Comic books have become some of the most lucrative sources of intellectual property for film and television in recent years, and 2017 will see the release of a bevy of screen adaptations. But the fact remains that the drawn comics themselves can do things that translations simply can’t, yielding more visual experimentation and more narrative ambition — and when you combine well-crafted words and pictures, there’s a unique form of printed magic that occurs. Here’s a gander at some of the comics we’re most looking forward to before summer hits.
Hostage by Guy Delisle, April 25 (Drawn + Quarterly)
A graphic artist’s life is usually a solitary one, spent slaving away at a drawing board for countless hours while the world circles around them. It’s no wonder, then, that Guy Delisle is able to so vividly render the life of a man in solitary confinement. This true-life account depicts the experiences of a man who was kidnapped while working for Doctors Without Borders in the Caucasus and subsequently held for months without contact with the outside world. Somehow, Delisle — best known for travelogues like Shenzhen and Pyongyang — is able to make that agonizingly uneventful period riveting by subtly pushing the boundaries of the comics medium. We’re forced to focus not on epic action or contrasting character designs, but rather on the smallest movements of a hand, a mouth, or a beam of light. Hostage, like the experience it depicts, is a long haul at more than 400 pages, but the endeavor is worth every ostensibly dull moment.
Boundless by Jillian Tamaki, May 30 (Drawn + Quarterly)
With her latest book, Jillian Tamaki boldly emerges as a new titan of the comics medium. This collection of short fictions — calling them “stories” feels wrong, as some of them are more like meditations and others are like diary entries from parallel universes — presents a series of individuals just trying to survive in a world that makes decreasing amounts of sense with each passing day. We get vignettes about a mysterious, six-hour-long audio file that becomes a brief cultural phenomenon and then a literal cult object; a “mirror Facebook” of unknown provenance that shows you the life of what may or may not be your doppelgänger from an alternate reality; and an account of a narrator’s personal relationship with an entirely made-up movie called Body Pods. Each is rendered with a distinctive visual approach synced to the aesthetic of the tale; with each passing illustrative shift, it becomes more apparent that Tamaki has a range that is rare among cartoonists. The whole endeavor feels like Adrian Tomine meets Jorge Luis Borges, while also feeling like nothing we’ve seen before.