Step Aside, Pops by Kate Beaton. Drawn and Quarterly.
Cabinets of curiosities in a house of mirrors, Beaton’s comics turn cultural history on its head, unfolding whole narratives from tiny fragments of the past. Here, she playfully satirizes everything from Wuthering Heights to early-20th-century aviation in short strips that are as funny as they are smart. The eccentric breadth of Beaton’s interests can sometimes be intimidating, but it’s ultimately inviting. Like the best criticism, her work is sly without being snide, encouraging us to reconsider the familiar and rediscover the forgotten, laughing all the while.
SuperMutant Magic Academy by Jillian Tamaki. Drawn and Quarterly.
Collecting Tamaki’s online comics about life at a school for paranormal teens, this spiky, acerbic, funny book makes room for flights of odd fancy amid the angst. Though uneven—in early strips, Tamaki was clearly experimenting as she went along—SuperMutant grows along with its cast of characters, and part of the fun of reading it is seeing a creator gain confidence as she builds a world, establishes its magical and emotional rules, and then breaks them.
Killing and Dying by Adrian Tomine. Drawn and Quarterly.
Spare as Adrian Tomine’s illustrations can be, his stories are often more so; Tomine is a master of the unsaid. Nowhere is this truer than in the titular short story in this new collection, which unspools around the silence of cancer, a word we never hear and a condition from which there is no escape. Unapologetically raw, these always finely rendered—and often enormously moving—narratives find Tomine at the peak of his powers.