Not only is it “safer at home,” but it’s also an opportunity to do some recreational reading. Here are some of the more offbeat graphic novels that have recently crossed my desk:
“The Runaway Princess” by Johan Troïanowski (Random House, $12.99)
Technically this is considered a YA graphic novel, but it skews much younger than that — elementary school, I’d say. Nevertheless, it’s a charming book for adults too, who can spend some time with the young ’uns, either reading or participating in the interactive bits.
Yes, there are interactive bits, like mazes and puzzles, sprinkled into three adventures of Princess Robin, who simply can’t keep running away. “Runaway Princess” takes place in a magical, medieval sort of world, where a water festival involves fish in transparent top hats and people who float in bubbles. Troïanowski’s artwork is simplistic but lavish; there’s tons of stuff to discover, which lends itself to rereadings.
“Babylon Berlin” by Arne Jysch (Titan Comics, $24.99)
I have been mesmerized by the German TV show “Babylon Berlin,” adapted from a series of books by Volker Kutscher, about a police detective in late 1920s. If you don’t know much German history, that was during the Weimar Republic, which was quickly spiraling out of control and would lead to Hitler in the 1930s. And Berlin was the epitome of the set of contradictions that characterized between-the-wars Germany: Hedonism side by side with old-school morality, anarchy in conflict with authoritarianism, far-right-wing Nazis and far-left-wing Communists literally battling in the streets.
The show takes full advantage of this spectacle, filling our eyeballs to the brim with extraordinary, period-perfect visuals. How could the graphic novel compete? Well, as it turns out, by adapting the novels more closely, which are more “Maltese Falcon” than “Cabaret.” While Kommissar Rath is an ordinary schlub in over his head on the show, the novel version of the character is more of a Sam Spade type — clever, articulate, good with the ladies and two steps ahead of the bad guys. The graphic novel is an entirely different experience than watching the TV show. Happily, I can enthusiastically recommend both.
“Nicnevin and the Bloody Queen,” by Helene Mullane, Dom Reardon and Matthew Dow Smith (Humanoids, $17.99)
Humanoids publishes a lot of classic European material from the bizarro side of the street, by the likes of Alejandro Jodorowsky, and Jean “Moebius” Girard. So “Nicnevin,” from an entirely different neighborhood, was a real surprise. It’s a straightforward coming-of-age story of a typical London teenager who is forced to spend a summer in the northern hinterlands. When someone begins committing ritual murders to revive the ancient gods of Britain, Nicnevin is swept up — because, it turns out, she and her family are anything but typical. Like the story, the art is straightforward: clear, attractive and engaging. Come to think of it, that describes the book as a whole.