Graphic Novels

To retrieve the current bibliographic information for the graphic novels we’ve read, analyzed, and written about, please see the list below.  Click on the links at the top of each annotation to jump to the post about the graphic novel, where you’ll find our evaluation of it’s literary content and merit.  Be sure to check out our other recommendations at the bottom of this page, too, to learn about some great graphic additions to your library.   Enjoy perusing, and please note that the books we’re examining are intended to be pored over by young adults in the high school age group. Happy reading!

A.D. New Orleans After the Deluge

Neufeld, Josh. A.D.: New Orleans after the Deluge. New York: Pantheon, 2009. Print.

Reviewed by: Elizabeth Bookhultz

Overview: In his web comic turned graphic novel, A.D. New Orleans After the Flood, Josh Neufeld follows the stories of five real-life Katrina survivors along with their friends and family, chronicling the experiences of these disaster-braving people before, during, and after the hurricane and subsequent flood.  Writing in a style that has been deemed “comics reportage,” Neufeld poignantly utilizes the graphic novel as his form to bring to his readers jarring images of the 2005 disaster along with the idiosyncratic voices and episodes from a diverse array of New Orleans dwellers, who for a number of different reasons, decided not to evacuate the city upon the mayor’s recommendation and with the impending doom of the oncoming hurricane.  Moving beyond the generic and often distorted lens of the media, Neufeld, who volunteered in New Orleans for three weeks after “the deluge,” pieces together the events of Katrina and its aftermath as experienced and understood by ordinary people caught in the midst of it.

Classics Illustrated Deluxe #4: The Adventures of Tom Sawyer

Mark Twain, Jean Morvan, Frederique Voulyze, Severine de Fevebvre. The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. Papercutz, 2009. Print.

Reviewed by: Michael Pagliaro

Overview: This book does a fantastic job of adapting Twain’s rip-roaring adventure for the graphic novel genre. The story is lovingly re-enacted down to the smallest conversation about magical methods of wart-removal, and the manga-esque artwork makes each panel stylistic and captivating. Persons attempting to find entertainment here will be rewarded; persons attempting to find a recommendation here will be impressed; persons attempting to find strict academic criticism will be disappointed.

Black Hole

Burns, Charles. Black Hole. New York: Random House, 2005.

Reviewed by: Darlene Watson

Overview: Personally, I did not enjoy this novel, but I can see it’s artistic and literary merit. There are complex issues, such as STDs, which teens are faced with today. I think, due to the sensitive and graphic nature of the book, this would not be a classroom appropriate read. It could, however be used in to open a dialogue between teen and parent.

The Hobbit

Dixon, Charles. Illustrated by David Wenzel.The Hobbit: An Illustrated Edition of the Fantasy Classic. by J.R.R. Tolkien. Del Rey Fantasy. New York, NY 2001

Reviewed by: Michael Pagliaro

Overview: This book strips all the dialogue from The Hobbit and reworks it into a beautifully illustrated graphic novel. The classic tale of the adventure of 13 Darves and a Hobbit to defeat Smaug in the Lonely Mountain remains intact. This is a very appropriate piece of concurrent material with The Hobbit itself, which is already widely taught in schools. It provides rich background for the settings and characters described in the book, as well as an introductory experience in Tolkien’s infamous high-fantasy speech patterns and descriptions.

Classics Illustrated #39: Jane Eyre

Lecar, Helene, ed., Sidney Miller, art director. Based upon the novel by Charlotte Bronte. Classics Illustrated Jane Eyre. Classics Illustrated #39. Gilberton Company, Inc. 1974. Print.

Reviewed by: Darlene Watson

Overview: The illustrated version of Bronte’s novel Jane Eyre, complete with the crazy, attic living wife and Jane Eyre searching for her place in the world. The art isn’t amazing, but it does a good job depicting the characters, moods and setting changes. The plot is moved along with narrative blocks more than  dialogue, but the dialogue chosen is pertinent to the story. I think this stayed very true to the original and does an excellent job introducing readers to Bronte’s novel.

Stitches: A Memoir

Small, David. Stitches: A Memoir. Paw Prints, 2010. Print.

Reviewed by: Elizabeth Bookhultz

Overview: In his New York Times # 1 Bestseller graphic memoir, David Small recounts his childhood and adolescence in Midwestern USA during the 1950s, relaying the simultaneous whimsy and trepidation inherently embedded in the universal process of growing up.  When,  Small develops a “growth” in his neck that remains ignored by his family for years, he is forced to utilize his art as his sole means of communication and expression, as he finds that his voice has quite literally been taken away from him when a surgery causes him to lose his vocal chords. Just as in any good piece of writing, where the form often deliberately mirrors the content, the use of this genre as the medium for recounting his memoir was an artful choice, as with few words and many drawings, Small tells the story of coming into his own without a voice.

Maus: A Survivor’s Tale

Spiegelman, Arthur. Maus: A Survivor’s Tale. Pantheon. 1986

Reviewed By: John Sines

Overview: This is a graphic memoir of American cartoonist Arthur Spiegelman that relates his experiences of listening to his father – Vladek Spiegelman – talk about his experiences before and during the second world war as a Polish Jew. The book switches its focus back and forth from describing Vladek’s past experiences and his/his son’s present day life. The book is famous for being the only comic to have won a Pulitzer Prize (the Special Prize more particularly, as the Pulitzer board members found the book hard to classify).

