By Chabouté. Illus. by the author.
Tr. by Ivanka Hahnenberger.
July 2017. 384p. Gallery 13, paper, $25
A deformed man lives out a solitary existence in a lighthouse in the middle of the
ocean. There he opens the dictionary at random every day and lets the
words he finds engage his
vivid imagination. When a
sailor on the weekly supply
boat leaves an unexpected
message and the words of
the lonely man’s dictionary start showing an eerie
connection to his circumstances, he begins to confront his solitude as
he never has before. An official selection of the
prestigious Angoulême International Comics
Festival in its native France, almost 10 years
ago, Alone offers a glimpse through a window into a vastly different visual-storytelling
culture. This is a narrative style that affords
9 pages to pick, panel by panel, through the
details of a single room, and in which the
main character doesn’t even appear until page
109. In a nearly silent story, Chabouté uses
acute detail and tactile, sensual black lines
to carve an expansive vision from confined
spaces and draws a deep emotional reservoir
from simple actions, tiny moments, and small
gestures. This kind of pacing and focus creates
resonant, textured space, both physical and
emotional, and turns a story filled with gothic
trappings into something strikingly poignant.
YA: Teens ready to engage with a
more thoughtfully paced comic than
they’re probably used to will find ample
connection in Alone’s exploration of
A Castle in England.
By Jamie Rhodes. Illus. by Isaac
Lenkiewicz and others.
Aug. 2017. 130p. Nobrow, $19.95 (9781910620199).
Author Rhodes spent three months liv-
ing in Scotney Castle, originally built in
fourteenth-century Kent, England, as a
writer-in-residence. There, he delved into the
castle’s extensive records, researching the for-
mer Scotney inhabitants who would become
the basis for this graphic novel’s five histori-
cally inspired stories, each illustrated by a
different artist. The chronologically ordered
stories address periods of significance to the
castle and its country, beginning with the in-
fluence of the Peasant Revolt of 1381 on the
laborers who built Scotney and ending with
the castle’s Edwardian-era residents’ deal-
ings in class, gender, and world exploration.
The stories share a black- or sepia-and-white
base, and each is accented in a different and
appropriately bloody or muted shade of or-
angey pink, giving the otherwise varying
pieces a certain uniformity. Rhodes precedes
each story with a pertinent family tree of ac-
tual castle residents and follows each one with
pages of historical context and factual Scot-
ney background, which adds significantly to
the comprehension of each episode, as well as
their sum total. —Annie Bostrom
The Customer Is Always Wrong.
By Mimi Pond. Illus. by the author.
Aug. 2017. Drawn & Quarterly, $24.95 (9781770462823).
Continuing the fictionalized memoir she
began with Over Easy (2014), Pond follows
cartoonist-waitress Madge and her motley
crew of coworkers at Oakland’s Imperial
Cafe in the 1970s and early ’80s. Madge
decides that once she saves $2,000, she’ll be
able to move to New York City and finally
take her art more seriously. There are boosts,
like when National Lampoon runs a couple
of her cartoons or some coke-fueled new
friends buy her work. But there are setbacks,
too, like when she helps a friend in need.
More constant than her bank balance is the
infuriating, and often dangerous, excitement
Madge can count on from her Imperial family: poet-manager Lazlo, beautiful junkie
Camille, and outspoken transvestite Babette,
among others. Using black and white with
expressive green shading, Pond draws her
characters with open and emotive faces
against detailed, depth-filled backgrounds.
Striking a tender balance of humor and hard
topics—addiction, loss, and what it means
to live a creative life—Pond also leaves room
for a next installment, which readers will
cheer for. —Annie Bostrom
The Goal: A Business Graphic Novel.
By Dwight Jon Zimmerman and others.
Illus. by Dean Motter.
Aug. 2017. 140p. North River, paper, $25
(9780884272076); e-book, $19.95 (9780884272823).
Forget PowerPoint. Graphic novels like The
Goal teach much less tediously. It’s a comics
adaptation of a seven-million-copy best-seller
by management guru Eliyahu M. Goldratt,
first published in 1984. The thesis is this: it’s
not enough to install high-performance gear.
You have to see how new gizmos affect pro-
duction and adjust the process to assure best
use, even if that means supplementing the
new with what it replaced (as happens in the
story here). Find the production bottlenecks
that make for too much inventory of some
things and lagging order-fulfillment of others.
There are always constraints in the system that
should be not just alleviated but exploited to
meet the everlasting business goal—making
more money. These ideas come to life when
a plant manager facing closure consults his
favorite old business-school prof, often, and
uses the counsel received to prod himself
and his staff to examine operations conscien-
tiously and analytically. Zimmerman assures
that the message doesn’t fog over, and Mot-
ter, a designer-artist responsible for the 1980s
visual reboot of action comics, makes it look
marvelous. —Ray Olson
Going into Town: A Love Letter to New
By Roz Chast. Illus. by the author.
Oct. 2017. 176p. Bloomsbury, $28 (9781620403211).
Following her acclaimed graphic memoir,
Can’t We Talk about Something More Pleasant?
(2014), which movingly depicted the declining years of her irascible parents, New Yorker
cartoonist Chast turns a similarly loving yet
jaundiced eye on Manhattan. A native Brooklynite, Chast decamped for suburbia upon
having children. But when her daughter started college in the Big Apple, Chast created a
personal guide to help her fall in love with the
city the way her mother had as a child; that
booklet blossomed into this full-blown book.
Chast applies her appealingly shaggy drawing
style and ever-so-slightly skewed worldview
to New York’s subways, museums, ethnic
restaurants, and other attributes. Her democratizingly unkempt drawings make the wares
of the “Millionaires’ Wives’ Dress Hut” look
just as scruffy as the bag lady on the subway
and the scavenging pigeons. But much of the
heavy lifting here comes through her hand-lettered prose, in which Chast expresses her
clear-eyed yet heartfelt love for “the only place
that I’ve been where I feel, in some strange
way, that I fit in.” —Gordon Flagg
The Good Earth.
By Nick Bertozzi and Pearl S. Buck. Illus.
by Nick Bertozzi.
July 2017. 144p. Simon & Schuster, $26.99
Award-winner Bertozzi turns his attention
to Pearl Buck’s Pulitzer Prize–winning modern
classic. Set in China during the early twentieth century, Buck’s cautionary tale follows the
life of Wang Lung, a poor farmer who uses a
small plot of land to slowly build a massive
amount of wealth, property, and power during his lifetime. His happiness and gratitude,