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Still More Tryptophan-tastic Tomes To See You Through Your Turkey Coma

Filed by KOSU News in Art & Life.
November 23, 2011

After the ceremonial carbo-loading we call Thanksgiving, with its sundry attendant rituals (Cutting Off Uncle Joe Before He Gets Out His Guitar; Refusing To Engage Aunt Janet On The Relative Nutritive Merits of Pepper Spray; Attempting to Steer Uncle Ted Off Of His Colonoscopy Story), you will have a free Friday.

Enjoying it will prove a challenge, however. You’ll feel starch-stuffed and logy. There will be people milling around, and they will urge you to take a trip to the mall with them, or to polish off the turkey hash, or to listen to the story about their colonoscopy that for some reason they never got around to finishing last night.

You could watch a movie, but that’s too communal — besides, Aunt Janet always feels compelled to free-associate loudly and incessantly, and that way lies kin-slaying.

No, you need alone time. You need a book. It should be not merely thick but notably thick. A serious object, a totem, imposing enough to dissuade people from interrupting your reverie.

For your sake, it should be immersive – capable of whisking you far, far away from your beloved family, to a magical, carefree place where no one thumps you on the stomach and tells you you’ve “packed on a few, eh?”

But — and here’s where things get tricky — ideally, it should also be a quick read; something you can polish off in an afternoon on the couch.

We’ve said it before (three times before in fact): What you need is a nice, big graphic novel.

Pogo: The Complete Daily & Sunday Comic Strips, Vol. 1: Through the Wild Blue Wonder by Walt Kelly, published by Fantagraphics

The wait is over. Walt Kelly’s seminal, satirical, exquisitely rendered, hugely influential (and, not for nothing, actually funny) comic strip is getting a deluxe treatment by Fantagraphics. Crisply reproduced at a generous size that makes it easier than ever to marvel over Kelly’s marvelous linework, this book is everything fans and comics historians were hoping for.

Big Questions by Anders Nilsen, published by Drawn and Quarterly

At first, Nilsen’s austere absurdist fables about birds and snakes and humans who encounter one another in a vast Limbo-like expanse might seem off-putting. In a way, with its cool, affectless tone, it’s the anti-Pogo, as far away from Kelly’s cartoony warmth as can be. But as a feat of visual storytelling, it’s damnably impressive (Nilsen uses white space to isolate his characters in a way that’ll chill your bones), and Big Questions manages to carve out a patch of psychic real estate that’s at once inscrutable and compulsively readable.

The Book of Human Insects by Osamu Tezuka, published by Vertical

To dub Tezuka’s tale of a venal criminal “noir” would undersell its pitch-black tone. In this gleefully nasty piece of work, Tezuka launches a blistering attack on the cultural values of 70s-era Japan with a main character who claws her way through high society via cunning, mimicry and, yes, murder. Tight plotting, a large cast of wicked-to-the-bone characters and Tezuka’s attention to background detail make this a malicious manga masterpiece.

Spy vs. Spy Omnibus by Antonio Prohias, published by DC Comics

A satisfyingly simple, Manichean formula has been iterated continuously in the pages of MAD Magazine for the past 50 years, and its ingenious resiliency has kept Spy vs. Spy from seeming like the Cold War relic it might. We can project any conflict we wish onto the cold black eyes of our … sort-of-birdlike-but-also-vaguely-aardvarkian avatars. This omnibus, featuring as it does two characters locked in a futile, endless and ultimately pointless struggle, would make a great gift for that annoyingly sunny optimist in your life.

League of Extraordinary Gentlemen Omnibus by Alan Moore and Kevin O’Neill, published by DC Comics

Forget the movie. That’s the first thing. Just forget it. It never happened. I SAID IT NEVER HAPPENED.

This omnibus collects the first two volumes of Moore and O’Neill’s soaringly clever, two-fisted epic of high adventure starring famous literary characters from across the Western Canon. Filled with casual allusions and visual puns (you’ll want to read it once, then go back through again with Jess Nevins’ helpful annotations to guide you) this is edition collects the comics’ backmatter (chapters of books written by the characters, racy Victorian advertisements), which serve to enrich and elucidate the universe in which these ripping yarns take place.

And finally, as I’ve already said elsewhere, and at considerable length, Craig Thompson’s Habibi is a beautiful, transporting work of fiction you really need to read. What I didn’t say in that review is that the book was made for a long gray afternoon like the one you’re about to face.

And when you’re done, you can whip it at Uncle Ted when he starts in on politics again. A four-pound, 672-page book can quell even the most rancorous familial dispute, if you aim it right. [Copyright 2011 National Public Radio]

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