Adam Suerte’s Aprendíz is a memoir comic about the artist’s apprenticeship as a tattoo artist. It’s part artistic coming-of-age tale, part behind-the-scenes look at the craft and business of tattooing. Throughout, Suerte reveals himself to be a gifted cartoonist who incorporates styles and techniques of tattoo art into his pages without ever sacrificing clarity—no easy feat—and he is an engaging, self-depracating guide to his own story.
Is “Am I Emo?” comics? poetry? both? neither? The answer is not obvious but it probably depends on your own notions of what “comics”, “poetry”, and visual storytelling are. If this comic makes you question your assumptions a bit, then maybe it’s already proved its value.
Alexey Sokolin’s investigation of the act of drawing is made entirely of hatching lines, scribbles, swooping lines, and, way down beneath it all, hints of representative imagery. It almost looks like what began as a conventional comic mutated as the marks and lines broke free of the images. It’s also interesting the way the comic can read either as a six page comic, a series of six drawings (a sextich?), or six iterations of the same page being increasingly overwhelmed with line.
There are several things I love about Rasl aside from it being an ambitious, well-told, exciting sci-fi noir adventure (as if that wasn’t enough). It’s published in a gorgeous large format in glamorous black and white, it’s dangerous and sexy, and it’s by Jeff Smith, most famous for Bone, which is now seen as a kids’ comic (not the original intention, but it works). I love that Jeff broke his own mold with this definitely for-adults work.
Josh Simmons’ “Jesus Christ” is a wordless mash-up of Bizarro-world parable and monster movie. With no narration or further context, a ball of fire lands in the middle of a sprawling metropolis. From it emerges a mute, centaur-like giant who proceeds to lay waste to the city and its populace. The storytelling is fluid and dynamic, and Simmon’s ability to convey the enormity of the monster is bracing. Simmons deliberately mixes elements from different mythologies to defy any obvious reading. In the end, all we have before us is this escstatic Kali-Godzilla-Centaur with a halo of fire and a title to provoke us.
Anuj Shrestha’s “American Cat” uses a visual strategy taken from Art Spiegelman’s Maus to paint a sad, bitter portrait of the lives of bottom-of-the-rung immigrants. The ending takes an unexpected turn that is more devastating than the violent (but more facile) conclusion you might be expecting.
Satellite CMYK is a sci-fi tale of a bewildering multi-level world, where people’s lives are controlled by a big “them,” and a “Rebel Alliance” works to undo their control. Three men, possibly clones, their lives depicted in monochrome, are assaulted on the same day for a mysterious transfer.
Usagi Yojimbo presents a difficulty for us as editors of BAC. Every issue is strong, and they form such a tapestry when read one after another that it’s difficult to pull out any one bit and say, “this is the best Usagi.” “Traitors of the Earth” has the advantage of being a relatively short, self-contained story, and “Saya” is even more so. Both are compulsively readable, and good places to start if you’re not already reading the series.
Jan was in an accident and has a trade-in robot body while his real one is in the shop. It might be connected to terrorists. That’s the crux. But it’s also drawn with great elegance in pen and ink wash, and told in a naturalistic, confident, cinematic mode. The dialogue is strong and believable. It’s just a stand-out all around, and I hope there’s more where this came from.
Jesse Reklaw’s Ten Thousand Things To Do gives you an over-the-shoulder look at the day-to-day life of a cartoonist of a certain age and it’s not very glamorous, though the existence of the very work itself is a testament to the passion Jesse brings to cartooning.
FIRST SECOND is an imprint of Roaring Brook Press / Macmillan USA. Macmillan owns some of America's most prestigious publishers, known for great integrity and literary quality. These include Henry Holt, FSG, St Martin's Press, Tor and Picador, all of which have garnered the most coveted prizes in publishing.