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This diamond indicates those titles included in the Top Ten Core List

 

I Never Liked YouStuck Rubber Baby
by Howard Cruse
ISBN: 1563892553
Paradox Press, 1995

This is a civil rights story and a gay rights story focusing on a gay white teenager who grew up in the South in the 1960s. When Toland Polk gets out of high school, there's a depression in the South, so he gets a job pumping gas. One of his friends is very involved in the civil rights movement while another is homosexual. Toland finds himself very much drawn into their worlds, questioning their beliefs--and his own, in the process--until a tragic incident makes him realize standing up for what you believe is the only way to make changes. This book is a sensitive, well-written narrative about what it was like to live in the South in the 1960s. There are sporadic scenes with nudity or sexual content in Stuck Rubber Baby: on the whole, things are dealt with about as tastefully as they are in Craig Thompson's Blankets, though in an extremely different art style. Howard Cruse does a great deal of his shading in dots and cross-hatching, giving his characters a three dimensional, grainy photograph look.

review by gina

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A Contract with God: and Other Tenement Stories
ISBN: 1563896745
By Will Eisner
DC Comics 2000

Will Eisner is the granddaddy of graphic novels as well as being repsonsible for the success of comics in a variety of genres, from journalism to nonfiction. This title, often called the first graphic novel, is a personal one -- a sequence of tales drawn from Eisner's memories of growing up Jewish in a Tenement in Brooklyn in pre-war America. He deftly explores the fragility and community to be found in a world of people living in poverty practically on top of each other. The tale also works as a portrait of a place and time as can only be told by one who lived through it, with affection and honesty.

review by robin

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Berlin: City of Stones
ISBN: 1896597297
By Jason Lutes
Drawn and Quarterly Publications 2000

There are numerous stories about the Holocaust and WWII, but what about Germany before the war? What led to the rise of Nazism and the horrors that followed? Jason Lutes eloquently traces the politics and society of Weimar Berlin in this first volume of a projected trilogy. The tale centers around Marthe Muller, a struggling young artist and Kurt Severing, a downtrodden reporter, but the story reaches far beyond these two to a wide group of well-drawn characters. If you want to feel history through your heart rather than analyze it with your brain, this title is for you.

review by robin

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The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen
ISBN: 1563898586
By Alan Moore
Art by Kevin O'Neill, Ben Dimagmaliw and Bill Oakley
DC Comics 2002

If you saw the movie and liked it, or if you didnít see the movie, or if you saw the movie and didnít like it, you should read this graphic novel. This is a story about superheroes before superheroes wore tights and capes. It's superheroes in corsets and frock coats who sit down to tea in the afternoon on Captain Nemoís fantastical submarine the Nautilus. Alan Moore draws from a wealth of 19th C literary sources to create the ultimate crossover story. At the direction of the mysterious M. Mina Murray nťe Harker (last seen in Bram Stokerís Dracula) assembles and leads a group of social misfits with from the nervous Mr. Jekyll (and his more aggressive alter ego Mr. Hyde) to the ultimate adventurer Allan Quartermain. In this volume the cast is assembled, and are immediately embroiled in a nefarious plot to destroy Londonís East End. It is a race against time, and their competing personalities to solve the mystery and save London. As always, Alan Moore delivers a story which is intelligent and well written. The plot recalls the style of the 19th century mystery novel but with a modern flourish. Kevin OíNeillís artwork is perfect for this story. The panels are filled with detail, and are as complicated and labyrinthine as Alan Mooreís text.

review by Petra

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The Golden Vine
ISBN: 0971756414
by Jai Sen
Art by Seijuro Mizu, Umeka Asayuki, and Shino Yotsumoto
Shoto Press 2003

An ambitious, visually stunning work, The Golden Vine is also a study of history's possibilities. The book focuses on one of the more enigmatic figures of the world's past: Alexander the Great, that rebellious Macdeonian prince who conquered the bulk of the known world only to die in his 30s, armies scattered and empire broken. The Golden Vine turns on one departure from recorded history: what if Alexander had not destroyed the conquered capital of the Persian empire, Persepolis, and, by maintaining the respect of those people instead of crushing them, followed a different path to life and a world empire? Told in three interwoven parts, each vividly illuminated by a different artist, the tale follows the journey of Alexander IV, Alexander's half-Greek, half-Persian heir, as he struggles to ascend to the throne of Emperor and puzzle through the power and legacy of a father he barely knew. Through the memories and advice of Alexander's closest companion, Hephaestion, now ruler of Persia, and by reading Alexander's own letters Alexander IV begins to see his father as both a man and ruler. The entire work is impressive both in scope and in the humanity visible through the monumental legend. Jai Sen certainly did his homework, and he was careful to document where he departs from the known story -- in fact, Shoto Press has a wonderful website devoted to the title with invaluable side by side timelines showing recorded history and the book's embellishments and outright changes. Alexander, Hephaestion, and Alexander IV are all very real people, struggling with their individual senses of pride, loyalty, and power in the process of changing the world's landscape culturally as well as geographically. In the end, I was a wee bit skeptical at the ease with which Alexander spreads his rule across the continents, but within such a glorious book all around, it is a small fault. An excellent choice for teenagers and adults curious about ancient worlds, the legend of Alexander the Great, and the true nature of authority.

review by robin

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The Rabbi's Cat
by Joann Sfar
ISBN: 0-375-42281-1
Pantheon Books, 2005

This book is comprised of three interlocking vignettes about a Jewish family in Algeria in the 1930s. The first vignette is about the cat gaining the ability to speak (by killing and eating the family parrot) and his subsequent attempt to convert to Judaism. In the second, the rabbi receives a letter from the French Government that informs him he needs to pass a government test in French (which he reads very poorly) in order to be the official rabbi of his area. In the third vignette, the rabbi's daughter falls in love with a French rabbi and brings her father (and the cat) on her honeymoon to France. The Rabbi's Cat is narrated by the irreligious and mischievous cat, giving the reader a unique perspective on the lives and religion of the characters.

This work of magical realism explores the difficulty of being Jewish in a French colony populated largely by Muslims, examining the internal conflicts inherent in having conflicting national and religious identities. Joann Sfar's vibrantly colored line drawings perfectly complement the tone of The Rabbi's Cat-- it's a book where seemingly mundane occurrences and simple utterances are charged with deeper meaning.

Review by gina

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Age of Bronze
By Eric Shanower
Image Comics 2001

Would you start a war to keep the love of the most beautiful woman in the world? This title marks the beginning of another epic series -- this time Eric Shanower tackles the full story of the Trojan War, detailed with research from history and mythology. Drawn in crisp black and white, the story focuses on the people caught up in the tide of war, from the famous instigator Paris to the beautiful Helen ...Read More

review by robin

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The Golem's Mighty Swing
ISBN: 1896597459
By James Sturm
Drawn and Quarterly Publications 2001

Enough with war -- on to baseball! Set in the 1920s, this title follows the Stars of David, one of many barnstorming baseball teams touring the country, this team's distinction being that all the team members are Jewish. Caught in the Midwest and desperate for attendance, the team bills their one African-American teammate, dubbed a member of the lost tribe, as a mythical golem. Their gimmick backfires, however, and pushes their audience's anti-semitism to a boiling point. Subtle and affecting, this is not to be missed.

review by robin

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