I’m a big fan of the graphic novel. I will fight anyone who doesn’t think spending time with a graphic novel counts as reading — for any reading level from elementary to adult. It counts.
Since we started self-distancing, I’ve read three amazing — and so, so, so very different — graphic novels.
The first, All You Need is Kill, is probably the most famous of the bunch. The inspiration for the Tom Cruise/Emily Blunt movie, Edge of Tomorrow (great movie, terrible title), AYNIK tells the story of Keiji, a soldier in the United Defense Force who is about to go out and fight against “the mimics” for the first time. The alien mimics are attempting a hostile takeover of Earth, and they are winning.
In a Groundhog-Day type story, every time Keiji is killed on the battlefield, he wakes up and finds himself back to the morning before the big battle. He becomes quite the warrior, and after he pairs up with the world’s greatest soldier, Rita Vrataski, the duo seem unstoppable. Rita seems to understand what’s been happening to Keiji, but is somewhat cryptic about how he can stop repeating the day of the battle. Every new day that Keiji and Rita “meet”, their relationship changes, bringing them closer and closer together, yet we realize that both of them can’t survive in order to move forward.
It’s probably wrong of me to consider this a graphic novel — in actuality, it is a manga. But I loved it. From the very first (or last) page, the reader is immediately immersed in Keiji’s world, and the backstory is irrelevant. There’s a reason this one spawned an exciting action movie.
Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up With Me is the total opposite of All You Need is Kill. No action, no aliens, no killing. Just a confused girl trying to figure out her friendships and her dating life.
Freddie is obsessed with her girlfriend, Laura Dean. But it doesn’t really seem like Laura Dean is all that obsessed with Freddie. Laura Dean lies and cheats, but Freddie always takes her back. Freddie’s friends (and an advice columnist) all think Freddie should move on, that she should find someone more deserving of her love. But Freddie just can’t stay away from Laura Dean, no matter how badly Laura Dean treats her.
Freddie finally starts to realize that being with Laura Dean has changed her — and not for the better — when her best friend, Doodle, has a personal crisis, and Freddie isn’t there to support her or help her. I think we’ve all been Freddie at some point in our lives, and I was so happy for her when she finally figured out how to move forward and be present for her friends and family, while still being able to have love.
Finally, the weirdest graphic novel I have ever come across (yes, weirder than Saga), The Case of the Missing Men. Did I like this? I have no idea. It was strange and messed up, but so original, and I couldn’t put it down.
The official blurb:
The Case of the Missing Men is the first part of an ongoing mystery thriller set in a strange and remote East Coast village called Hobtown. The story follows a gang of young teens who have made it their business to investigate each and every one of their town’s bizarre occurrences as The Teen Detective Club (a registered afterschool program). Their small world of missing pets and shed-fires is turned upside down when real-life kid adventurer and globetrotter Sam Finch comes to town and enlists them in their first real case—the search for his missing father. In doing so, he and the teens stumble upon a terrifying world of rural secret societies, weird-but-true folk mythology, subterranean lairs, and an occultist who can turn men into dogs. The Case of The Missing Men is at turns funny, intriguing, eerie, and endearing, and is beautifully illustrated in a style reminiscent of classic children’s pulp series like Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys.
This started out creepy, with people wearing paper plate masks with faces drawn on them, and it got even weirder. Tiny, killer gnomes. Lunch ladies murdered in the school cafeteria. A bunch of men who think they are dogs. And a corrupt police department who ignore everything, leaving this case in the hands of a bunch of high school kids.
I first heard about this one when I was listening to a podcast where Jason Mantzoukas talked about all of the media he was enjoying during quarantine. He was obsessed with this graphic novel series, and was desperately trying to get it produced as a series. I love Jason, but can’t say for sure that I’ll continue with the series. The artwork — simple black and white — was a little unsettling, and the small town (in Nova Scotia?) was no place I would want to visit. But if Jason gets his wish, and finds a place to make this into a show, I’ll probably pick up the next book, simply because he’s the best.