandmother’s story of how she survived as a Jewish child in Occupied France during World War II. Told from her childhood perspective, this moving and emotional story conveys the loss of innocence and desperation forced upon children while also demonstrating the kindness of others and the power of the French Resistance. Beautifully illustrated using simple drawings and a soft color palette reminiscent of comic strips, this is a wonderfully accessible book to introduce young readers to the Holocaust, as well an emotional tale full of brave children surviving against impossible odds. Griffith, Saul (auth.) with Ingrid Dragotta (auth.) and Nick Dragotta (illus.). Howtoons: Tools of Mass Construction. Image Comics, 2014. 360p. 978-1632151018. This series of strips uses comics to present Maker-esque projects that kids can make from easily scrounged materials. The stars are a brother and sister duo-- Celine and Tucker--who actively engage in the world around them, learning through play, creativity, and problem-solving. The result is an interactive title perfect for kids interested in the Maker movement and looking for inspiration in their everyday play. HowToons is a triple threat: a fun, educational, project-driven comic that will surely be in high-demand. Perfect for 4th grade and up.
  2. 2. Hale, Nathan. Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales: Treaties, Trenches, Mud and Blood (A World War I Tale). Henry N. Abrams, 2014. 128p. 978-1419708084. A historical narrator and his two sidekicks tackle the complicated events that led to World War I, and then document -- in tragic and meticulous detail -- the major events of the horrific war and its impact on history. Somehow it also manages to maintain a spirit of readability and dark humor. Taking a page from Art Speigelman, each country is represented by a different animal (Americans are bunnies, Russians are bears, etc.). Both dense with details and an accessible entry point into a complicated world event, this latest entry in Hale’s Hazardous Tales series is a rare find. Hatke, Ben. Zita the Spacegirl. First Second. 2011-2014. 3 volumes. An unsuspecting young girl turns into an intergalactic heroine in this charming, adventurous, trilogy of friendship and bravery. Fans of fantastical monsters, aliens, and doomed planets will rejoice in the colorful inking and playful illustrations. Full of giant alien mice, “doorpaste”, and more robots than you can shake a stick at, this will appeal to both boys and girls. Book 1: Far From Home. 2011. 192p. 978-1596434462. Book 2: Legends of Zita the Spacegirl. 2012. 209p. 978-1596438064. Book 3: The Return of Zita the Spacegirl. 2014. 240p. 978-1626720589. Holm, Jennifer (ed.), Matthew Holm (ed.), and Jarrett Krosoczka (ed.). Comics Squad: Recess. Random House, 2014. 144p. 978-0385370035. An incredible collection of kid’s comics royalty contributed to this anthology, edited by the creators of Babymouse and Lunch Lady. Raina Telgemeier, Dave Roman, Gene Yang, Dan Pilkey, and many others offer short stories on the theme of “recess.” Each of the funny stories showcase unique styles of the different creators, making this a great introduction to the world of kid’s comics. A perfect comics primer for third graders on up. Kibuishi, Kazu. Amulet v. 6: Escape From Lucien. Graphix, 2014. 256p. 978-0545433150. Kibuishi’s Amulet series continues to impress with this sixth action-packed outing. The epic story of two siblings thrust into a fantasy world that has a mysterious connection to their miss ing great-grandfather is starting to circle around to its conclusion in this volume. Here, younger brother Navin gets most of the screen-time (and some big character development) while older sister Em ventures into the Void to learn more about the evil powers that threaten them all. As always, Kibuishi’s design sense and artistic talents immediately stand out. He is nearly unparalleled at plotting an action scene, with great command over space and motion. The openly emotional way he draws his leads make them immediately relatable. Kids of all ages are obsessed with this series and no library should be without multiple copies of every volume. Lendler, Ian (auth.) with Zack Giallongo (illus.) The Stratford Zoo Midnight Revue Presents Macbeth. First Second, 80 p. 978-1596439153. After the Stratford Zoo closes for the evening, the animals gather for a fresh (if confused) production of Shakespeare’s Macbeth, both as actors and audience. Lendler retains the grimmer and violent aspects of
