Lynda Barry and Rutu Modan are top titles of 2013 for Salon

“Unforgettable Graphic Novels of 2013” / Salon / Laura Miller / December 3, 2013


The Freddie Stories by Lynda Barry

Yes, Barry remains the comics' greatest genius at depicting childhood, and in this collection of strips (really more of a continuous narrative), she portrays the fractured world and mind of Freddie, the younger brother of her best-known characters, Maybonne and Marlys. "It is not a rank on my brother to say he has certain mental disorders known as emotional problems," Marlys explains in her forward, and indeed it is not. Bullied at school and misunderstood or simply ignored by the kids' irascible, chain-smoking mother, Freddie nevertheless possesses an inner life of great beauty and terror, whose heights and depths Barry manages to encompass without ever abandoning the authentic voice of childhood. Much of what Freddie goes through is pretty rough, but as ever in Barry's work, the transcendent power of the imagination awaits.

The Property by Rutu Modan

What "The Property" most resembles is an excellent independent film, full of nuanced performances and funny lines. It depicts the visit to Warsaw of Regina Segal, who lived there before World War II, and her granddaughter, Mica. It's two months after the death of Mica's father (Regina's son), and suddenly Regina has become interested in looking into a building her Jewish family lost to the Nazi regime, property that could be reclaimed under current Polish law. Mica is mostly just along for the ride, and to keep an eye on her mercurial grandma, but then she meets a handsome tour guide and a family acquaintance keeps turning up where least expected and there turns out to be a whole lot more going on here than meets the eye. Modan's artwork is lovely and understated; it's the cleverness of her storytelling that shines brightest here.

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