Author/Illustrator: Keezy Young
My rating: 5 of 5
Being a ghost, Blue had missed human interaction . . . until he found Hamal, a guy who can actually see and talk to ghosts. The two quickly become friends–okay, Blue maybe has fallen a bit in love–and the small gardening shop Hamal works at soon becomes a popular hangout for a number of lonely ghosts. But something dark is creeping into the area, and Hamal seems to be at the center of it all. How far will Blue have to go to protect the guy he cares for and the other ghosts?
Taproot was one of the most charming, refreshing stories I’ve read in a while. Originally a webcomic, it’s now available as an updated single-volume graphic novel. But yes, it has that independent, webcomic sort of feel, which is delightful. The main characters are just absolutely lovable and sweet; like, I wanted things to work out well for them right from the start. And, not to give away too many spoilers, but I promise, they do get their happy ending. The art is really nice–distinctive and attractive. I really love the mix of bright colors with dark, especially the way the panels are overlapped to provide a fade-in at certain points. It’s used well to emphasize the contrast of light and darkness in the plot itself. As for the plot, again, a good mix of feel-good fluff and eeriness that resolves well and left me feeling happy. Taproot is the perfect sort of story for when you need something short to cheer you up and make you believe in hope again.
Authors: Tom & Nimue Brown
Illustrator: Tom Brown
Hopeless, Maine, vol. 1
My rating: 3.5 of 5
Hopeless . . . both a place and a state of being on this cursed island off the coast of Maine. It is a place where the sun never shines, a place that invites demons–both metaphorical and actual. Salamandra is found alone (apart from the creepies) in a huge gothic house. Not a place to leave a child, so she is brought to an orphanage where she fits in not one bit. In her friendless state, she is approached by a smiling girl . . . whom no one else can see.
Personal Demons is not your typical graphic novel, that’s for sure. It’s more atmospheric rather than action oriented. And the atmosphere is done brilliantly. The whole setting is this eerie, dark gothic island inhabited not just by people but by all sorts of oddities that appear inspired by Hieronymus Bosch himself. The art is beautiful but atypical. (I believe this started as a webcomic, and there’s the freedom and individuality of style to this graphic novel that you would expect in a high-quality webcomic.) It’s done almost entirely in a dark monochromatic palette, barring a few flashes of brilliant color to emphasize the presence of magic (and yes, there’s definitely magic in this story). For the art, the concept, and the actualization of the concept I would have to give this book a 5 out of 5 rating. Where it fell flat for me, personally, was in the story itself. I didn’t fall in love with the characters, and the plot was not particularly original . . . thus the 3.5 instead of 5 stars. Still, Personal Demons is definitely an interesting graphic novel if only for the originality of the concept and the art–well worth giving it a try.
Author/Illustrator: Kazu Kibuishi
My rating: 5 of 5
Copper and his dog Fred have the most unusual adventures. Sometimes it’s surfing incredible waves or going fishing. Other times, they travel in space or hop across mushroom tops over a huge gorge (ignoring the nearby bridge). Occasionally, they even do something normal like go shopping. Whatever the case, their imaginations illuminate the situation, providing both fun and insight–even if Fred does get a bit carried away.
My first experience with the work of Kazu Kibuishi was his incredible graphic novel series, Amulet. I was delighted to find this collection of his webcomic, Copper, at the library recently (although many of the comics presented in this volume are also available at his website. While his other works are more traditional graphic novels, Copper is more of a comic-strip sort of work. Most of the clips are only one page long and are completely self-contained, although there is something of a continuity and connection between them. I love the art style used in these comics; it’s classic Kibuishi, but with a simpler, more basic design than most of his other works. It really works well for the story. The characters are wonderful as well. Copper himself is optimistic and cheerful, but basically level-headed. And immensely imaginative–a substantial portion of the stories take place in his head, transforming the mundane into the incredible. And Fred . . . a talking dog with an imagination as huge as his boy’s. And I just love the way he’s so pessimistic about things at first, but then when he tries them, he ends up getting carried away and overdoing it. Too funny! I think Copper is a great collection for anyone, young or old, who enjoys creativity and a good laugh.