Graphic novel round-up

Benjamin Stone:

graphic novels are hot.

Today, a round-up of my reviews of graphic novels. (BTW, every time I type “graphic novels” I have a momentary flash of paranoia. “Graphic novel” sounds so…. naughty. Like I’m blogging about soft porn or bodice-ripping. But, no–I’m blogging about novels in which images carry a critical part of the story.)

Skim cover  Skim by Mariko Tamaki

The story here is quiet and small in scope–changing friends, having a crush on a teacher, realizing that the Wicca coven meeting you wanted to go to doubles as an AA meeting. But in the world of teen experience, the book’s events represent a kind of turning-of-a-corner that is anything but small in its implications. The drawings have more movement than those in most graphic novels, and my favorite lines of the whole book are the ones that Skim scratched out (but that we can still read). For example: “ I didn’t know what other people would think about my answer… It’s a stupid question.”

This book offers a gripping portrait of a man’s experiences in Nazi-run Poland’s ghettos and concentration camps as well as an exploration of the relationship between that man and his American son (the author). In reading this, you sense the degree to which “survivors” of the Holocaust did not, in fact, survive intact. It’s also quite moving to watch the efforts at intimacy (by both son and father) that are made so difficult by the scars of the war.
I read this all in one sitting and really enjoyed it. I’m used to black-and-white graphic novels, so the color was refreshing. The be-true-to-yourself-and-your-culture message was a little too direct for my taste. I also found myself feeling more distant from the story, maybe because there are three separate stories that eventually come together, and you end up spending less time with each of the characters as a result.

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