This week is… good? Like, it is a time of somewhat positive feelings and news? How remarkable. Amidst all the reasons to feel a sense of relief today, like the unclenching of a muscle that has been flexed for exactly 1,460 days, is that it is one of the best weeks for new comic books that I can recall in many months.
My advice to you: Extend your feelings of liberation and joy by quitting your job, so you have enough time to read all of the excellent new books released this week (available at your local comic book shop; thanks to our friends at Phoenix for helping to pick out some favorites). There’s a stunning new work that transports old-timey fairy tales to someplace very sleek; there’s a gorgeous lesbian romance set in Edwardian times; and there’s a story of a teenage supergenius and his arch rival’s lemonade stand.
And that’s only the start! I’m going to be running two separate comic reviews this week, a day or two apart, because there simply isn’t enough room in one post to also review the lovely new Wonder Woman book, the book about an arcane private investigator in the 1970s, and the book about a cop/thief siblings with psychic food powers. Oh geez it’s all so good. So! Let’s dive in.
Read Dryad with care, because there’s a lot of world-building to absorb, in some cases multiple times because the pages are punctuated by perspective-twisting surprises. We begin in what seems like a fairly standard fantasy genre—elves, forests, carved stone ruins, yes yes yes—with a warrior woman and her scholar husband searching a forest for something mysterious, two toddlers strapped to their backs. Then there’s a thirteen-year time jump to the family in an idyllic fairy-tale village, and the standard “I wish” dialogue from the kids and the restless mother about missing the great big wide world beyond the confines of their small hamlet. The plucky kids soon sneak away, discover some big-wide-world trouble, and then the family must work together to protect each other—none of that is likely to come as a surprise to anyone with a passing genre familiarity, but there are genuine gasp-out-loud shocks as the kids learn that their parents are a lot more exciting than they ever let on, the world a lot more sinister, and reality not at all what it seems.
It’s a mix of Spy Kids and The Matrix; and if I have a criticism, it’s that the surprises are held a bit too long. The suspense erodes into confusion around halfway through the book, when explanations seemed in order; though we do eventually get to a “let me explain” scene that clarifies who certain characters are and the stakes our heroes face, I think having that information just a touch earlier would have made the preceding pages more pleasurable. Nevertheless! this engrossing twist on multiple genres is absolutely engrossing and I would like to arrange for it to be injected into my veins.
What an absolute joy this treasure of a book is. The year is 1910, and a wide-eyed country girl named Patience bids farewell to her poor Scottish family and enters the service of a wealthy family on a British estate. She stumbles with protocol and the trappings of class, but meets a kind maid named Esther who helps her rise to the occasion. The two women soon discover a romance blooming between them, and they begin to explore an intertwining of their lives that is occasionally adventurous, occasionally sensual, and always grounded and relatable despite their times being entirely different from our own. Crisis looms when their rich employers plan to separate the household and it appears that the two women may be parted; meanwhile, sparks of a better life glimmer for them both in the suffrage and pre-Feminism opportunities of London. An absolutely gorgeous work for anyone who enjoyed the trappings of Downton Abbey but wished for more lavender love.
A lemonade stand war is brewing in this light & lovely book, comfortably targeted at ages 9-12 (and anyone who likes goofy silly fun). Genius youngster Robbie opens a stand that he hopes will fund the development of advanced scientific experiments; after an initial period of success, a new neighbor named Daphne opens a stand of her own, without the trappings of mad science. It’s an even greater hit, which throws Robbie into a storm of frustration and a plot to uncover the secret to Daphne’s success. Young readers will likely enjoy identifying with the main characters—and with their rivalry. Older readers may pick up on a more complex thread in Robbie’s relationship, imperfect though it may be, with his busy scientist mother. This one is a nice answer to kids looking for the next read after enjoying Diary of a Wimpy Kid and Captain Underpants.
ALSO: SOMETHING VISCERAL
Two more books worth mentioning this week: I Breathed a Body, a grotesque body-horror title about the corrosive nature of social media, written by a former social media manager. It’s quite gross! But if you’ve got the stomach for visual viscera and an indictment of Our Troubled Modern Times, it’s a rewarding read. If, instead, you’d prefer to keep food down, consider To Eat and Drink Volume 2, a charming illustrated cookbook/memoir. Organized by seasons, it’s a lovely source of inspiration and education for anyone who finds themselves most comfortable in a kitchen.