Check out this month’s staff picks from the Betty’s Books crew!
September Staff Picks!
Tom Gauld returns with his wittiest and most trenchant collection of literary cartoons to date. Some particularly favored targets of this collection includes the pretentious, procrastinating novelist, the commercial mercenary of the dispassionate editor, and the willful obscurantism of the vainglorious poet. Quake in the presence of the stack of bedside books as it grows taller! Gnash your teeth at the ever-moving deadline that the writer never meets! Seethe with envy at the paragon of creative productivity!
The art style of these comics is so clean and wide appealing, perfectly carrying out Gauld’s punchlines. The strips are witty and have tons of cultural references, from game of thrones to famous literature, leaving no one out from the impeccable timing of Gauld’s jokes. This is a great read for the English teachers or true book lovers in your life, and it really elevates comics for the academics while still remaining funny to us unread fools.
Doctor Strange: Fall Sunrise is a dreamy, drippy deep dive into the fantastical mind of Tradd Moore, author of Silver Surfer: Black, among other titles. With vibrant color work from Heather Moore, this book oozes off the page in perfect liquid fluidity, resulting in what I can confidently say is a comic book that any graphic novel enthusiast would enjoy, regardless of their affinity for superheroes. As a person who typically falls into that category, I found myself sitting in awe by the end of the story, definitively placing Fall Sunrise into my top reads of the whole year.
Crack open the book to any random page and you’re guaranteed to see a jaw-dropping spread. However, Moore’s illustrations, while shockingly beautiful, aren’t just for show. The further I went, the more impressed I became with exquisite panel work and a satisfyingly mysterious story that went to fantastical angles of the universe, while feeling all the while grounded in our protagonist’s inner thoughts and feelings. I’ve never been a huge fan of the Doctor Strange movies, nor attached to the character, but this iteration allowed me to connect to him to a surprising degree. His empathy and love for those around him felt visceral at times, bringing what could have been too abstract a comic back to the perfect middle ground.
Some pages reminded me a bit of the Sandman series with their incorporation of mythical and familial lore, along with art style shifts to match, which proves even further Moore’s visual talents. He clearly has a preferred method, but isn’t afraid to dip into new aesthetics if it suits the scene. There’s a particular two-page spread that I loved, which is decidedly word-heavy with a medieval slant that suddenly feels very Canterbury-esque.
I could clearly go on and on about this masterpiece (and hey, I don’t throw that word around lightly), but for both our sakes I’ll leave it here: JUST READ IT!!!
Here’s a literary graphic novel that combines the dysfunction and fantasticalness of a Wes Anderson film like Royal Tenenbaums and Moonrise Kingdom with stunning visuals in the vein of Henri Matisse and with some essential French je ne se quoi. The story begins when Juliette decides to leave Paris for a long holiday in her hometown in hopes of reconnecting with family and the chance to relax. When she arrives home, she finds things as anxiety-inducing as they were back in the city. Her sister is having an affair with a costume salesperson; her mother is dating a string of new age men; and her father can’t sleep and eats a lot of ham. It’s a mess. Meanwhile, she meets a local regular at a sad bar in town and falls into a romance catalyzed by a sweet baby duck.
Even though the characters are deeply flawed and often absurd, Jourdy never encourages us to laugh AT them. Instead we laugh at the absurdity of their situation, and hope for the best for them. Her incredible character design is a big part of that. Characters that have “ugly” features are tenderly rendered. I was also impressed with how she drew the little boy, Lucas. I find that a lot of comics artists have difficulty capturing how small children look and move. They tend to draw them as miniature adults. Jourdy absolutely nailed it in portraying the wild energy and coziness of a little guy.
This book made me laugh, tear up, feel melancholic, and feel hopeful. I also almost gasped at a couple of the gorgeous full-page spreads. Just look at the cover of the book to get a taste of the visual delights you are in for. I recommend this book for anyone who loves tales of a dysfunctional family, francophiles, people who like to marinate in breathtaking art, and Wes Anderson fans. This one is intended for the over 18 crowd (there’s some light nudity and over-imbibing).
What does the Man of Steel do after the world is saved? He eats at all his favorite Japanese restaurants, of course. This weird/interesting/introspective manga interpretation by Satoshi Miyagawa is a compelling and fun read, and all that really happens is Superman eats some beautifully detailed Japanese cuisine while he just questions his day-to-day life. For fans of manga that want to dip their toes into superheroes and vice versa, check out this SUPERMANga (I’m sorry).
This new picture book by Adam Rex is about the joy of obnoxious love. The kind of love only aunties are capable of.
Maybe you’re a niece or nephew. Maybe you are an aunt, uncle, or grandparent. Regardless of who you are in your family, we all know what it’s like to love someone from a distance. When we finally get to see one another in person, we’ve got to pack in as much love and connection as possible. We discover so much has changed and we’ve missed so many things. Family visits can be overwhelming- there’s so much family, family, FAMILY! Yet, when the visit is over and everyone heads home, something feels missing, and we remember how much we are loved.
This all too familiar experience is brought to life through Lian Cho’s colorful and energetic illustrations. Every page is bursting with the auntie’s love and excitement for their niece, really bringing to life the whirlwind of extended family “storming” one’s peaceful routine.
The icing on the cake- Adam and Lian’s depiction of the aunties. These aren’t your gray haired old lady stereotypes. These are vibrant diverse aunties, reminding us that the people who love us come in all shapes and sizes. How amazing that they take time away from their own complex lives to be with us.
Scott Pilgrim is Bryan’s classic summary of life in a small, midwestern town. Scott Pilgrim got big, and Bryan found himself in Los Angeles. Snotgirl is about the very different types of people in LA. Fame oriented, a bit self-centered, and well dressed. Snotgirl explores the reality and loneliness of fame, mental illness, sexuality, unrequited love, and a still-unfurling mystery so good I changed my name.
This manga is an all-time favorite of mine and a definite read for anyone who knows anime and manga culture! It’s a comedic yet heartwarming story about two nerds/past childhood friends dating while enjoying their favorite hobbies together. If you’re looking for cute romance without the heartbreak, and love Japanese fan culture, then this is the pick for you!