Christmas Comic Timing

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As the year comes to an end, it’s time to take a look at a few of the most recent offerings of graphic novels and other illustrated stuff. Here we’ve collected two autobiographies—one with a bodily fluid obsessed, boozing protagonist; the other about a woman struggling to survive an oppressive regime; another thinly veiled semi-autobiography about New York punks; and a book about a kid who changes into a buff superhero in red tights with a single magic word. Comics, what’s not to love?

The Complete Persepolis
By Marjane Satrapi

Since the publication of her first Persepolis volume back in 2004, Marjane Satrapi’s autobiographical books have become a regularly name-dropped example of the medium’s potential, alongside seminal works like Art Spiegelman’s Maus and Chris Ware’s Jimmy Corrigan. It’s not tough to see why: Satrapi isn’t the most technically skilled artist in her field, but this volume, which collects all of Persepolis, in time for the holiday release of the animated film of the same name, is perhaps the most unflinchingly honest portrayal of growing up female in Iran that’s ever been committed to paper. Persepolis is as engaging as it is brave, offering a rare and entertaining glimpse into a society that is too often shrouded from the outside world.

The Fart Party
By Julia Wertz

As far as the wide world of autobiographical indie comics go, The Fart Party contains all the heart-wrenching emotional depth that its name implies, which is to say this collection of Julia Wertz’s web/mini-comic of the same name really delves much deeper than its beer guzzling, junk food gorging, four-letter word spewing surface. And you know what? In a style so often dominated by harbingers of self-importance, it’s a whiff of fresh air. Wertz’s strips are quick, easy and more often than not, fucking hilarious. Sure there are some moments of For Better or For Worse sentimentality in there, but have no fear, the next sweet ass-puke joke is a page away.

My Brain Hurts: Volume One
By Liz Baillie

For all of the artistic emphasis that accompanies counter-cultural scenes, you’d think a subculture like the world of contemporary punk would have a lot more quality to show for itself. Sure, there have been some great works to emerge from the scene, many in the form of photocopied black and white zines, but when folks echo that long-uttered sentiment that punk is dead, it’s tough not to just nod your head and move on. What once was a vibrant scene generating great works of art has largely been reduced to watered-down whines of boring teen angst and recycled mall punk. This collection of Liz Baillie’s mini-comic, My Brain Hurts, manages to invoke some of the best moments of her “ziney” forebearers, following the stories of young punks in NYC. There are moments that boarder on melodrama, to be sure, but Baillie’s work manages to effectively tap into the ups and downs that are standard issue for the teenage world.

Shazam: The Monster Society of Evil
By Jeff Smith

With his self-published, Pogo-inspired comics epic, Bone, Jeff Smith became one of the medium’s best-loved artists. It’s only fitting that, with his first major post-Bone work, the artist takes on one of comics most celebrated (if, subsequently marginalized) characters. Smith breathes new life into Captain Marvel, jump-starting his continuity, beginning with a retelling of his well-known origin story. What’s most remarkable about this collection of Smith’s four-issue mini-series, is its invocation of a time—long before stubbled antiheroes became the norm—when books about men and women flying around in tights used to be, you know, fun.

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