ON THE SHELF: Graphic novels for every interest group

Published 4:00 am Monday, May 16, 2022

This column was submitted by Evangeline Cessna, Local History Librarian at the Warren County-Vicksburg Public Library.

This week’s column is going to be a little different. We are featuring new and new-ish titles in our adult graphic novel and manga collections. 

Graphic novels have come a long way since the days of the original Superman and X-men comics. We would like to give our patrons the opportunity to explore these engaging and visually inviting works of art and literature.

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We have all of the usual superheroes — Batman, Superman, X-Men, etc. We also have anthologies like “The Walking Dead” by Robert Kirkman. This collection features the original graphic novels that inspired the wildly popular television series of the same name.

You could also check out “The Walking Cat: A Cat’s Eye View of the Zombie Apocalypse” by Tomo Kitaoka. Jin is a young man just trying to survive the end of civilization who one day saves a cat from certain death. The two companions embark on an adventure across the zombie-filled landscape in search of an island rumored to house uninfected humans. Jin believes that this is where he will find his wife.

If you don’t want zombies, but you still want a bit of fantasy, then why not try The Sandman series by bestselling author Neil Gaiman. The series follows Morpheus — the Sandman — through various adventures in both his realm of dreams and the waking world. While the series begins with a dark horror vibe, it evolves into a fantasy series with heavy inspiration from classical and contemporary mythology.

We also have the first graphic novel volume of Gaiman’s wildly popular “American Gods.” This is a visual compendium of Gaiman’s novel of the same name. Also based on classical and contemporary mythology, this novel follows the mysterious and laconic character named Shadow who is released from prison early when his wife is killed in a car accident. Shadow’s subsequent adventures see him running into old gods such as Horus, Loki, Odin and Ganesha as well as new gods created by all the things and ideas that modern humans worship. 

If you would like a bit more ordinary story, why not try “A Man and His Cat” by Umi Sakurai. This manga series follows an older widower named Kanda who adopts a cat named Fukumaru — a large, ugly animal who is frequently overlooked in favor of the younger, smaller kittens in the pet store. This is largely a slice-of-life story of how Fukumaru helps his owner come to terms with his wife’s passing and how the two help each other find comfort and companionship.

Author Mirion Malle offers a look into the mental health struggles of millennials with her graphic novel “This Is How I Disappear.” The heroine, Clara, battles the painful emotions that seem to overrun her. She has writer’s block, a demanding publishing job and feels that her therapist is basically useless. Clara is able to help others find comfort and solace in their own lives, but her pain and depression won’t subside. This exploration of depression, isolation and self-harm that many millennials feel is done with a great deal of frankness and insight.

Perhaps you would feel more comfortable with some classical literature, but don’t want to just sludge through formal language. Our Young Adult collection contains the following classical titles given a graphic novel makeover by Stacy King: “Dracula” by Bram Stoker, “Pride and Prejudice,” and “Sense and Sensibility” by Jane Austen. Crystal Silvermoon gives the same treatment to classics like “Les Miserables” by Victor Hugo, “Great Expectations” by Charles Dickens and “The Scarlet Letter” by Nathaniel Hawthorne.

Finally, for those who prefer nonfiction titles, we have those as well. “Let’s Make Dumplings! A Comic Book Cookbook” by Hugh Amano includes the history and lore surrounding the making of dumplings. This is an actual cookbook that offers a variety of flavorful Asian dumpling recipes as well as intricate ways of folding that can be achieved in the average kitchen.

“Go to Sleep (I Miss You): Cartoons from the Fog of New Parenthood” by Lucy Knisley is a pet project of the author who set to — and succeeded at — documenting new motherhood in a short cartoon format. These spontaneous little cartoons, which she posted on her Instagram, quickly gained her a huge cult following among other moms. Sometimes you just need to know you are not the only one who experiences what goes on when you first bring home a baby.

Frank “Big Black” Smith delivers a memoir of his stand against prison injustice in “Big Black: Stand at Attica.” Frank was a prisoner at Attica prison in 1971 and he was at the center of the bloody civil rights struggle that erupted for four days that summer. Frank and the other inmates fought against the abuse of prisoners, rampant racism and the indifference by the administration toward the injustices perpetrated on the powerless. The prisoners decide they’ve had enough — and revolt against their jailers, taking them hostage and making demands for humane conditions.