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I normally enjoy snowstorms, but I am not on speaking terms with snow right now because last week’s inclement weather delayed the delivery of this week’s comic books. Had I known what the snow was withholding from us, I’d have been out on the freeways personally shoveling a path for the trucks, because oh boy is there some good stuff this week: Girl Haven is destined to become one of those dog-eared books that many people will keep on their shelves close at hand to re-read for years; Stray Dogs blends adorable talking animals with a gut-wrenching mystery; and Marvel Voices Legacy features superheroes and Black joy.

As always, thanks to Phoenix for the recommendations (support your local comic shop, plz & thx), and if someone could arrange for inclement weather not to delay great literature and art in the future that would be great.


STRAY DOGS

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I was absolutely prepared to be annoyed by this book, unpleasantly described as “Lady and the Tramp meets Silence of the Lambs.” Oh, it’s cute art of big-eyed talking dogs but they’re also doing EDGY things? Groundbreaking. Imagine my dismay to discover it is, in fact, one of my favorite issue-ones in recent memory. A better comparison would be to call it Alfred Hitchcock’s Disney Afternoon, a prettily-drawn story of skillfully woven intrigue. It does indeed have an innocent young-readers look (it is not for young readers), with a small dog named Sophie arriving at a home for rescued strays. The other dogs show her around, and although the new home seems lovely, something — it’s impossible to say what — is clearly amiss. There’s a mystery to unravel, one that seems likely to grow quite unpleasant, but the book wisely does not lean tediously on the gimmick of cute-plus-dark; instead, the reader can simply enjoy the unfurling of a tense thriller.



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Somewhere out there is a book — and you may have already found it, or you may still be looking — that will bring you so much comfort and contentment that you will own it for the rest of your life. Everyone’s is different; some people are fortunate enough to have more than one (I’ve been lucky enough to form an attachment with two, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and Neverwhere); and though your relationship may change, it will never end.

Girl Haven, a new graphic novel by Lilah Sturges, will be that book for many, many, many people.

The story begins with Ash, a young person whose mother walked away from the family a few years prior. One of the things she left behind was her childhood writings about Koretris, a fantasy world where only girls are allowed. With a group of friends, Ash recites a spell from those writings, and they all find themselves suddenly transported to Koretris — which is a bit mysterious, given that everyone has always called Ash a boy.

There’s a fascinating intertwining of tensions in this book: First, there’s the delightful fantasy exploration of a magic world, which is top-notch; but there is also the curious exploration of Ash’s true identity. What does it mean that the magic seemingly allowed a boy into a world only meant for girls?

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Though the story is tagged as “middle grade,” I suspect it will connect with all ages, particularly with readers who are (or who know someone who is) on a journey through the spectrum between boyhood and girlhood. This book is a great gift, and I look forward to seeing well-loved dog-eared copies on my friends’ shelves.



MARVEL VOICES LEGACY

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More of this, please! Marvel Voices: Legacy is a seven-story anthology celebrating Black authors and characters, and there’s not a single dud among them. It’s a perfect starting point for newcomers; even if you know nothing about these characters, you’ll be able to follow along. The stories are short, giving you just a few pages to enjoy time with Spiderman, Blade, Storm, Black Panther, and a handful of friends; it’s a particular pleasure to see Ms. Marvel, Ironheart, and Shuri spending time together. And no spoilers, but if you’re all caught up on Wandavision, this is an excellent place to deepen your relationship with one of the show’s main characters, with a mother-daughter story that’s quite touching. A little side-benefit here is that the seven stories are like seven master-classes in economical storytelling, since each manages to land a punch in just a handful of panels — just great stuff all around. You’ll put down the book feeling extremely satisfied.


ALSO:

A few other titles of note this week: Volume IV of November just came out — a gritty, violent noir story of one rough night in a big city. This is the conclusion, so if you were waiting, now’s the time to grab the whole set. Also new from Image is Two Moons, in which a Civil War soldier is confronted by visions of ghosts amidst the battles. The first trade paperback of Department of Truth is out this week. And I’m intrigued by volume 2 of Some Strange Disturbances, a continuation of a Victorian horror noir with a queer twist, by local writer Craig Hurd-KcKenney.