It’s been raining graphic novels here in the Comics Cave. Let’s look at a few:
“Kent State: Four Dead in Ohio,” by John “Derf” Backderf, Abrams ComicArts, $24.99.
This book is amazingly detailed and informative. Which is what makes it all the more horrifying.
Most of us know the basic outlines of the events of May 4, 1970, at Kent State University in northeast Ohio: Ohio National Guard troops opened fire on unarmed students protesting the Vietnam War, killing four.
But there’s a lot more to the story, and Backderf tells it. He finds every interview, every news story, every autopsy report. He takes you into the lives of various students and Guardsmen days before the event, allowing you to get to know each one personally.
“School for Extraterrestrial Girls: Girl on Fire,” written by Jeremy Whitley, art by Jamie Noguchi, Papercutz, $12.99.
Tara Smith is a nose-to-the-grindstone high school student with strict parents. That’s not a terribly unusual circumstance, but it takes a turn when Tara finds out she’s an alien wearing a shapeshifting device, and her parents have been lying her entire life.
Tara is some sort of reptilian alien who can burst into flame, which explains much of the title. She is adopted into a hidden school for the many aliens who apparently live on Earth, which explains the rest. As for her parents ... that’s a mystery for the inevitable sequel.
Which is not a complaint. “School,” like Whitley’s “Unstoppable Wasp” for Marvel, is utterly charming.
“The Glass Wall,” written by William Robertson, art by Yulia Lapko, Soaring Penguin Press, $21.99.
This mature-readers GN stars Lucian, an aimless, early 20s, self-absorbed East Ender in London, who moves in a haze of sex, drugs and whining among other aimless, early 20s, self-absorbed East Enders. The plot, such as it is, is that Lucian’s world is impacted when his best friend is accused of raping his ex-girlfriend.
To tell you the truth, I found it hard to sympathize with Lucian. He’s probably the best of a bad lot, but he’s still self-centered to an unpleasant degree, an easy liar who never met a drug he didn’t want to take or a girl he didn’t want to shag.
But he’s the protagonist, because everyone else in this book is even worse. It’s like “Trainspotting,” but without Ewan McGregor to smile away the squalor.
“Primer,” written by Jennifer Muro and Thomas Krajewski, art by Gretel Lusky, DC Comics, $13.50.
Primer is a 13-year-old girl named Ashley Rayburn who discovers paints that give her a wide variety of superpowers when she splashes them on her person. The paints belong to her new foster parents and sets her up to be pursued by everybody who knows about the paints and wants them. I really don’t have to tell you how the plot proceeds, as the back of the book says, “Now she has to make hard choices to protect her new parents and learn what it truly means to be a family.” I think we can all guess the lesson Ashley learns.