  3. 3. the original tale but mutes them for the younger audience, creating a unique introduction into this Shakespearean classic. Giallongo is inventive with his artwork, vibrant colors and choice of animals as actors (lions as the Macbeths, an owl as the king, etc.) and the overarching feel is of vintage Disney cartoons. Combined with clever sight gags and smart panel use this book is sure to engage young readers. Maihack, Mike. Cleopatra in Space: Target Practice. Graphix, 2014. 178 p. 978-0545528436. A young Cleopatra accidentally transports herself far into the future to the planet Mayet of the Nile galaxy, where she is quickly determined to be the long prophesied liberator and leader in the approaching intergalactic war. Despite her royal upbringing, Cleopatra is a delinquent-- she struggles to make friends, skips classes and performs poorly academically. But over time she makes connections and learns to love her tactical lessons which come from a council of talking cats. This all -ages title delivers on its mashup concept and is as cute as you can get. Maihack’s artwork is energetic and fun while his writing is fast -paced and concise. Telgemeier, Raina. Sisters. Graphix, 2014. 208p. 978-0545540605. Telgemeier’s breathlessly awaited follow-up to the universally beloved Smile tells the story of her family’s cross-country summer road trip when she was 13 years old. Trapped in a car all day with her energetic younger sister, Raina looks back at the excitement she felt when her sister was a baby… and contrasts that to annoyance she feels with her now as a young teen. On the surface it’s a story of feuding sisters coming together in the heat of a family crisis, but there’s deeper stuff simmering in the background about the effects of divorce on kids. This book will resonate with readers experiencing similar family drama. Raina’s inimitable artistic style and gently humorous storytelling are given an added gloss by colorist Braden Lamb, who uses a faded, sepia-inflected color scheme for the book’s flashbacks. Another classic from Telgemeier. Teens Aguirre-Sacasa, Roberto (auth.) and Francesco Francavilla (illus.). Afterlife With Archie: Escape From Riverdale. Archie Comics, 2014. 160p. 978-1619889088. On its face it sounds utterly ridiculous: Jughead’s beloved dog dies, he asks Sabrina the Teenage Witch to bring him back, and suddenly zombies are set loose on Riverdale. This is certainly a far cry from the Archie we’re used to! But amazingly it all works. The writing by comics veteran Aguirre -Sacasa keeps all the characters true to their classic iterations but doesn’t shy away from the grim danger of the zombie invasion. And Francavilla’s gorgeous, pulpy art is full of deep dark shadows, relishing in the horror of it all. It’s spooky, funny, and still -- somehow -- undeniably Archie. Carroll, Emily. Through the Woods. Margaret K. McElderry Books, 2014. 208p. 978-1442465954. Carroll’s work has been popping up online for a while now, but this collection should greatly expand her audience and secure her a spot in the pantheon of modern cartoonists. Through the Woods is a collection of grim fairy tales, mostly centering around characters discovering hideous things in the dark woods at the borders of their daily lives. The simple plots and delicate voice perfectly capture the tone of myths. Carroll uses unique panel layouts and bold, dark blacks to perfectly convey the creeping dangers. Get a taste of her work at
  4. 4. DeConnick, Kelly Sue (auth) and David Lopez. Captain Marvel, Vol. 1: Higher, Further, Faster, More. Marvel Comics, 2014. 96p. 978-0785190134. Carol Danvers -- AKA Captain Marvel (née Ms. Marvel) -- makes the dramatic decision to leave both the Earth and a new relationship and venture into outer space. Her mission, which includes returning a stranded alien girl to her home planet, leads to a team up with the Guardians of the Galaxy. DeConnick’s iconic run has been going for several years now, and she’s built Danvers from a second -string Avenger into a strong and fully developed superhero -- one who cares deeply for humanity, maintains a high ethical standard, and doesn’t hesitate to use her physical strength and enhanced abilities for good. It’s no surprise that this version of the character has inspired a passionate fanbase known as ‘Carol Corps,’ which is likely to grow exponentially with the recent announcement of an upcoming Captain Marvel film. DeConnick’s brisk writing combined with Lopez’s crisp and colorful art makes for a fast-paced and fun read. Doctorow, Cory (auth.) and Jen Wang (illus.). In Real Life. First Second, 2014. 192p. 978-1596436589. Having recently moved to a new state, teenaged Anda finds identity and solace playing as a fearless warrior on her favorite massively-multiplayer role playing game Coarsegold. She is recruited by another player to hunt and kill in-game gold farmers, who work 12-hour shifts in sweatshops in developing countries to break the game rules to harvest and sell to wealthy players. Anda soon befriends a particular gold farmer and must learn how to navigate her personal ethics, coping with cultural differences in a global environment, political activism, and the consequences of good intentions that can lead to bad results. Wang’s artwork is a revelation. The weight and balance of Anda’s real word with its murky and glum colors are in sharp contrast to Anda’s rich and colorful game life and her idealized warrior form. All in all, a wonderful and thoughtful look at our modern world, and the power and reach of online communication. Gownley, Jimmy. The Dumbest Idea Ever! Graphix, 2014. 