(By Guy Delisle. Drawn & Quarterly, 263 pp, $19.95)
Guy Delisle's books play to our fascination with unusual parts of the world. His latest, Burma Chronicles, comes after journeys to Pyongyang and Shenzhen (detailed in graphic novels named after these cities). Here, he and baby Louis follow his wife, Nadège, who works for Médecins Sans Frontières, to Burma. The art is playful and cartoony, lending humour to the numerous episodes that make up the book. While it captures aspects of life in Burma from the political to the pedestrian, at times reading the book feels like being subjected to someone's vacation photos in which they, rather than the place they visited, are the star.
> Amanda Growe
The ACME novelty library #19
(By Chris Ware. The Acme Novelty Library, 80 pp, $15.95)
The latest installment of Chris Ware's Acme Novelty Library collects Rusty Brown strips first published in the Chicago Reader between 2002 and '04. Rusty himself doesn't appear, however, as this volume focuses on his father, William "Woody" Brown, and the girl who stomped on his heart-and indirectly launched his career as a science-fiction author-in strait-laced 1950s Omaha, Nebraska. As usual, Ware's drawing is deceptively simple yet painfully precise, which in this case underscores the horn-rimmed innocence of his socially stunted protagonist and the transgressive nature of his first sexual relationship. Lightening the tone just a shade, Ware's tributes to 1950s pulp-magazine covers are as fun as the strips' story line is emotionally devastating.
Red Colored Elegy
(By Seiichi Hayashi. Drawn & Quarterly, 235 pp, $24.95)
Though you never find out what's red in Red Colored Elegy, it's safe to assume the book is an elegy for main characters Sachiko and Ichiro's tortured relationship. It's the '70s, and the two are living together despite the fact that Sachiko's family wants her to have an arranged marriage. As they struggle to strike a balance between getting by and working at what they love, they alternate between affection and contempt. Their biggest conflict, however, is over whether they are a couple. While the story sometimes falters, the drawings-which often evoke the clean lines of Inuit art-make this translation of an influential comic from the '70s worth your while.
Jamilti and Other Stories
(By Rutu Modan. Drawn & Quarterly, 174 pp, $19.95)
This collection of early short works by Rutu Modan, creator of last year's acclaimed graphic novel Exit Wounds, showcases the Israeli artist's ability to tell a compelling story in just a few pages. It also chronicles the development of her drawing, from the muted tones and stylized figures of "The King of the Lillies" to the deceptively straightforward cartoon realism of "Your Number One Fan", for which Modan adopted the ligne claire style pioneered by The Adventures of Tintin's Hergé. Of the seven stories here, "Jamilti" is the most affecting. Through its depiction of a fleeting encounter between a Tel Aviv nurse and a Hamas suicide bomber, Modan reveals something about the absurdity of war and the power of human connection.
BURMA, ACME 19, RED COLORED ELEGY and JAMILTI reviewed by Georgia Straight