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The Arab of the Future: A Graphic Memoir

Riad Sattouf. Metropolitan, $26 (160p) ISBN 978-1-62779-344-5

This first part of former Charlie Hebdo columnist Sattouf’s autobiography was a controversial bestseller in France. It follows his early childhood through stints in France, Libya, and Syria, and his cross-cultural alienation from all of them. Sattouf’s father is Syrian, his mother French, and his story recounts the way his father commandeered their family life to reconcile himself with his Arab heritage. Though he is often forced back to France, Sattouf’s father takes teaching jobs in dictator-run Arab countries, then works to convince himself, and his family, that their near-utopian dreams are close to coming true. But through the author’s young eyes these regimes are revealed for all their weirdnesses and hardships. Despite his father’s determination to integrate his son into Arab society, little Sattouf—with his long blond hair—never fully fits in, and this report reads like the curious pondering of an alien from another world. Caught between his parents, Sattouf makes the best of his situation by becoming a master observer and interpreter, his clean, cartoonish art making a social and personal document of wit and understanding. Agent: Marleen Seegers (Oct.)

Reviewed on 07/10/2015 | Details & Permalink

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Poetry Is Useless

Anders Nilsen. D&Q, $29.95 (224p) ISBN 978-1-77046-207-6

In the philosophical vein of his acclaimed Big Questions, Ignatz- and Lynd Ward Prize–winning cartoonist Nilsen pulls us into the world of his journal/sketchbook, which is reproduced here. Returning repeatedly to the theme of the foolishness of poetry, Nilsen explores mortality, morality, and fear with funny and absurd pictures and engaging monologues. The drawing style is his usual simple silhouettes with blacked-out words, and all mistakes showing. Interspersed with the basic yet beautiful sketches—sometimes inked with seemingly thousands of labored marks—are intricate, detailed life drawings of Nilsen’s friends, strangers on trains, sea monsters, breakfasts, devils, and copies of works of art. There’s an odd and moving nonfiction account toward the end about a man who comes to a reading of Nilsen’s and has a strange and coincidental connection to the author and his dead partner. The break into more traditional comics narration forms a jarring and very effective addition to a book that is a little weird, but always humorous and perceptive. (July)

Reviewed on 07/10/2015 | Details & Permalink

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Oyster War

Ben Towle. Oni, $29.99 (168p) ISBN 978-1-62010-262-6

Towle (Amelia Earheart: This Broad Ocean) tells a tale of magic, adventure, and seafood in this clever book. Oysters are the cornerstone of the economy in Blood’s Haven, a small 19th-century hamlet overlooking the Chesapeake Bay. Business is booming—but not all who ply the waters have pure intentions. Pirates have been dredging the bay for as many oysters as they can find, heedless of the devastation their practices will bring to the oyster population in a scant few years. In response, the Oyster Navy is created: a motley band of immigrants, veterans, and bare-knuckle boxers willing to risk it all for the future of the oyster trade. Rumor has it, however, that the pirates are after something much more valuable than oysters, something that could grant them dominion over the bay. This charming tale is particularly successful in blending history and folklore. Towle’s character designs and use of color are especially memorable—every single page is wonderfully vibrant, with a strong cast of oddball characters. Occasionally muddled battle scenes don’t detract from what is overall a wonderfully lively and imaginative yarn. (Oct.)

Reviewed on 07/10/2015 | Details & Permalink

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