Comics February Round-Up

Man. If this were any of the last three years, I would have failed at Comics February. But this year is Leap Year, and I am squeezing this post in just under the wire, because I want you to read Genius. And, I mean, I love Comics February as well. Just mainly I cannot understand why Genius hasn’t gotten more (and by “more” I mean “all the”) attention.

Genius, Marc Bernardin, Adam Freeman, and Afua Richardson

Shitdamn, this book was good. I’ve had a medium reading year thus far — nothing that I’ve hated (although see below re: puppy), but also nothing that I’ve wanted to shove in the hands of every single person I see. Genius is a book I want to shove at everyone.


Seventeen-year-old Destiny was born with the military and strategic mind of an Alexander the Great, a Napoleon — but she lives in an area of Los Angeles that is torn apart by unchecked drug violence and police brutality. So (as you would) she unites the gangs and secedes from the country.

If you are thinking “How did they ever get a comic book published that’s about black kids blowing up large swathes of the LAPD?”, you and I are thinking along the same lines, friends. At first I felt uncomfortable with it, but then — revolution against an oppressive power is a staple of our story-telling, and it’s hard to argue that Destiny and her compatriots don’t have a legitimate, revolution-worthy grievance, when LAPD officers (and cops all over the country) can shoot unarmed black folks with no repercussions at all for their employment status, and we’re just all supposed to write it off as the cost of doing (crime-prevention) business.

Afua Richardson’s art is beautiful, the story is ballsy as fuck, and I dearly hope that we can expect another volume of this audacious and brilliant comic (not least because I want to know what comes next for Destiny).

Honor Girl, Maggie Thrash

Honor Girl

A graphic memoir of a summer spent at camp in which Maggie Thrash developed a crush on an older camp counselor. The art was lovely, the writing and characterization were achingly true to what it’s like to be fifteen, but — have we talked about my thing about imbalance of power? I cannot deal with stories about older authority figures developing crushes on their charges. The nineteen-year-old camp counselor, Erin, doesn’t do anything technically not-okay with Maggie, but I just am not comfortable when those boundaries are being nudged. You know what I like in mentor-mentee relationships? NICE CLEAR BOUNDARIES.

(Yes, I did know some girls in high school who were sleeping with our algebra teacher. Why do you ask?)

The Arab of the Future, Riad Sattouf

The Arab of the Future

A comics memoir of growing up in Syria and Libya, with a father who fell under the spell of various dictators’ cults of personality. I warn you now that a puppy gets spiked with a pitchfork and has its head cut off in this comic. I noped on out of there as soon as that happened, but it was late in the book, so. There you go.

The Gigantic Beard that Was Evil, Stephen Collins

Dave lives in a place called Here, where everything is orderly. Across the sea is a place of chaos, called There. One day, the chaos of There starts to assert itself on Dave’s very own very face.

The Gigantic Beard That Was Evil

No, I get it. It’s because you shouldn’t have too many rules. If you have too many rules your life will be boring and hemmed in, and that’s why ladies who like spreadsheets have to learn a Valuable Lesson about Lightening Up and Enjoying Spontaneity in romcoms. I UNDERSTAND THIS PARABLE.

Like, Stephen Collins’s art is beautiful, and his panel structuring is a masterclass, but I read comics for the story too. Did we really need another book in this world with the message “Lighten up, office drones!”?

26 thoughts on “Comics February Round-Up”

  1. I’ve been seeing so many great-looking graphic novels around lately. I think you guys are wearing me down – I’ll have to try a few soon. Just as soon as I’ve whittled down some of this big pile of books behind me…

    1. Are you a comics newbie? Because if so, I really want you to know that you can come to me ANY TIME and I will ask you some questions and recommend comics specifically for you. Spreading the joy of comics is like the best.

  2. I haven’t heard of ANY of these. My graphic novel radar has evidently been hacked and manipulated so that I just don’t see these titles.
    (She says, after spending too much time reading about how insecure all our technological systems are to hacking and manipulating. Nice light reading!)
    I’m intrigued by the “Destiny” book–I’m not usually into the art but the cover is gorgeous. Have you read Sandra Newman’s novel “The Country of Ice Cream Star”? Not a graphic novel, but an interesting near-future story with that most boring sounding of phrases (but nice to find anyway): the “strong woman protagonist.”
    p.s. Yeah, yeah, office drones need to lighten up. Maybe we would if there weren’t so many ANNOYANCES in life–health insurance/modern medical care, and tax forms, I’m looking at you.

    1. Hahahaha, I know, if we weren’t so bound by rules about “paying our bills” etc., we’d be so much HAPpier, and we’d show it by, like, wearing our hair down and things.

      I’ve never even heard of that book by Sandra Newman! It sounds good, adding it to my list. 🙂 Can you just quickly whisper in my ear (now that I’ve looked up the plot) whether the brother survives in the end?

      1. I could really let my hair down–maybe I need to write a graphic novel about trying to control my peri-menopausal mustache?
        Too much information?
        Okay, how horrible is it that I can’t whisper the ending in your ear–because I can’t remember it? (I can remember a lot of the nonfiction I read, but novels I just plow through and forget the next day, except for overall impressions.) But I do know it was good, and whatever did happen made sense within the narrative, even if it was heartbreaking. Which a lot of the story was.

  3. My library has genius and I would request it right now but I have a couple other books I have to finish first but I put it on my priority list and promise I will get to it as soon as possible.

  4. Aw, I really liked The Gigantic Beard book. I mean, yes, it’s not an original message, but it’s still a message I enjoy, and it wasn’t as if everything was great about the beard taking over. But mostly, I was captivated by the art and the way he put the panels together. It just made me happy to look at it.

  5. I read about The Arab of the Future in the New Yorker and put it on my list-of-books-to-maybe-check out, but also helpfully wrote myself a note saying “but maybe not” with a quote from the New Yorker piece saying “the first volume […] concludes with the lynching of a puppy.” Um. How enjoyable was it, up to that point?

  6. I haven’t read any of these but Genius and The Gigantic Beard sound really great.

  7. I was telling my husband the other day that students sleeping with teachers does happen. He was shocked to learn that I knew one such student who slept with a teacher. Honestly, I am disgusted with it. But Honor Girl is on my list but now I don’t know if I want to read it. We’ll see.

    I had not heard of Genius. But now I have so it’s on my list too.

  8. I SO want to read Genius but my library doesn’t have it. I might have to buy it … further thought on that is required. I’m with you on the power dynamic thing – I don’t HATE reading about it, but it makes me very uncomfortable. It has to be done a certain way for me to actually enjoy a book that portrays that kind of relationship. And a puppy getting spiked with a pitchfork? Nope, I’m out. Super out.

  9. I’m in for Genius! Of COURSE her name is Destiny 🙂
    I was kind of meh about The Arab of the Future, though not only because of the puppy incident. I just remember not feeling compelled to write any sort of review about it. I am not sure if I DID write a review…

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