New additions to Comics Plus

The recent addition of Picture Books to the Comics Plus catalog has proven to be a natural fit; after all, the differences in format are largely cosmetic. Sequential art as a storytelling device is probably as old as art itself, so whether drawn inside (or outside) of panels on a page, or on the wall of some ancient pyramid somewhere, it’s all comics to me! While there’s sure to be more picture books in my monthly selections in the future, I definitely wanted to start this month’s off with a particularly notable one.


My Special Needs Family (ABDO) is part of the entire charming “My Family” series, where “student reporter” Lenny is sent home after school each day with a different classmate to learn about their home life. Through his unbiased eyes, the subtleties of each family’s dynamics are explored. This is done in a very tender way, as our protagonist is mostly just interested in the sorts of things that concern every kid (homework, snacks, pets, etc.), regardless of their background. This focus on similarities allows any inherent “differences” to be explored in a more subtle, contextualized way.

For example, while Roxy (the student in My Special Needs Family) is maybe a little preoccupied with time, and her parents have clearly created a very structured environment for her, at no point is she ever actually labeled as autistic. The result is (not all that shockingly), Lenny doesn’t really focus on those details either, or even see anything he encounters as “weird”… and so chances are your young readers won’t either. In fact, if it weren’t for the titles, there’d be very little within any of the stories to go on beyond context, and is likely the exact right way to discover all the ways that every type of family (from My Two Moms to My Adopted Family) is ultimately the same (that is “about love”… sorry if I spoiled it). This is just a great step forward for children’s publishing in general, and I’m proud we have these on our platform.


While there were definitely some cool books for teens this month, two in particular stood out for me. The first, The Wizerd Vol. 1: And the Potion of Dreams! (Oni Press) is another wacky contribution by cartoonist Michael Sweater of Puppy Knight and Everything Sucks (Silver Sprocket). Anyway, the powerful titular Wizerd is perhaps a bit more Hobbit than Gandalf, as it will take the most precocious Call to Adventure to get this most reluctant of heroes to leave their cozy magic home. Hemming and hawing all the way on a quest for a potion’s ingredients, we’re treated to page after page of Sweater’s imaginative and fantastical vistas, all so our principal character can divest themselves of these pesky adventurers and get back to the quiet life. But, guess how that one goes…?

Perhaps the most delightful find for me though was The Little Red Fish (Rosarium), an anthropomorphized allegory for the 1979 Iranian Revolution, as told through the eyes of various reef fish under the shadow of their heron oppressors, and the shaky peace between them that’s threatened when a hero (who is both bird and fish) is martyred in the fish’s defense. Sorry, you gotta read the book for that part to make sense! It’s a political tour-de-force that feels like Little Nemo meets Les Miserables, with maybe some Rats of NIMH thrown in. It’s weird, and cool, and maybe a little on the violent side for a Teen book, but it’s bird on fish violence (and vice versa; again, it’ll make sense), though I daresay that doesn’t make it any less jarring. Whether we choose to examine the deeper allegory or let it remain a “fish story,” there is still a universality to the struggle against oppression (both external and internal) evident throughout the story which the creators of this book seem to understand only too well. Plus, the art is just so crisp and beautiful, it’s almost like some ukiyo-e artist from the Edo period went to work for the Audubon Society. Every panel is precise and every page explodes with life, energy, and character. A great read!


YA readers are spoiled for choice once more, as my old skool heart went all aflutter again to see the entire run of Eric Powell’s madcap, pulpy, zombie-punching crime-drama classic The Goon (Dark Horse) in omnibus form. I can’t promise how well the humor has aged over the last two decades, but back when this was a little self-published book, it was always a favorite around the Previews office. It may also just be the cat-lover in me, but Matt Kindt’s horror graphic novel about a strange “good/bad luck cat,” Hairball (Dark Horse), struck some kind of special chord in me, and may have you looking at your feline friends a little differently by the end, too.

