January 28, 2009

The American Library Association’s Young Adult Library Services Association has released its 2009 Great Graphic Novels for Teens list, along with the Top Ten. The group recognized 53 titles total from 27 different publishers or imprints. The big winner was Viz, with 9 titles and 23 books recognized, though if you add up the entries from all of DC’s various imprints, it comes close with 9 titles and 14 books recognized. Viz dominated the Top Ten, with 3 titles earning recognition.

As usual, there’s a terrific breadth of material on display, from romance to biography to history mystery to super-heroes to slice-of-life to fantasy and so on. Here’s the breakdown of entries by publisher/imprint:

Viz: 9 titles, 23 books, 3 titles in the Top Ten

Marvel: 5 titles, 7 books

CMX: 3 titles, 6 books
Tokyopop: 3 titles, 4 books
Hill and Wang: 3 titles, 3 books
Image: 3 titles, 3 books

Go! Comi: 2 titles, 4 books, 1 title in the Top Ten
Vertical: 2 titles, 4 books
DC: 2 titles, 3 books
Yen Press: 2 titles, 3 books
Dark Horse Comics: 2 titles, 2 books, 1 title in the Top Ten
Vertigo: 2 titles, 2 books, 1 title in the Top Ten

DrMaster: 1 title, 2 books
Oni Press: 1 title, 2 books
Wildstorm: 1 title, 2 books
Cinco Puntos Press: 1 title, 1 book, 1 title in the Top Ten
First Second: 1 title, 1 book, 1 title in the Top Ten
Groundwood Books: 1 title, 1 book, 1 title in the Top Ten
Red Five Comics: 1 title, 1 book, 1 title in the Top Ten
Abstract Studio: 1 title, 1 book
Bloomsbury: 1 title, 1 book
Cellar Door: 1 title, 1 book
Graphix: 1 title, 1 book
Minx: 1 title, 1 book
Riverhead Trade: 1 title, 1 book
Slave Labor Graphics: 1 title, 1 book
Villard: 1 title, 1 book

And the nominees are…

December 2, 2008

The Young Adult Library Services Association has posted the final roster of nominees for the 2009 list of Great Graphic Novels for Teens. It’s a really eclectic list with wealth shared among a whole bunch of publishers and categories, so go take a look, and then we can start a pool on which books will make the final cut.

From the stack: Crogan’s Vengeance

November 25, 2008

It’s never easy to blend instruction or a morality play into an adventure narrative (or any kind of narrative), but someone at Oni Press has a knack for finding properties that do that well. James Vining’s First in Space and Scott Chantler’s Northwest Passage both managed to be simultaneously entertaining and educational, and now Chris Schweizer’s Crogan’s Vengeance pulls off the same trick.

When Eric Crogan gets into some minor, modern-day mischief, his father plucks a story from the family tree to reinforce the importance of making good choices in bad situations. Dad starts with “Catfoot” Crogan, a young sailor who found himself mixed up in piracy and politics in the very early 1700s.

Catfoot isn’t particularly ambitious, but he has a good skill set for seafaring. Too bad his unstable, sadistic captain takes an immediate loathing to the lad. When pirates set upon the ship, the crew is forced to choose between defending themselves (and almost certainly dying) or throwing in with their attackers. They choose the latter in the first of several junctions where Schweizer pits pragmatism against morality.

It’s both fortunate and unfortunate that Catfoot is a natural strategist. His plans put him in good stead with his new captain, but they inspire lethal jealousy from other superiors. And while Captain Cane would rather intimidate a ship into surrendering its cargo, he won’t scruple to murder an entire crew if they don’t play along. Cane has his own moral code about piracy, and while Catfoot isn’t persuaded by it, he knows it’s better than the bloodthirsty approach of Cane’s second-in-command, D’Or.

So what’s a basically decent quasi-pirate to do when Schweizer presents him with an even higher-stakes impasse? The fun is in finding out, and I won’t spoil it, but I will say that Schweizer has a real feel for the tone of morally murky subjects. His assessment of pirate life is frank (though not graphic) but not preachy or overstated. He never romanticizes the pirates’ criminality, but he acknowledges that degrees of depravity that can exist within a criminal subculture. And he argues persuasively that decency can survive in that subculture and emerge as something unique and purposeful.

It’s a great-looking book. Schweizer’s engaging, energetic cartoons keep the story moving along very nicely. There’s a lot of chatter, which is necessary if Schweizer is to describe the pirate milieu in a useful way, but varied page layouts and good pacing keep the talky bits from stalling the action. In fact, they’re an essential part of the action. Keith Wood’s design for the hard-cover presentation is very handsome, giving off a classic vibe that isn’t stodgy.

I suspect that it’s the kind of book librarians will love, sturdy, smart and snappy. Better still, Schweizer promises fifteen more looks into the sprawling Crogan clan, from explorers to escape artists to secret agents. (It would be nice if the Crogans had some noteworthy women on the family tree, but you can’t have everything.)

(This review is based on a complimentary copy provided by the publisher.)

Award season

October 16, 2008

Just because I like to mention this periodically, anyone can nominate a book for the Young Adult Library Services Association’s Great Graphic Novels for Teens list. The list of nominations for 2009 was updated recently, including some books I really enjoy, some I really need to read, and some stumpers.

Note to self (6/22/2008)

June 22, 2008

Seriously, just housekeeping to support my leaky-sieve memory and remind myself that I nominated Hikaru no Go volume 12 (Viz) as a Great Graphic Novel for Teens. Nothing here to see.

Note to self (6/20/2008)

June 20, 2008

It’s entirely possible that Hinako Ashihara’s Sand Chronicles (Viz) is less a great graphic novel for teens than a great graphic novel for former teens who remember the pointed moments of awkwardness and uncertainty of that time of life. Actual teens might look at it and think, “Yeah, I’m there now, so thanks for the reminder.” Either way, I think it’s a great graphic novel, so I’m going to nominate it.

In the second volume, Ann finds her life disrupted again by the return of her absentee father. She’s built a life for herself in the country, finding solace in friends and family after a dramatic loss in the first installment. Now she’s got to decide whose needs come first – her own for comfort and happiness, or her father’s.

Ashihara is so deft at balancing big drama with small moments. Ann’s woes never feel out of scale, heightened as they are. The difficult choices she faces are presented with nuance and surprisingly effective balance; there aren’t any villains here, just people whose priorities clash. Ashihara’s delicate illustrations and quirky sense of humor round things out beautifully.

Got a minute?

June 5, 2008

Robin Brenner, Eisner nominee and comics-loving librarian extraordinaire, is looking for feedback on what gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgendered, and questioning comics fans think of yaoi, boys’ love, and yuri manga. Robin’s survey can be found here.

Oh, and there are new nominations up for this year’s list of Great Graphic Novels for Teens. Go look!