In this feature, I ask comic creators that I like a lot to recommend a great comic that they'd like to see spotlighted. They pick the comic and then I write a review of the comic (of course, this runs the risk of them picking a comic that I don't like, but there's so many great comics out there to pick from that I find it hard to believe that that will ever actually happen).
Today's creator is Jackson "Butch" Guice, awesome longtime comic book artist who has been working as a top comic book artist for roughly thirty years now, drawing top books for Marvel, DC, Dark Horse, CrossGen, Valiant and more (just a quick sampling - he was the regular artist for Micronauts, New Mutants, Iron Man, X-Factor, Action Comics, Resurrection Man, Captain America and Ruse). Jackson recommends Jillian Tamaki and Mariko Tamaki's 2014 graphic novel, This One Summer.
Released by First Second Books, This One Summer is about a girl named Rose going to the cottage she spends every summer with her parents. She has been coming to the cottage ever since she was five years old. During that time, she has always spent the summer hanging out with her friend, Windy, whose grandmother has a cottage in the same area. Windy is a year and a half younger than Rose. The two key aspects of this year's trip that makes it an interesting year to look at is the fact that there's something wrong with Rose's mother this year and more importantly, that year and a half age difference has never played as much of a role in Rose and Windy's relationship than this summer, as Rose gets pulled into the periphery of some teen drama being played out by some of the teen residents of the small town. This isn't necessarily a "coming of age" story, but this definitely highlights that strange point in a person's life where you're clearly no longer a kid but you're also not yet a teenager. You sort of have feet on both sides of the fence and it becomes more obvious when you're hanging out with someone who is firmly on the other side of the fence - the younger Windy.
Jillian Tamaki's artwork is amazingly lush. I also love the way that she uses space to control the timing of the sequences. Look at this expert use of panel arrangement to control both pace and timing...
That's just a standout job of sequential artwork. Tamaki does a great job with movement in general throughout the story.
Here's a bit where Windy demonstrates "krunking" to Rose...
Gotta love Rose's casually cruel response to Windy putting herself out there - that is such a typical tween thing to do.
The local teens are involved in a pregnancy drama and Rose finds herself drawn to the male side of the drama, siding with him even as things become clearer and clearer that he's a total jerk. Rose has accepted the fact that the girl in question is a "slut," and therefore pretty much deserves what she is getting right now. There's an excellent sequence where Windy finds the courage to basically call Rose out on her rather sexist views.
The problem with Rose's parents are the other overarching story of the series and Mariko Tamaki does a wonderful job conveying the way that parents try to keep things from their kids, but in the process, they tear away any context for the kids as to WHY their parents are acting the way they are acting. It is not to say that parents should be completely transparent about all of their problems, but perhaps more so than they often are. You get stuff where a misinformed Rose strikes out at her mother over what she PERCEIVES to be the problem, something that could have been avoided with a little more transparency.
In the end, this summer is really not a particularly dramatic one for Rose and Windy (although Rose's mother has one awesomely dramatic moment late in the trip, where Jillian Tamaki also nails the movement well). They really just watch scary movies all summer while hanging out. That's the surface of what went on, of course. Below the surface, there is a real change between Rose and Windy and things likely will never be quite the same again - but that's how life works, right? Things are never the same again - they are ALWAYS changing. Windy and Rose are still friends and likely will be next year, as well - just in a different way.
This is a great look at the life of a tween. It's almost like we're reading someone's diary.