240p. 978-0545453479. This autobiographical comic tells the story of how and why Gownley, author of the popular Amelia Rules series, became a teen comic book writer and author. While self -publishing and becoming locally famous, Gownley also bumbles through typical adolescent challenges, such as first love and growing up in a small town. Gownley’s love of comics and appreciation for his family, teachers and peers is evident in his retelling of his youth, and his art is precise with a nostalgic color palette. A must read for the aspiring artists. Montclare, Brandon (auth.) and Amy Reeder (illus.). Rocket Girl vol. 1: Times Squared. Image Comics, 2014. 120p. 978-1632150554. DeYoung Johansson, a teenage cop from the far-flung future of 2014, travels back in time to 1986 New York City to investigate a series of time crimes that seem to point back toward 2014’s most powerful corporation. The fish-out-of-water humor of DeYoung adjusting to her new 20th Century surroundings is amusing, but the real star here is Reeder’s dynamic art. From her open, manga-inflected character work to her searing full page action scenes, Reeder’s fully brings us into a neon world populated by fun, capable characters. Flip through this once and you’ll be sold. Tamaki, Mariko (auth.) and Jillian Tamaki (illus.). This One Summer. First Second, 2014. 320p. 978- 1596437746. In this gorgeous, lyrical graphic novel, the creators of 2008’s Skim deliver another moving coming-of-age tale. Two young teen girls, Rose and Windy, have spent every summer that they can remember together in
  5. 5. the quiet lakeside town of Awago where each of their parents rent cabins. This summer though, their simple girlhood games don’t seem to satisfy Rose as her parents fraying marriage takes a toll on their family, and her own young adulthood looms just around the corner. Instead of goofing around, Rose is more interested in the dramas of the group of townie teens that hang around the local convenience store, putting strain on her friendship with Windy. This simple story casts a perfect melancholy mood, contrasting the timelessness of summer with a childhood that is quickly running out. Mariko’s deft characterizations and pitch-perfect dialogue are matched by her cousin Jillian’s beautiful images. You’ll remember the heat of the sun, the shock of the cool water from a jump in the lake, and the singular sensation that summer will never end. Tynion IV, James (auth.) and Michael Dialynas (illus.). The Woods, vol. 1. BOOM! Studios, 2014. 96p. 978- 1608864546. When an entire high school is transported from Wisconsin to a strange alien world, the students and staff all respond in different ways, occasionally at deadly odds with one another. While a conflict heats up between the student government and a school administration desperate to retain control, a small group of students escape to confront the mysterious creatures in the woods around the school to . The student body is filled out with the requisite jocks, nerds, and trouble-makers, but the characterizations and diverse character designs by Dialynas keep the characters from coming off as stock. What’s most impressive is the palpable sense of danger that runs through the story. Unlike many other teen “horror” titles, The Woods is far from bloodless and at times is downright terrifying. This first volume is all set-up and ends on a cliffhanger, but it’s sure to make a few converts. Wilson, G. Willow (auth.) and Adrian Alphona. Ms. Marvel vol. 1: No Normal. Marvel Comics, 2014. 120p. 978-0785190219. Kamala Khan is a Pakistani American teenage nerd. She’s obsessed with superheroes and carefully balances the expectations imposed on her by her Muslim family while pining for the freedom of secular American teens. One night she sneaks out to attend a party and encounters an alien force that gives her incredible powers. Inspired by the heroic Carol Danvers -- an Avenger who recently dropped the “Ms.” from her name to go by Captain Marvel (see above) -- Kamala takes up the Ms. Marvel mantle and tries to add “superhero” to her swirling constellation of identities. Like Brian Michael Bendis’ Ultimate Comics: Spider- Man stories featuring Miles Morales, Ms. Marvel brings us a rousing story of a kid grappling with an outsider identity while trying to live up to the legacy of a great superhero. Buoyed by warm characterizations from novelist Wilson and occasionally surreal art by Alphona (of Runaways fame), this is beautiful, inspiring stuff that reminds us why we read superhero comics in the first place. Yang, Gene Luen (auth.) and Sonny Liew. The Shadow Hero. First Second, 2014. 176p. 978-1596436978. Author Yang reimagines Chu Hing’s 1940’s superhero the Green Turtle -- long suspected to be the first Asian American superhero -- as a definitively Chinese superhero, born and raised in a Bay Area Chinatown to immigrant parents. Hank Chu wants to grow up to be just like his Dad and run the neighborhood grocery store; but eventually he dons a mask and adapts a secret identity to fight racism and injustice. Strong female characters provide key motivations in the development of the Green Turtle, particularly Chu’s strong-willed and unhappy mother. The entire book is infused with humor while grappling with issues such as immigration, class and identity. Yang’s trademark elements of magical realism and Chinese fantasy are
