HOW TO BE HAPPY
Eleanor Davis (writer/artist). Fantagraphics. $24.99. Hardcover. Color. 152 Pages.
How To Be Happy collects some of some of Eleanor Davis' most important and moving work in one gorgeous hardcover by Fantagraphics. Davis, long known for her insightful and emotionally gutting short stories, brings together a strong selection that will leave readers aching for more. There's a haunting and almost disturbing quality to Davis' work -- in both idea and execution -- that cuts to the heart of very serious subjects with a hypnotic ruthlessness. So vast is Davis' talent and approach to storytelling that a casual flip through the book might lead readers to believe this was a collection by many creators, not just one. It's simply all the fantastic sides of Davis on stunning display. Stories range from meticulously crafted (but simple) line drawings detailing the skinning of a fox to the lovingly illustrated sepia toned washes of "Seven Sacks" and the controlled saturated colors of "Nita Goes Home." Like a chameleon, Davis draws and approaches story in a hundred different ways. She tackles all manner of subjects and finds the perfect way to express each of them, but the beating heart is what links them all. There's an emotional resonance to these short stories that few creators can manage in twice the page time. Davis has an effortless way of distilling her messages very personally to the reader. What you bring to the table invariably determines what you take away. Davis doesn't seek to teach a cliché lesson or shame anyone, she's simply grasping for the truth, and reading her work will leave you grasping for it too. (this write up taken in part from my CBR review of the book).
Female Friendly Factor: Female creator (Davis). Many stories lead by and/or featuring women as well as many stories that will be particularly relatable to women.
Scott Snyder (writer). Sean Murphy (artist). Matt Hollingsworth (colorist). Vertigo. $24.99. Hardcover. Colors. 256 pages.
Scott Snyder and Sean Murphy’s 2014 Eisner Award Winning The Wake is a highly engrossing insanely detailed sci-fi horror epic is not to be missed and collected in one place in hardcover form may be the best possible way to read (or re-read) it. Snyder and Murphy’s mini-series spans literally millions of years and is ambitious in every way but thanks to Murphy’s miraculous world-building and Snyder’s boldness the story is unlike any other. As always with Snyder, there’s a delicious darkness and one fitting of the apocalyptic tale. Hollingsworth’s colors are also a particularly bright spot in the series, as they’re incredibly smart and well-considered from a world building perspective and yet evocative and emotional too.
Female Friendly Factor: The two leads – Dr. Lee Archer and Leeward are both badass ladies.
VELVET VOLUME 1
Ed Brubaker (writer). Steve Epting (artist). Elizabeth Breitweizer (colorist). Image Comics. $9.99. Softcover. Color. 128 Pages.
Collecting the first five issues of Ed Brubaker and Steve Epting’s wonderful Velvet series, a brutal period spy story with an older female lead, who is (miracle of miracles) actually drawn that way (i.e. as an older character). This kind of lead is shockingly rare but Brubaker and Epting need not rely on that novelty because the book is just damn good regardless. Smart and intense, gorgeously rendered and with some of the best colors I’ve ever seen by Elizabeth Breitweizer, the book is a delight. Velvet, instead of being the perfect flawless super agent is actually plenty flawed, both emotionally and as she tries to utilize her rusty skills when thrown back into the field on the run after years at a desk. At the same time she is magnificently capable and all her wins feel incredibly earned. This book also has one of the best and smartest fight scenes I’ve seen in comics in just this side of forever, no small feat given comics are a medium with a whole hell of a lot of fight scenes to choose from.
Female Friendly Factor: Female Creator (Breitweizer). Unconventional female lead in Velvet Templeton and a few good supporting female characters.
DEADLY CLASS VOLUME 1: REAGAN YOUTH
Rick Remender (writer). Wes Craig (artist). Lee Loughridge (colorist). Image Comics. $9.99. Softcover. Color. 160 Pages.
Collecting the first six issues of Rick Remender, Wes Craig, and Lee Loughridge’s Deadly Class this book is not for everyone but is DEFINITELY for those with a whole lot of nostalgia for the 80’s. The concept -- an underground high school in the 1980’s for gifted youngsters, that trains them to be assassins -- is worth its weight in gold. And since it’s a creator owned book from Image, creators Remender and Craig are free to cut completely loose. They pull no punches, whether it be sex, violence, or drug use, and the book is all the better and more real for it. Craig’s art is a particular delight, giving the book a look that feels both retro/80’s appropriate and also somehow new and modern. It’s a smart and impressive balance well struck. The issues in which the group goes on a road trip and our lead ends up in a crazy drug induced nightmare haze is both Remender’s funniest bits and Craig and Loughridge’s most impressive, innovative, and ballsy visual work.
Female friendly factor: Some seriously interesting female characters, including the biggest badass in the whole book.
And in the shameless self promotion category... STORYKILLER - A prose novel by Kelly Thompson (aka yours truly!) and the hardcover edition includes illustrations by some of comics greatest artists - Stephanie Hans, Ross Campbell, Meredith McClaren, Kris Anka, Noelle Stevenson, Dustin Nguyen, Rebekah Isaacs, Stacey Lee, Declan Shalvey, Ben Caldwell, Jake Wyatt, Brett Weldele, Renae De Liz, Matthew Southworth, Thomas Boatwright, Caanan Grall, Cassandra James, Ming Doyle, and Kyla Vanderklugt. Limited edition signed hardcovers (and all sorts of awesome extras) are on sale now. Female friendly factor: Female creators, a female lead, and a strong female supporting cast! 'Natch ;)
So, that's my list of things to give and things to get in 2014...what are you giving and asking for this year? Sound off in the comments!
Kelly Thompson is a freelance writer living in Manhattan. She is the author of the superhero novel THE GIRL WHO WOULD BE KING recently optioned to become a film, and her new novel STORYKILLER is out now. She is also writing the forthcoming Jem and The Holograms comic from IDW. You can find Kelly all over the place, but twitter may be the easiest: @79semifinalist