After I arranged to review this book, the publisher sent me a physical copy of the second installment of Gengoroh Tagame’s My Brother’s Husband. This is the first time I’ve received a physical review copy of a text, making My Brother’s Husband: Volume 2 a bit of an outlier in my review experience. The decision to send a physical book is eminent, as it drew my attention to several features and oddities inherent to the text. My Brother’s Husband is a manga, which means that it is meant to be read from right to left (the reverse of traditional left-to-right page and book orientation in most of Western publishing). For a Canadian reader who is broadly unfamiliar with Japanese publishing, and with manga in particular, the experience of reading this text was different; my awareness of page layouts and pacing was heightened, and I was vividly reminded of the text’s form every time I turned a page. The decision, then, to send a physical copy of the text was pragmatic, as it enabled me to make a closer, more detailed account of the ways that My Brother’s Husband is, at its core, a queer text.
Minority Monsters is an extremely cute, fun, accessible guide to sex, gender, and power. It may sound like I’m being flippant, but I mean nothing of the sort. Minority Monsters takes the reader through the fabled Alphabet Soup Land alongside our curious, well-intentioned guide— Frank Aura, the explorer— as he meets, observes, and interviews a wide variety of gender and sexuality non-conformers who are cast as a wide range of mythical beasts. From Sir Fabulous the bisexual unicorn (who is not invisible, thankyouverymuch) to Vlad the Vegan Vanilla Vampire, the text covers as full a spectrum of expressions of gender and sexual identity (and their various intersections) as one could hope to see in a comic. Each of the monsters is centered in their own right: Each is able to tell their own identity story and sometimes answer Frank Aura’s misguided questions— always with grace and often with humor.
If you enjoyed the unsettling deep dive into Allister Ward’s presumed psychosis that was Knight in the Snake Pit #1, the second installment is sure to please you. Allister remains trapped between the dark world of the asylum and the fantastic quest—complete with a king, a dragon, fellow knights, and an unnamed, yet harrowing, enemy-- that invades his reality, with no further clues to aid him in deciphering between reality and fantasy (Read: psychosis.) than he is left with at the end of volume one. The plot, nevertheless, progresses; the stakes are raised right off the bat when Allister is left to take the fall for several dead bodies, and all of the various sides that seem to be wrestling for both his body and his mind approach him with an added urgency. To make matters worse, it seems that the question of trust is muddied on all sides; Allister must learn who he can trust, but also prove that he is trustworthy, all with a limited grasp of his world and an inability to ground himself fully in either space.
In his introductory note, David Petersen describes Mouse Guard: The Black Axe as a creator’s quest, a text that challenged him to produce more detailed characters and worlds alongside a standard quest narrative. Two mice, Em and Celanwe, discover that they are distantly related and the last living members of their bloodline, and they go in search of the Black Axe - a prized family artifact. Their quest takes them to distant lands and into the kingdom of dangerous enemies, and it is well balanced with character development and worldbuilding.
Hazel and Mari are each other’s one true love in a time when same-sex attraction is seen as repulsive, and even sinful. Torn apart by their families, they each find socially suitable partners (men), marry, have children and grandchildren, and build their careers. When they eventually reunite, they find their love has remained over time, and this time, they can’t let it go. Bingo Love is a tale of heartbreak, social change, and redemption.
Knight in the Snake Pit #1 is a chilling comic that tells the beginning of the story of Allister Ward, a man who wakes up in an asylum with no memories and no concept of why he’s there. Madness is the only constant in Allister’s life, and the text follows him as he moves between a confusing, maddening reality and paranoid episodes with narrative coherence and structure far beyond what he experiences otherwise.
A lonely, brooding detective takes on the case of an ex-girlfriend, only to have two things confirmed: He won’t get the girl, but is he a great detective.
The Jem and the Holograms: Dimensions comics run has made some great progress in terms of LGBTQ2* representation and race and body type diversity while still centering music and taking its aesthetics from the '80s pop-punk scene, and this installment furthers that work. Comics in the Dimensions series include two short stories each, with the ultimate intention of showing Jem, the Holograms, the Misfits, and even a pretty well-developed set of groupies in a multi-dimensional way through extended world building and character development. Each story is written and drawn by a rotating crew, meaning that each comic contains two distinct story and art styles. This installment includes Sarah Kuhn and Siobhan Keenan’s “Face Off” and Sarah Winifrid Searle’s “Star Girl.”
Jem and the Holograms: Dimensions #1 is a quirky, fun read. The comic features two short stories. “Catnap,” written and drawn by Sophie Campbell and colored by Victoria Robado, follows Misfits groupie Clash as she attempts to juggle cat sitting, skiing, and Holograms-inspired pranks. Not only does this story feature a somewhat frivolous (deliciously so) storyline-- I mean, character development, sure, but the plot is light and entertaining—but Campbell and Robado have really leaned into a particular ‘80s comics vibe, featuring banana yellow and puffy white coordinated ski suits. I found it a little refreshing, too, to see the Holograms/Misfits rivalry/obsession figured in a not-so-one-sided way; it’s the Holograms, or at least their fans, that come out looking a little shady in this one.
Rick and Morty: Book Two carries on major themes from the animated series: nihilism, human connection (or lack thereof) and family, power, and ethics, and how the heck one is supposed to care about school when offered a rotating sequence of incredibly high-stakes adventures. That said, Rick and Morty fans will not be disappointed by Rick and Morty: Book Two, the second installment of Rick and Morty comics. This text is longer than some might expect - 290 pages in total - but interested readers shouldn’t be put off by the length; Rick and Morty: Book Two is a surprisingly fast read, both because of its form - a collection of short stories - and because the content is expertly rendered. Not only are the narratives of each story engaging, but the art and character development are - with one minor exception - in line with what readers familiar with the animated series have come to expect.