As far as horror goes, though, my biggest recommendation this month has to go to Gou Tanabe’s latest manga adaption of H.P. Lovecraft’s work, The Shadow Over Innsmouth (Dark Horse). If you haven’t experienced his work yet (especially At the Mountains of Madness) you may want to give yourself the warm-up first. For however good his earlier ones are (and they are oh-so good) I kind of feel that his work on Innsmouth is truly his best yet. Be sure to read these manga on 2-Page view, because you don’t want to miss a single intricate/textured/luxurious/dilapidated/grotesque detail. From a level of detailed squalor that feels all-too-real, to Dore-level vistas that seem more akin to etchings than “mere” linework, every panel of this manga is downright stunning. Thanks to Mr. Lovecraft, there’s a reason why words like cyclopean and squamous don’t set off my spell-checker… and now thanks to Tanabe-san, I have a plethora of new imagery that perfectly encapsulates the original eerie and evocative prose. It’s not always a pleasant experience to dive into the paranoid and hate-fueled perspectives of Lovecraft, but I’d argue his absolute revulsion of “The Other” managed to manifest as the much more ubiquitous Cosmic Horror… and that most primal fear of the unknown is something we can all relate to. This manga will truly immerse you deep, deep in it in a way few horror books can. *Chef’s Kiss*


For our mature readers, there are more than a few unusual choices. You’re probably already sick of my “I remember when…” digressions, but here yet again is another self-published B&W indie comic I was a fan of back in the day — now all grown up in full color, published by a big publisher and everything! Of course, it didn’t hurt that the writer of Battle Pope (Image Comics) went on to create The Walking Dead (Image Comics) and Invincible (Image Comics), but as fun/messed up as those are, the old Battle Pope stuff take’s Robert Kirkman’s level of irreverence to (pun intended) cosmic levels. Please don’t share this one with anyone of a particularly religious (or unhumorous) background, and if you need a good acid test… do you think imagining Jesus Christ as the goofy, bumbling sidekick to a gun-toting, demon-slaying (skirt-chasing) Pope is funny? If not, no worries… but this one’s probably not for you.

I mentioned last month in my review of The Hazards of Love (Oni Press) my penchant for “weird afterlife” stories like Sandman, Murder Mysteries (Dark Horse), and Pizzeria Kamikaze (BOOM! Studios)… so what should cross my desk is yet another one, and possibly the weirdest of the bunch! Divine Power Made Me (Scout Comics) is… is… well, it’s weird. Clearly the Afterlife is not what we think it is, and somehow the weird cult the main character was raised in knows something more about it… but it seems like it’s too late and… man, I dunno – but I can’t wait for the next one.

I definitely love it when familiar ideas are reimagined in new ways, and while comics is certainly no stranger to this idea, the premise of Nottingham (Mad Cave) seemed so strangely “obvious,” I was surprised no one thought of it before. Well, credit where credit’s due… imagine a medieval crime drama featuring the Sheriff of Nottingham on the hunt for a serial killer who only targets rich folks… Robin Hood! Ha, brilliant right? That alone was clever enough to get me reading, but I also found myself enjoying the quirky art style that seemed to have a few nods to Guy Davis’s The Marquis (Dark Horse), which is without a doubt one of my favorite graphic novels of all time (so good taste if nothing else!).

My #1 Adult selection this month goes to the raw, powerful, rage-fueled horror graphic novel Box of Bones (Rosarium Publishing). In a way, this is the ultimate monster story, as it imagines the collective generational traumas created by various forms of Black oppression are personified and trapped in the titular cursed box, that once released manifest in the forms of chaotic bloodthirsty monsters… and then it imagines the sorts of folks throughout history who felt justified in unleashing them. If that sounds like a challenging premise, I don’t mind admitting it was to me. I always feel richer having glimpsed a piece of someone’s else’s perspective, but this is one of those stories that’s liable to both enlighten you as well as shake you up in all sorts of ways you weren’t ready for. I mean, setting aside the horror elements for a moment, just the chapter reimagining the classic Vietnam war story from the actual perspective of the black soldiers was a really superb bit of writing, if not potentially downright eye-opening.

Honestly, that’s just a small sample of the great comics, manga, and picture books added to Comics Plus last month. With literally thousands of titles to choose from across a wide range of genres, I could keep writing forever! Be sure to check in every month for more highlights, and browse our expanding list of past Rob’s Advisory selections.

Until next month, here are some more honorable mentions that (mostly for space reasons) didn’t quite make my list, but you may also enjoy checking out:

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Rob Randle is the Production Director for LibraryPass, and has worked in and around the comic book industry in various capacities, including as a book reviewer for the NY Journal of Books, and a judge for various comic book industry awards—the 2006 Eisner Awards, among others. Before joining LibraryPass, he had been the Director of Publishing for iVerse Media LLC since 2010, and prior to that was a purchasing manager for Diamond Comic Distributors where he helped to manage the monthly Previews catalog for close to a decade starting in 2002. Additionally, Rob occasionally does freelance work as a comics creator, and is the author of the critically acclaimed graphic novel Serial Artist. Rob holds a B.A. of Illustration from the Maryland Institute, College of Art (MICA).