Graphic Novel Reviews – February 2016

Soppy by Philippa Rice

I spend far too much time on Buzzfeed, but one good thing about it is beneath all the lists about cats dressed as bees, or articles about failed 90s pop stars, they run some great features on upcoming illustrators. It was this article especially that introduced me to the beautiful work of Philippa Rice.

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Soppy captures some beautiful, intimate moments from Philippa’s relationship with her boyfriend, Luke. It’s no epic love story, it’s just a nice collection of in-jokes, warm looks, honest conversations, and what it means to be incredibly happy with your “other half”. I’m lucky enough to be in a very loving relationship, and I definitely recognized some moments that tugged at my heart. And Philippa’s use of red, white, black looks absolutely stunning on every page. It’s a genuinely beautiful book, and unashamedly soppy. I loved it.

Check out Philippa Rice’s website

The Heartbreak Diet by Thorina Rose

In contrast to Soppy, The Heartbreak Diet looks at the more challenging aspects of relationships. This is Thorina Rose’s account of her separation from her husband, and how she must learn to essentially start an entirely new life.

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I found this book frustrating, mainly because Thorina’s husband (who is just referred to as “X”) was so emotionally dead, I was furious with Thorina for trying so hard to “save” the relationship. This woman is clearly so talented, and such a devoted mother, and this guy was just not worthy of her. But, like countless others, I’m also guilty of staying in relationships that didn’t have any positives. We’re only human.

The black and white artwork is fantastic, and very clean. Thorina’s style, both of illustration and narrative, reminded me of the wonderful Roz Chast. It would appear that this is Thorina Rose’s first graphic novel, and I would gladly read her future work. I’ve got nothing but time for those willing to bear their souls in a rich graphic novel.

Visit Thorina Rose’s website

Long Walk to Valhalla by Adam Smith and Matthew Fox

I was doing my usual thing of combing the library for graphic novels I’d never heard of, and stumbled across this absolute beauty. I seriously didn’t expect to still be thinking about it days later. It really took me by surprise how much I loved this book.

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When Rory was growing up, he had to keep an eye on his older brother Joe. Joe is quiet, strange, and with a tendancy to see things that aren’t really there. Joe and Rory refer to these visions as “The Pretty Things”, and their materialization usually mean trouble is near.

Rory, now grown up, is driving away to a new life and a new career, when his car breaks down. By the side of the road, he meets a young girl called Sylvia, who tells Rory she has been sent by Odin to take him to Valhalla. You know, the kind of thing that happens to everyone, every day.

As Rory begins his journey, he tells Sylvia about his childhood, revealing things he would rather forget. It’s a really touching story about brotherhood, tenderness, and the power of forgiveness, all taking place in this slightly unsettling world, that the reader is constantly questioning.

Adam Smith has weaved a wonderful story, and Matthew Fox’s illustrations, especially his rendering of “The Pretty Things”, is astounding. I love it when I stumble upon unexpected gems, and this book definitely falls into that category. If you enjoyed graphic novels such as Beautiful Darkness, you’ll love this.

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