Dealing with death is challenging. Aside from the pain we internalize from losing someone we know or love, there are several other challenges that arise. The constant asking of "are you ok?" Unsolicited thoughts or commentary of how to handle the pain. Stories which come from folks with the best of intentions which may re-traumatize the person hurting the most. Finally, constant offers of help or assistance, which may be founded in the best of intentions, while others may have ulterior motives.
All of these and more are some of the challenges Myers faces in The Down River People.
The Down River People (Archaia/Boom! Studios)
Myers has a strained relationship with his mother, because she left Myers and his father in the cold, with no reason or goodbye. Yet, she shows up the day after the wake, with an offer to help run the bar...AND THE ANNOUNCEMENT HE HAS A HALF SISTER!
Myers eventually gives in to his mother's offer to help, and travels to meet her in her new home, a fishing retreat WHICH IS A FULL ON RELIGIOUS CULT! Everything from their first meeting at the retreat makes you hope that everything in Myers life is going to improve. But after a nice evening at the bar, Myers discovers that there may be more under the surface of what's happening at the church.....
I really enjoyed this graphic novel. Normally, I can't read something that long in a single sitting. However, the story and the art kept me leaning in and begging for more. It also makes me want to buy the duo's previous work Long Walk to Valhalla.
Witnessing how Myers handled everything going on around him, while still embracing the wisdom of his father was quite beautiful. The way Fox illustrated some of the most intense moments of self discovery via the river was very powerful, and they are images which are burnt into my memory.
The final item of note is how deeply personal this story was to Smith. His one page letter at the conclusion of the story brought me to tears. You can really feel how influential his father was on him, and made me aspire to have the same sort of impact on my children, my students, and the people around me.
Also, I had no idea Adam is from KC, which fills me with hope that I can meet him when cons become a thing again, because when I pick my copy up, I'd love to get it signed!
This story will be easy to fall in love with, and I highly recommend picking it up at your LCS or ordering it, its a decision you won't regret!
I love discovering new titles from writers, artists, and/or publishers that are new-to-me. It gives me the same joy I get finding a good deal in a bargain box, a rare variant cover, or a signed book by one of your favorites. When I saw the author offering to share their work on twitter, I jumped at the chance to dig into the world of....
Broken Bear (Caliber)
This is another case of a book I may not have read or discovered had I not been clued in by someone. But, you've read my quote a dozen times by now if ever I'm asked, I'll give it a fair shake, especially if it is an independently created book. Today's graphic novel, Violet, is truly relatable content for two-to-three words which we have all experienced
Violets (Black Ocean Productions)
By: Sabir Pirzada, Eliseau Gouveia, Juha Veltti, Taylor Esposito
It's been a while since I've talked about the songs that pop into my head when I read something...but literally the whole time I was reading, or of my favorite songs from middle and high school (and I still listen to it today, to be honest) was playing in loop in my head. The classic Descendants bop just played over, and over, and over again, and I think it's mostly fitting as the storyline unfolds across the 68 pages of wonder.
I'm the One--The Descendants, Everything Sucks, 1996
Violets is driven by two primary characters: Alder (the man who is perpetually stuck in the friend zone) and Iris (the woman he is in love with, but she makes it more than clear they are just friends). After Alder pours his heart out to Iris over a cup of coffee, and it is evident by her reaction that she likes him, but not in the way he wishes. What unfolds over the next couple of pages are the five times across their lives together where Alder knew his love for Iris was different than anyone else. Then, we experience the five stages of relationship loss we can all relate to: Denial, Anger, and Depression, Depression, Depression.
Does he stay the course and attempt to slowly work his way out of the friend zone. Will he keep being a nice guy and hope and pray that Iris will finally fall in love with him naturally?
The emotional roller coaster we experience are the highs and lows of the newfound reciprocated love but suddenly Alder acknowledges something is off which takes us through a fascinating discussion of the morals and ethics of love and togetherness. The final half of the book really brings to the forefront a conversation long overdue about consent and the repercussions of forcing love to be reciprocated.
The art is quite good. The ability of the creative team to catch Alder and Iris' true feelings for one another in the opening panels. The embodiment of Alder's friend-zoning depression is reminiscent of myself at several times in my youth. The experience in the field of violets and the fake Iris is quite etherial. The moments of love and lust are as equally intense as the moments of discontent and rage. The work with the petals throughout some of the vertical spreads are creepily gorgeous. The connection between script and art is seriously on point.
