The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

April 1, 2013

Lisa Brown: Graphic novels captivate between non-fiction titles

By Lisa Brown
Globe Columnist

JOPLIN, Mo. — When life gets busy (and the DVR fills up), my reading habits get a bit lazy. Memoirs, cookbooks and short story collections sound appealing, but they sit on my nightstand while I gravitate toward graphic novels and audio books.

I'll eventually return to reading about how to train your dog to stand on his head or make gluten-free, vegan pizza, but until then I'll feast on the many graphic novels found in the Joplin Public Library's collection.

'Lover's Lane: The Hall-Mills Mystery,' by Rick Geary

I confess, with some shame, to a weakness for books about historical murder cases. Thus, Rick Geary's series, "A Treasury of XXth Century Murder," holds great appeal. The latest installment, "Lover's Lane: the Halls-Mills Mystery," does not disappoint.

I'd not heard of the Hall-Mills murders, but it's a familiar story involving sex, money and scandal, and it captured a nation's attention in the 1920s. An affair between two lovers, a married pastor and a married member of his choir, ends when both are found dead on a country road, their love letters strewn around them.

The book delves into the case and examines all the potential suspects, reading like a police procedural. Much of "Lover's Lane" is narration, with little dialogue, and the illustrations are black and white.

Don't be put off by this low-key presentation. The events, motives and individuals will leave you trying to solve this mystery.

"Saga, Volume 1," by Brian Vaughan and Fiona Staples

"Saga" is one of the more riveting graphic novels I've read in a while. In fact, I sat down to read it and didn't look up until I'd finished.

Alana and Marko, two soldiers on opposing sides of a galactic war, fall in love and flee the conflict that has befallen their cultures.

The story opens as Alana is giving birth to the couple's child. The fledgling family is pursued by bounty hunters and soldiers from both factions as they seek a safe place to be together and raise their daughter.

"Saga" is fast-paced and action-packed, with gorgeous artwork. The writing is equally vivid and at times lyrical. The snarky Alana and idealistic Marko will hold your attention, and I definitely want to see more of the bounty hunter The Will in future editions.

A heads up: "Saga" is kept in the adult collection for a reason. There is salty language, nudity and sexual content throughout.

"The Sixth Gun, Book 1: Cold Dead Fingers," by Cullen Bunn and Brian Hurtt

Just when you think you've seen it all in graphic novel form, along comes something like "The Sixth Gun." It's a western with heavy supernatural elements, and it's way cool.

Six guns with great and dangerous power appeared during the Civil War. After the war, an evil general once thought dead is retrieved by his henchmen so that they can find the Sixth Gun, considered the most powerful of the weapons. It's now owned by a young woman whose father died protecting it.

The only thing standing between her and the general? A gunslinger who used to work for the general. You should check this one out, folks. It's intriguing. The western setting and paranormal theme work well together, oddly enough.

"The New Deadwardians," by Dan Abnett and I.N.J. Culbard

A zombie graphic novel? I'm so there.

A zombie graphic novel with vampires, set in Edwardian England? Don't roll your eyes just yet.

Following the death of Queen Victoria's beloved Prince Albert, a zombie outbreak among the lower classes threatens to bring down the British Empire. To combat the epidemic and regain control, the upper classes take The Cure, becoming vampires.

Years after these events, George Suttle of Scotland Yard is tasked with investigating when a vampire is found dead on the banks of the Thames. He soon finds himself navigating a variety of worlds and uncovering a greater conspiracy.

The zombies aren't particularly scary, and the story drags in parts. However, I did appreciate some aspects of "The New Deadwardians."

The commentary on the class system has relevance in our contemporary society. The artwork subtly makes a statement, appearing dull much of the time but becoming saturated with color to reflect the life force of certain people and places. But it was Suttle's characterization that made this graphic novel worth reading. He's a thoughtful, conflicted aristocrat with a conscience and a progressive streak.

So if you've had enough of "Downton Abbey" and its soap opera story lines, "The New Deadwardians" might be an antidote.

In the meantime, you'll find me enjoying graphic novels until that complete history of the Tower of London piques my interest.

Lisa E. Brown is the Administrative Assistant at the Joplin Public Library.