Poorcraft by Spike and Diana Nock

Poorcraft: The Funnybook Fundamentals of Living Well on Less began as a successful Kickstarter effort back in late 2009.  It is now a real live book about to drop in on the world this May 20, 2012.  Written by C. Spike Trotman and drawn by Diana NockPoorcraft makes excellent use of the comics medium to deliver some very practical advice on how to make the most of your resources. A book that will be pretty handy not only for many starving comic artists but anyone trying to stretch their means, especially when just starting out on adult life.

Spike who is perhaps best known for her Twin Peakseque webcomic Templar, AZ, has done an impressive job here — the book is well organized and shows a tremendous amount of research and thought.  The book opens with a general chapter on the philosophy of "poorcraft" and then moves to chapters organized around practical issues like: housing, food, clothing and health.  Spike also covers transportation, education, emergencies and entertainment in other chapters. There is also a huge chapter with additional links and resources at the end of the book.  The idea of "poorcraft" is a collection of tips to do more with less, be financially savvy, and take more advantage of free and low-cost opportunities where they exist.

All of which might make this sound like a dry, dull resource book.  Nothing could be further from the truth. It's a very fun read with all of the information presented as a dialogue between the poorcraft-savvy Penny and her neighbor Mil, who like a lot of us has fallen into a lot of financial and lifestyle habits that most of us don't even stop to question why. Spike makes the comic as much a story as a how-to book, following Penny's efforts to help Mil learn poorcraft and get out of the many financial problems she has wandered into.  Between Spike's snappy dialogue for both characters and Diana Nock's fun, loopy, entertaining artwork, the book is a good, fast read. One that you will want to go back to individual chapters to review when you're interested in the particular advice on that subject.

Definitely worth checking out. If I was organizing a "gift guide" from comics — this would be a great gift for someone leaving the "nest" for the first time. Unlike countless other books on the subject this one is almost certainly going to be the most fun one to read.

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Mars Needs Music!

Free Mars is a comic book written by Dave Pauwels and arted by Nicolas R. Giacondino.  It's also a webcomic.  Mars is a blank template that authors have used to write stories about its imagined past and present and possible future.  Once we learned that Mars was more or less barren and lifeless, our stories turned from fantastical yarns to more plausible, if expensive and unlikely tales of a science fiction bent.

Free Mars is an adventure story set in one of those plausible futures (all the way out to 2339) where mankind colonizes Earth's sister planet.  A corporation runs Mars, of course, since humanity is there to mine it and make things.  And after some time, some of the people living there begin to identify as Martians and that's about the time when humans start asking questions like, "why are we being ruled by a king corporate headquarters across an ocean space?" and "do we really have to keep biting on their culture and fashions? maybe we could come up with our style?"  Both questions which coincidentally Free Mars is concerned about.

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Nursery Rhyme Comics: 50 Timeless Rhymes from 50 Celebrated Cartoonists

First Second Books has a great anthology in Nursery Rhyme Comics: 50 Timeless Rhymes from 50 Celebrated Cartoonists which matches amazing cartoonists with classic nursery rhymes.  And there are just amazing folks involved with this book — so much so that it's hard to flag any of them as more exciting than the rest… but some of my favorite webcomic creators contributed, including Kate Beaton, Vera Brosgol, Lucy Knisley, Dave Roman, Raina Telgemeier, and Drew Weing.  Really everyone involved in the project, whether well known or not, has already put out great comics and that amazing collection of talent really shows in the book.

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Amulet 4: The Last Council by Kazu Kibuishi

The Last Council, the fourth book of the Amulet series by Kazu Kibuishi is truly its Empire Strikes Back moment.  The tone is much darker, things go badly for our heroes and a fairly dramatic reveal occurs that changes and broadens the scope of the saga.  The first three Amulet books built to bigger and challenges and larger triumphs and so it is a fairly significant shift for the fourth book to dramatically deepen the challenge and leave Emily and her fellow heroes with even bigger odds to overcome than they imagined at the start of the series.

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Too Small To Fail: A (Th)ink Anthology by Keith Knight

When I think of Keith Knight, I think of The K Chronicles, a multi-panel weekly look at culture and politics which ran forever in Salon before that website foolishly abandoned several series it had long featured.  But he's been creating the single panel comic (Th)ink for just about as long.  I reviewed (Th)ink way back in 2004 (although sadly all of the links to individual comics I embedded in that review no longer work).  (He's also the creator of The Knight Life which is syndicated in newspapers.)  He has a new collection of (Th)ink out called Too Small To Fail.

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Ratfist by Doug TenNapel

I've gotten to know Doug TenNapel's work through his graphic novels for kids, including his most recent Bad Island.  It's fair to say I have become a fan of his work.  This year he also serialized his first webcomic, Ratfist, which will be collected in a print edition to be published by Image this December.  Clocking in at 150 pages, Ratfist shares a lot with his all ages work, but in other regards is completely different.

It's about the adventures of a superhero of sorts named Ratfist, although we are introducted to him as he is about to retire (or at least say goodbye to his partner, a rat) in order to propose to his girlfriend Gina.  Since we don't get to see his actual adventures beforehand, I'm not entirely sure he's not just a deluded guy who liked wearing a costume and has a pet rat.

There's much less coherent world-building going on in this story than what I've come to expect from TenNapel —  it has much more of a, "yeah, let's throw that in too!" feel to its disparate elements which range from angels to aliens (tiki-aliens) to time travel to science fiction.  It looks like TenNapel's having fun with the comic, but for me it doesn't really hang together as a convincing world.  Part of the problem to me was the introduction of TenNapel himself as a character which doesn't seem to serve any real purpose other than to emphasize the fictional nature of the story we're reading.

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Bad Island by Doug TenNapel

It was just a year ago that we reviewed Doug TenNapel's graphic novel Ghostopolis which was a clever, adventure in a purgatory-like world of the dead.  This year TenNapel has a new graphic novel available this month — Bad Island — which is an inventive, exciting and moving adventure.  It's much more science-fiction and action-adventure in tone than Ghostopolis which had sort of a noir detective feel to it.

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Pandora: End of Days, Volume 1 by Peter J. Ang and Jin Song Kim

Pandora: End of Days is a digital comic from Real Interface Studio available for download to your computer and also for most mobile e-reader devices, tablets, and smart phones with the barnesandnoble.com's NOOK App or on Amazon.com’s Kindle.  There's a short promotional website for the comic but unfortunately it plays music without asking (you can turn it off by clicking on "off" at the bottom of the page).

It's a zombie manga.  

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The Death of Elijah Lovejoy by Noah Van Sciver

As long as I am an American citizen and American blood runs in these veins, I shall hold myself at liberty to speak, to write and to publish whatever I please on any subject.

– Elijay Lovejoy

Elijay Lovejoy was a real life abolistionist and newspaper editor who died in Alton, Illinois at the hands of a mob intent on squelching his right to a free press. Lovejoy was in Illinois because a mob had attacked and destroyed three press during his tenure as an editor in St Louis, Missouri.  The Death of Elijay Lovejoy by Noah Van Sciver seemed a good book to tackle for a review on the day we celebrate the American Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights that ultimately flows from the establishment of the United States of America.

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