The Unwritten

Carey, Mike. The Unwritten. Vertigo. 2010.

Reviewed By: John Sines

Overview: This comic series by Mike Carey, creator of the Eisner Award nominated comic “Lucifer,” is at it’s base, a discourse on the creative power of an author. The story revolves around Tom Taylor, a man who was made famous by the novels written by his father. The novels are akin to the Harry Potter series, and enlist the authors son as the protagonist (similar to how Christopher Robin of Winnie-the Pooh was based on Christopher Robin Milne). This became a great source of discontent for Tom. When it comes to light that there is no proof of Tom Taylor being his father’s biological son, many (eventually including Tom himself) begin to question if he is in fact the Tommy Taylor of the novels brought to life. From this, the cultural and ideological power of stories is explored. The comic makes use of literary allusion and reference, using Shelly’s “Frankenstein,” Melville’s “Moby Dick,” the French epic, “Song of Roland,” and many more. More importantly, these stories are not randomly pulled out of the literary hat, but chosen to interact with the story in interesting and meaningful ways.

To learn more about our book reviewing process and criteria for evaluating graphic novels, take a look at Michael’s post, Time to Get Literary, and figure out what the acronym “LC” stands for!

Other Recommendations 


Thompson, Craig. Blankets: an Illustrated Novel. Marietta, GA: Top Shelf, 2003. Print.

Recommended by: Elizabeth Bookhultz

Overview: In his autobiographical graphic novel, Craig Thompson candidly relays the story of his first love, achingly capturing what it feels like to sleep next to someone for the first time, and recounting how he combats the strict and sometimes brutal upbringing by his Evangelical Christian parents, coming-of-age while finding his own version of intimacy and spirituality.  In spite of the verbal and physical abuse Thompson endures at home, his teenaged status as an utter misfit, and the often sanctimonious actions of his mother, Thompson forges his identity through the comfort lent to him by God and by art.  Entertainment Weekly called Blankets “virtual poetry,” and I can’t help but to agree: Thompson brings a new understanding to lyricism, issuing it not only to his words, but also to his drawings, which vacillate between imaginative realism and intimate surrealist expression.  In the final pages of his story, an adult Thompson walks through the snow, noting, “how satisfying it is to leave a mark on a blank surface.  To make a map of my movement –no matter how temporary” (Thompson 580-82).  With all the awards bestowed on Thompson’s visual memoir, I think everyone can agree that he has, indeed, left his mark, though with all the permanence of a classic, not with the transient nature of footprints in snow.

Brody’s Ghost

Crilley, Mark. Brody’s Ghost. Book 2. Milwaukie: Dark Horse Books. 2011. Print.

Recommended by: Darlene Watson

Overview: This is the second book in a series, called Brody’s Ghost. It’s about a ghost (Talia),  who died at age 16 after she was diagnosed with leukemia, and a young man named Brody. Brody has been dumped by his girlfriend and is living on the streets playing his guitar for spare change. Talia recruits him to help her find the man behind a series of murders. In the process, Brody is sent to another ghost who was a Samauri while alive. Brody trains his body and mind and overcomes his personal demons in the process. It’s very much a book about self-discovery and overcoming the loss of love as well as the tragedy behind a death like Talia’s.

Classics Illustrated # 99: Hamlet

Kaplan, Meyer A., ed. Based upon the play by William Shakespeare. Classics Illustrated Hamlet. Classics Illustrated #99. Gilberton Company, Inc. 1952. Print.

Recommended by: Darlene Watson

Overview: This felt like a movie adaptation of Hamlet. It kept the basic plot points but I felt a lot of the characterization is lost in translation. One of the interesting things is the dialogue is all the original Shakespearean and is not adapted, so it is an excellent intro to reading Shakespeare. The short intro at the beginning is very helpful in setting up the play and the inclusion of Hamlet’s major speeches also gives the CL version merit. I felt there were parts, such as the scene where the play is put on depicting the King’s murder, that were a bit more confusing in the CL version than the original.

The Arrival 

Tan, Shaun. The Arrival. Scholastic Inc. New York. 2006.

Recommended by: Michael Pagliaro

Overview: This beautifully crafted wordless graphic novel follows a man immigrating to a strange new land of opportunity. In a brilliant depiction of culture-shock, the country the protagonist immigrates to is alien, complete with strange symbols covering every surface, alien creatures walking about, as well as odd foods, buildings, and transportation methods. Without a written word the reader, just like the immigrant, must figure out the rules of this new world.

Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic

Bechdel, Alison. Fun Home. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. New York. 2006.

Recommended By: John Sines 

Overview: This is a graphic memoir by American writer Alison Bechdel, that chronicles the authors childhood and youth in rural Pennsylvania, USA, focusing on her complex relationship with her father. The book addresses themes of sexual orientation, gender roles, suicide, dysfunctional family life, and to top it off, the role of literature in understanding oneself and one’s family. The narration is non linear, and certain events are revisited multiple times as new information is revealed.

1 Response to Graphic Novels

  1. Pingback: The WWWWWH of Graphic Novels |

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