"The Butchery" (story/art by Bastien Vives; Fantagraphics; $19.99, hardcover): Billed as a "poetic graphic novel [that] explores the emotional bloodbath of a romance gone awry." No happy ending here. The story is told through short, simple cartoon vignettes in what appears to be pen-and-ink and colored pencils. Each vignette presents another milestone in the road of the relationship between the two main characters, who meet, fall in love, fall out of love and break up painfully.
Despite the precious Frenchiness of it all, "The Butchery" is a pretty universal story. We have all felt this pain, and while it's not a joy to revisit, whatever discomfort you feel is exquisite, as it is delivered by the hands of a master.
"Mayor Good Boy" Vol. 1 (by Dave Scheidt and Miranda Harmon; Random House Graphic; $9.99): Middle-school and YA graphic novels are all the rage these days, and I have to say I'm pleased with that. Long undeserved readerships are finally getting addressed, not just younger readers but also diverse ones. Not only is reading for fun at a young age the passport to being a well-rounded adult with a healthy internal life, but the heroes of these stories are much more diverse than in the past and reflect today's America.
Mayor Good Boy can talk, but is otherwise very much a dog, a Cockapoo-looking breed partial to cheese treats and belly rubs. There's no explanation for this talking dog, or how he ran for mayor — the story begins more or less on Election Day. You just have to roll with it. The art is super-cartoony, which is perfectly appropriate for the story. It shouldn't give a reader of any age trouble following the action.
"Punderworld" (by Linda Sejic; Image; $16.99): I've never really dwelt on the Greek myth of Hades and Persephone, where the latter spends half of the year underground with the former, resulting in winter. It seemed to my younger self that it was a simple, utilitarian myth by which the ancient Greeks explained why the gods would visit upon humanity a season of cold, hungry, hardship every year.
But writer/artist Linda Sejic has put a lot of thought into it, coming up with a meet-cute story explaining how on Earth (or under it) Demeter's daughter — the goddess of eternal summer, blooming things and renewal — would have anything in common with the pale, shy, Hades, here a sort of afterlife accountant.
And, as it turns out, they have a lot in common. For one thing, they both have been crushing on each other for centuries. For another, for different reasons, neither has dated very much. Well, honestly, neither has dated at all. Part of the reason this couple are so adorable together is Sejic's art. Her clean, refreshing lines belie the deep thought and design that goes into them, allowing the reader to absorb the emotional exchanges and design cues (color schemes, crowns that reflect emotional states, etc.) effortlessly. When you're that good, folks, you make it look easy.
My only complaint is that this is just Part 1, so there isn't an ending in "Punderworld." But that just means more of Sejic's awesome art and awkward romance to come.