This week I have teamed up with my friend and colleague Tess to bring you some of our favourite new graphic novels – a form of storytelling we are incredibly passionate about here at Mr B’s. She is very much the expert and I am the imposter but I have recently had my eyes opened to the possibility of graphic novels to tell stories in a really innovative way.
Carmen Maria Machado’s debut graphic novel, Low, Low Woods, is no exception from her previous two books in that it’s genre exploding. Set in a rural American town, El and Octavia are run off the road by an elk with the face of a woman, are smothered by skinless men, and hunted by human-eyed rabbits. This story runs much deeper than the monsters on its pages. As the fires rage in the town’s mines, the town women’s memories begin to also flagrate; throughout the town screams ring out from a utopian resort, once an insane asylum – this is all very normal to the town’s people.
Machado, DaNi and Tamra Bonvillain blend gorgeous artwork and seamless storytelling to expose the fallibility of truth and memory. A perfect Halloween pick for those looking for a story of true terror.
For a bloody story of murder, madness, and revolution, look no further than Little Bird by Darcy van Poelgeest, Ian Bertram, and Matt Hollingsworth, newly collected into one intricately illustrated graphic novel of violent revenge. In post-apocalyptic Canada, Little Bird has been left to find Axe, a mythical warrior who might just turn the tide of the revolt against the New State. The religious orthodoxy may be too on-the-nose for some, but the sheer audacity of the art and head splitting, ruthless energy of our protagonist had me rooting for her until the very end.
Flake by Matthew Dooley is just incredible. I can’t remember the last time I laughed so hard at a book. We follow Howard, an ice cream seller trying to keep his van financially viable amid furious competition from an ice-cream cartel that rules much of the territory in the small northern town. But there is a twist to this story of battling ice cream men; Howard’s nemesis is his half-brother Tony – and these two have a lot of history. This won the 2020 Bollinger Everyman Wodehouse Prize for comic writing – the first graphic novel to do so – and is reminiscent of the classic deadpan humour of tv shows like The Office and Detectorists. A gorgeous story set against humble illustrations and a perfectly dour colour palette, it is both deliciously sweet and side-splittingly funny.
Heimat by Nora Krug shows the graphic format at its strongest. Krug grew up two generations after the second world war but the effects and trauma of those events still reverberated through her family. She delves into her own family’s history to bring us this incredible memoir of shame, grief and inherited guilt. Krug’s story would be stunning enough just presented as words but her decision to mould it as a graphic memoir truly brings it to life – there are snippets of documents from the Krug family’s past, photographs, articles, files and more. It is a stunning achievement that will break your heart and then fix it time and again.