  6. 6. also incorporated cleverly into the story. Liew’s artwork is fluid and action -packed with a nostalgic color scheme. Adult Brown, Box. Andre the Giant: Life and Legend. First Second, 2014. 240 p. 978-1596438514. Andre Roussimoff, better known professionally as Andre the Giant, grew up in the French countryside before becoming an international professional wrestler and of the modern film classic The Princess Bride. Weighing in at over five hundred pounds, Roussimoff suffered from acromegaly, a syndrome that causes extreme growth. His condition caused him great discomfort and constant pain, yet he was a dedicated professional who worked non-stop at the expense of familial relationships —until his death at forty-six. Brown does an outstanding job conveying the excitement and drama of professional wrestling, and it is clear that he has exhaustively researched Roussimoff. His affection for Roussimoff specifically (and wrestling in general) is evident, yet he does not sentimentalize him. Roussimoff drank constantly, mistreated his friends and fans, only saw his daughter four times, and long denied her mother child support despite his wealth. Despite these personal faults, Brown still celebrates Rousimoff as a star and acknowledges the joy he brought to his fans and colleagues. Brown's artwork is spare and clean yet captures the energy and drama of a man who was literally larger-than-life. Brubaker, Ed (auth.) and Steve Epting. Velvet, Vol. 1: Before the Living End. Image Comics, 2014. 128p. 978-1607069645. Velvet Templeton was a successful spy who retired from fieldwork and took a position working in an unassuming administrative position. But when she is framed for the murder of a well -placed senior agent, she is sent on the run to clear her name. Epting’s painterly art is perfection -- refined, atmospheric and grounding Brubaker’s fast-paced writing and action-packed storytelling. Chast, Roz. Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant?: A Memoir. Bloomsbury USA, 2014. 240p. 978-1608198061. Celebrated New York Times staff cartoonist Roz Chast breaks new ground with this graphic memoir, which was shortlisted for the National Book Award. With honesty and humor, Chast relates her experience of the last few years of her parents’ lives. By presenting the practical worries, the stubborn fights, the bitter frustrations, and the mounting concerns for their health, Chast offers a “warts -and-all” account of her parents decline that is all the more moving for being so honest. The last few pages about her mom -- where Chast’s comics give way to a series of sketches of her mother in a hospital bed -- are a stunner. Given our culture’s reluctance and to talk honestly about death it is refreshing to have a book on the topic that is so inviting and so moving. One of those Very Important Books that should have a long shelf -life. Fraction, Matt (auth.) and Chip Zdarsky (illus.). Sex Criminals: One Weird Trick. Image Comics, 2014. 126p. 978-1607069461 Suzie and Jon meet and hook up at a party, only to discover they share a special talent: the ability to stop time when they orgasm. Now that they’ve discovered each other, they decide to use their powers for good: robbing banks in order to save the local library. Too bad the Sex Police are hot on their trail and about to cause Suzie and Jon some serious trouble. This is a filthy, funny, and powerful comic about the joys and
  7. 7. wonders of relationships. Fraction gets the nuances of all the relationships just right, whether it be parental, friendship or a budding romance. Zdarsky’s artwork is transcendent. His use of live models for Suzie and Jon adds an authenticity to the series, and the sex scenes are always handled respectfully. His covers and his depiction of the ‘refractory period’ when time has stopped are particularly gorgeous whi le his background panel gags are hilarious and plentiful. This is a don’t miss title. Johnston, Antony (auth.) and Justin Greenwood (illus.). The Fuse, Vol. 1: The Russia Shift. Image Comics, 2014. 