What should you do?
By: David M. Brown and Dennis Coyle III
However, we discover that something odd is happening with this plague, and some of the victims appear to be possessed. As Nils struggles with what to do, we learn that his mother was infected and turned by the plague...but it might not be that simple. Was Nils' mother impregnated my some magical force of death? Is Nils in an inner turmoil as to whether he takes his newfound family calling? Does he best death and save humanity? You should...
Torsobear Vol. 1-3
By: Too Many People to List Here!
I also like that this is a book with so many creators changing things up every 8 pages, the visual trip you take and the quick jarring change from style to style really adds to my enjoyment. I loved this series, and I am still craving more.
Maybe as this sinks in, I'll add more context, but its bonkers in the best way possible!
Dead End Kids
By: Frank Gogol, Nenad Cviticanin, Sean Rinehart, Criss Madd and Paul Allor
There are four principal characters: Ben who's mother died during childbirth and his father never recovered, Tank who has a life threatening heart condition and parents who are in extreme debt, Amanda who's mother is prepping for Y2K and James who is a foster child who is struggling to adapt to a sense of normalcy with his foster parents.
After throwing an awesome birthday party for Ben, they go for a walk around the lake and immediately get in a fight with the local drug dealer they all look down upon, another neighbor runs down to get them the hell off of his property, they all return home and by the next morning, Ben, the heart and soul of the group, ends up dead in the frozen lake.
What follows is not just a heart-wrenching exploration of all of the characters' we've met pasts. But also the three remaining friends who are up for nearly anything to figure out who ended the life of their friend all-too-soon.
This is compelling, the art is fresh, and you'll ride an emotional roller coaster. While everything I've read from SPP so far is great, this might be my favorite of the three so far!
In Vitro (Humanoids, Life Drawn)
By: William Roy
Translated By: Benjamin Croze
The number of folks openly discussing fertility issues are on the rise, but it has not always been so. Infertility is something that is deeply challenging and personal, especially if you are hardwired to have children. Whenever you are dealing with these issues, it helps to have someone to talk to...but if discussions are mum or you should hide it because of shame, it only makes everything worse.
My wife and I tried for several years, with no success to have children naturally. We were resolved to have a biological child, or adopt, but we were running into unknown barriers. There were dozens of doctors appointments to determine if my wife had a blood issue, hormone issue, genetic issue etc. or if I was the source of our challenge. Several years later, we discovered my wife had a genetic anomaly, and in order for us to have a child, we would have to undergo the laborious process of In Vitro Fertilization (IVF).
William Roy's In Vitro is a very personal account of a husband and wife's quest to have a child, and the hell of dealing with the question of "when are you two going to have kids." It didn't stick with me at first as odd that this was a book written by a man (since the entire IVF process....shots, hormones, tests etc.) are all driven towards women (aside from the male donation into a cup). However, it makes sense, when the book gets deeply personal for Roy as he discusses his fertility issues (an extremely low sperm count).
This book really felt like it captured large parts of my life in 2014-15 as we were going through the process for the first time. All of the appointment, drugs, syringes, hormones etc. Everything had to be scheduled to the T, or the process could have been all for nothing. You start to see the stress impact him, until he discovers he has an ally he could turn to at work for the most important asset anyone in IVF needs, a friendly ear, and well-warranted advice.
This book is compelling, the imagery (of the pile of his family members and elders he has to unpack) is a clever way to explore the mental anguish and baggage those with fertility issues carry around. But, it is humorous when it needs to be, heartbreaking when mis-steps happen, and the whole time you wonder if Roy and his wife successfully have biological children. That, I won't spoil.
However, I would like to applaud William Roy for his book, because I believe it either gives validation to those going through IVF who need a relatable account, or if you know someone who is going through the process, it helps you see the world through their eyes (even if all IVF experiences are not created equal.....). I think this should be something anyone reads, because it helps you see the world through the eyes of folks who aren't equipped with the emotional vocabulary to discuss their fertility issues, and this helps you be a good ally in a time of need!
The journey of a 30-something father of three who's trying to break into the world of reviewing comics after a loooooong hiatus...
Rimmey is a high school history/government teacher & speech and debate coach in Kansas. He has slowly been rediscovering his love for comics since June of 2019.
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