Spring has felt like a blockbuster season for great new comics from my favorite artists.
Lots of comics artists debut new work before they hit the road for conventions in the spring—heading to big indie-friendly comics shows like VanCAF, TCAF, and Chicago’s upcoming CAKE before the clustercuss of San Diego ComiCon in July—so May and June are an excellent time to be a comics reader. This is also an excellent time to become a comics reader. Whether you’re looking to pick up your first graphic novel or add new titles to your long list of must-reads, here are four of my favorite new books from female comics artists. Pick ‘em up!
MY DIRTY DUMB EYES – Lisa Hanawalt (Drawn & Quarterly)
For an entire week, I carried My Dirty Dumb Eyes in my bag and forced it into the hands of whatever friends I ran into. “Read these comics about dogs!” I screeched. “I know it’s strange, just read it.” The response was always the same: confusion, exclamation, laughter. Why are Lisa Hanawalt’s bizarre, moderately disturbing drawings so deeply funny? I will never be able to explain the mystery of why her skillfull paintings of cats dangling from helicopters and historic people pooping crack me up, but suffice to say that Hanawalt’s gorgeous renderings resonate with a dark part of my brain, making me burst out laughing at images I’ve never seen before and will never fully comprehend. Plus, the lady knows how to tell a good story. My Dirty Dumb Eyes gathers together comics published around various parts of the web with some new illustrations. Even though I’d already read many of the pieces collected in the book—like her review of The Vow and dispatch from a Toy Fair—it was a joy to read them through again. And then again. And again.
WE CAN FIX IT – Jess Fink (Top Shelf)
I love Jess Fink’s Tumblr, so I snapped up this new book We Can Fix It during April’s Stumptown Comics Fest. Fink herself stars in the time-traveling memoir that grapples with the bad ideas she regrets, the good times that have gone by, and the fact that she would look super hot in a futuristic unitard. It’s a cute, quick, and funny story that readers will find relatable. What if you could go back and convince yourself not to make out with that one jerk from high school? Well, honestly, you’d probably just screw it up all over again.
THE PROPERTY – Rutu Modan (Drawn & Quarterly)
Translated from Hebrew, The Property is a rare story that feels like both honest personal history and gripping fiction. Rutu Modan’s story follows an Israeli woman and her Polish-born grandmother as they travel to Poland, attempting to settle some World War II-era family property issues, but really exploring Jewish identity and their own independence from both family and history. Modan is an expert of gesture—she captures complex emotions and feelings with just a few simple lines. It’s clear she does her real-life research: the book’s final page names the people on whom the drawings are based and even credits a “location finder” in Warsaw. The result of Modan’s keen eye and hard work is a deep, complicated story told through pared-down images; it’s a fantastic use of comics as a medium. I would strongly advise against beginning this book, as I did, at midnight. You will stay up reading until 3am, until your head is sore and you’ve forgotten where you are.
CALLING DR. LAURA – Nicole Georges (Mariner Books)
Bitch has given plenty of love to long-time zinester Nicole Georges before, so it’s no surprise that her epic memoir Calling Dr. Laura is excellent. Georges’ art in the story of her family and queer identity feels approachable and handmade, capturing the world around her with an original, endearing aesthetic. Portraits of dogs, chickens, and old houses occupy her panels and crowd her pages for love and attention. The story wanders around Georges’ life and friend-filled music scene as she deals with both coming out to her mother and determining that—no matter how great of an adult life Georges builds for herself—her mother will continue to be someone with whom fights, lies, and tears are common.
Saga isn’t written by a woman, but artist Fiona Staples makes the inventive IMAGE title top notch. Writer Brian K. Vaughn pens this story of a sassy alien couple caught up in a galaxy-sized war they want nothing to do with. Staples’ lithe characters and detailed urban landscapes strike the perfect mix of gritty dystopia with gorgeous sci-fi fantasy. Plus, the first issue is available online for free from Comixology. Go gobble it up.