160p. 978-1632150080. The Fuse starts off looking like a standard police procedural: the new guy shows up for the night shift and he and his gruff partner, a veteran of the force, are immediately thrust into a complicated homicide case where nothing is as it seems. Of course, it takes place on a space station orbiting Earth. The mash-up of noir and science fiction with a dash of political thriller drives both the story and the art, both of which are sharp and dramatic. The fast-moving plot and intriguing cast of characters make for an engrossing read. Pond, Mimi. Over Easy. Drawn and Quarterly, 2014. 272p. 978-1770461536. In this semi-autobiographical tale, Margaret is forced to drop out of art school due to a lack of financial aid and needs a job. Soon she is a working waitress at the Imperial Cafe (which Oaklanders will recognize as Mama’s Royal Cafe on Broadway!), where she is takes the name Madge and enters a world romantic entanglements, casual drug use, and Pink Squirrel cocktails. Pond’s singular green palette adds to both the nostalgia of the late 1970’s and the diner aesthetic of the comic, while her hand -lettering and art create an intimate reading experience. She spent 15 years creating this book and that care and dedication show through on every page. Rucka, Greg (auth.) and Michael Lark (illus.). Lazarus. Image Comics. 2013-present. Ongoing. The divides between classes have never been sharper than in the dystopian vision of Lazarus. Sixteen families control more than 99% of the world’s resources, leaving… well, everyone else to fight over the scraps. Each family maintains their own “Lazarus,” a nearly invulnerable technically modified soldier who acts as the head of security and deadly enforcer. Forever is the Lazarus for the Carlyle family, and she has just discovered a deadly plot that threatens to tear them apart. Will she do what’s right in a world where so much is wrong? Rucka’s writing is -- as usual -- smart, sensitive, and angry as hell. His nightmarish vision of ultimate inequality is perfectly matched by Lark’s sophisticated and realistic art. Forever is one of the best - designed characters in all of comics, realistically communicating strength, intelligence, and vulnerability thanks to Lark’s flawless command of the human form. One. 2013. 96p. 978-1607069454. Two. 2014. 104p. 978-1607068716 Soule, Charles (auth.) and Javier Pulido (illus.). She-Hulk, Vol. 1: Law and Disorder. Marvel Comics, 2014. 978-0785190196. She-Hulk is Jennifer Walters: an oversized, green-skinned lawyer, who works as an Avenger in her spare time. In this relaunch of her solo title, many of the chapters are stand-alone stories involving the greater Marvel universe as She-Hulk starts a new private practice, while an overarching story surrounding the mysterious ‘Blue File’ simmers in the background. Pulido’s art is distinctively flat and colorful, playing up
  8. 8. She-Hulk’s enormous strength and stature. Throughout, energetic action sequences are balanced by quieter, humorous moments of her professional life. A stand-out superhero title in a year of breakout relaunches. Tiwary, Vivek (auth.), Andrew C. Robinson (illus.) and Kyle Baker (illus.). The Fifth Beatle: The Brian Epstein Story. Dark Horse, 2013. 144p. 978-1616552565. This is the story behind the story of the biggest band ever, as well as a sensitive, personal tale about the harsh reality of facing isolation in a society that doesn’t accept you. Brian Epstein was a budding young record store mogul when he heard the Fab Four and KNEW that they had a huge future that he was going to be a part of. Epstein became the band’s first manager and this graphic novel tells of their meteoric rise in the Swingin’ Sixties… but that’s only half the story. The other half painfully illuminates Epstein’s struggles suppressing and hiding his homosexuality at a time when anti -gay laws were strictly enforced in England. Epstein’s personal struggles poignantly counterpoint the carefree fun of seeing the biggest band in the world come into its own. The book is feverishly drawn by Andrew C. Robinson (with an assist from the legendary Kyle Baker), whose surrealist flourishes expose the human heart of this larger than life story. Wiebe, Kurtis (auth.) and Roc Upchurch. Rat Queens: Sass and Sorcery. Image Comics, 2014. 128p. 978- 1607069454. This self-aware, hyperviolent, and utterly hilarious riff on the swords and sorcery genre centers on a team of bawdy lady adventurers who would rather get drunk, get laid, and brawl then save the town from goblins. But when mysterious assassins start picking off other guilds, the Rat Queens have to get to the bottom of the conspiracy against them, and fight of f an orc army. Much eyeball-stabbing ensues. Rat Queens is ridiculous fantasy fun, but what makes it special are the deeply developed characters. Each of the Queens feels like a living, breathing person, with sharp dialogue and believable relationships, brought to life through Upchurch’s brilliantly expressive pencils. It’s a rare book that can deliver a diverse cast of lovable women alongside action and uproarious humor, but Rat Queens puts it all together effortlessly.