It only makes sense that you can read about Superhero X being dead and then returned from the grave so many times before becoming consumed with how. There is a decided half-life to these storylines, wherein they become more weak with each attempt at recycling the plot. With just that fatigue from superheroics in mind, I'd like to turn your attention to a few standout books that you likely aren't reading, along with a justification of why you should ditch a $4.00 book or two to take a shot at one of these more obscure books.
The first book isn't even an American book by any means. The manga, "Doing Time" by Kazuichi Hanawa is a semi-autobiographical depiction of the author, a cartoonist, and his day-to-day life in prison after being caught in possession of a firearm, which is illegal in Japan. Hanawa was given a sentence of two years for his crime. The book provides insight into a prison system that is likely not recognizable to the English language market Fanfare/ Ponent Mon brought it to. Instead of a salacious tale of prison rape or graphic depictions of violence, this prison tale is quite neutral and somewhat relaxed in its depiction of prison life. One of the most enjoyable sections contains a depiction of the types of food served to the prisoners, which is based on their blood type. Throughout the entirety of the book, the structure for Japanese prisoners is notably more focused toward becoming a productive and respectful member of society than American prisons, which are centrally focused on punishment. Hanawa provides a very interesting insight into life as a Japanese prisoner, without focusing too much on internalization of feelings and interactions. This book comes with a $19.99 cover price, but is out of print. However, there seem to be used copied available on Amazon for less than cover price.
The second book is one I've been promoting since it's inception in 2005. The quarterly anthology Mome has been consistently one the most enjoyable permanent additions to my collection. The anthology format and the relatively cheap pricing (about $15, but available cheaper at Amazon) keep me coming back for more every time the quarterly book is published. Also, the mix of black and white strips, single page vignettes, color pages, and serial tales are a big part of the draw, keeping the experience fresh throughout the book. Each book is roughly from 100 to 140 pages, adding to the innate value. Despite my distaste for the storytelling of Sophie Crumb, the great majority of the work produced by the loose conglomerate of rotating cartoonists is, more often than not, sublime and offers up tales for nearly any taste.
At the equivalent of between two and four monthly Marvel books, you can't go wrong with attempting acquaintance with either of these books. If you just read this and are thinking about sticking with what you normally read, think about this: the greater the risk, the greater the reward. You get nothing but the same if you choose to remain incurious. Thanks for reading and have a great December!
Check back in next month for a review and in-depth discussion of McSweeney's DVD series of short films, entitled "Wholpin".
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