4 new graphic novels offer sanctuary amidst struggle

WhatsOn Oct 14, 2021 by Mike Donachie Toronto Star

Pass Me By: Electric Vice

By Kyle Simmers and Ryan Danny Owen

Renegade Arts Entertainment, 160 pages, $24.99

Everyone needs to be paying attention to the work of Kyle Simmers and Ryan Danny Owen. These Calgary-based creators are making remarkable graphic novels that are just about as good as the medium can be. Seriously: this is astonishing stuff.

“Electric Vice” is the second book in the “Pass Me By” series but works as a stand-alone. It offers an origin story of sorts for main character Ed, whom we met in “Pass Me By: Gone Fishin’,” and is struggling with age, dementia and fading memories of a career in music. This is the story of Electric Vice, simultaneously a glam rock band and a life-changing experience for Ed.

It’s an important book, addressing queer issues in a story of love and identities. But its real strength is its craft: illustration, layouts, pacing, dialogue, palette and more are all top-level work. This series should win awards.

This Is How I Disappear

By Mirion Malle

Drawn & Quarterly, 208 pages, $29.95

It’s pleasing to see mental health handled well in a graphic novel. Mirion Malle, though, offers a nuanced lesson in how to do it in the superb “This Is How I Disappear.”

Depression, it shows, can devour a life, slowly and horribly, in ways that can make the sufferer feel as if it’s their fault. Here we have Clara, a young poet with a marketing job in publishing, who is feeling her life coming apart due to her ill mental health. We watch it happen, and her efforts to stop it, and the ways the deck is stacked against her, all presented with the subtlety only a talented cartoonist can build into a graphic novel.

“This Is How I Disappear” is just one example of exciting work that just keeps coming from the Montreal comics scene, and long may it continue.

Dying For Attention: A Graphic Memoir of Nursing Home Care

By Susan MacLeod

Conundrum Press, 160 pages, $20

Caring for an elderly patient is an unusual subject for a graphic novel. The very existence of “Dying For Attention” shows the versatility of the medium; its content shows its power. This was Susan MacLeod’s life for nine years and it’s a remarkable memoir.

It’s the story of how MacLeod and her mother — both capable, intelligent, organized women — grappled with the system’s complexities, banalities and just plain flaws. “You don’t need to be 90 to be overwhelmed,” MacLeod notes at one point.

MacLeod’s difficult relationships with her parents add another layer of emotion to this book, which is a challenging read, despite its events taking place before the pandemic’s dreadful events in long-term care homes. And the author, who’s based in Halifax, bravely shares so much, from her own perceived faults to the darkest parts of her family history. It’s compelling.

Nocterra: Full Throttle Dark

By Scott Snyder and Tony Daniel

Image Comics, 168 pages, $12.99

If you’re a science fiction person, you’ll want to get on board with “Nocterra” nice and early. There will never be a better opportunity than to pick up this first collection of six issues from the hottest creators around.

Ten years after “The Big PM” left the entire world in darkness, the survivors struggle to hold off the monsters waiting beyond the few remaining sources of artificial light. Anyone caught in the dark becomes a twisted enemy — and everywhere is threatened.

Our protagonist is Val, a “ferryman” transporting people between oases of light in her converted truck, equipped with light weapons made by younger brother Emory. Then they hear of a sanctuary filled with light, and that it is under threat.

Nocterra is about fear of the dark, told in a riveting, quickfire action style. It’s best read in daylight, though.

Mike Donachie frequently writes about graphic novels and comics for The Star

4 new graphic novels offer sanctuary amidst struggle

WhatsOn Oct 14, 2021 by Mike Donachie Toronto Star

Pass Me By: Electric Vice

By Kyle Simmers and Ryan Danny Owen

Renegade Arts Entertainment, 160 pages, $24.99

Everyone needs to be paying attention to the work of Kyle Simmers and Ryan Danny Owen. These Calgary-based creators are making remarkable graphic novels that are just about as good as the medium can be. Seriously: this is astonishing stuff.

“Electric Vice” is the second book in the “Pass Me By” series but works as a stand-alone. It offers an origin story of sorts for main character Ed, whom we met in “Pass Me By: Gone Fishin’,” and is struggling with age, dementia and fading memories of a career in music. This is the story of Electric Vice, simultaneously a glam rock band and a life-changing experience for Ed.

It’s an important book, addressing queer issues in a story of love and identities. But its real strength is its craft: illustration, layouts, pacing, dialogue, palette and more are all top-level work. This series should win awards.

This Is How I Disappear

By Mirion Malle

Drawn & Quarterly, 208 pages, $29.95

It’s pleasing to see mental health handled well in a graphic novel. Mirion Malle, though, offers a nuanced lesson in how to do it in the superb “This Is How I Disappear.”

Depression, it shows, can devour a life, slowly and horribly, in ways that can make the sufferer feel as if it’s their fault. Here we have Clara, a young poet with a marketing job in publishing, who is feeling her life coming apart due to her ill mental health. We watch it happen, and her efforts to stop it, and the ways the deck is stacked against her, all presented with the subtlety only a talented cartoonist can build into a graphic novel.

“This Is How I Disappear” is just one example of exciting work that just keeps coming from the Montreal comics scene, and long may it continue.

Dying For Attention: A Graphic Memoir of Nursing Home Care

By Susan MacLeod

Conundrum Press, 160 pages, $20

Caring for an elderly patient is an unusual subject for a graphic novel. The very existence of “Dying For Attention” shows the versatility of the medium; its content shows its power. This was Susan MacLeod’s life for nine years and it’s a remarkable memoir.

It’s the story of how MacLeod and her mother — both capable, intelligent, organized women — grappled with the system’s complexities, banalities and just plain flaws. “You don’t need to be 90 to be overwhelmed,” MacLeod notes at one point.

MacLeod’s difficult relationships with her parents add another layer of emotion to this book, which is a challenging read, despite its events taking place before the pandemic’s dreadful events in long-term care homes. And the author, who’s based in Halifax, bravely shares so much, from her own perceived faults to the darkest parts of her family history. It’s compelling.

Nocterra: Full Throttle Dark

By Scott Snyder and Tony Daniel

Image Comics, 168 pages, $12.99

If you’re a science fiction person, you’ll want to get on board with “Nocterra” nice and early. There will never be a better opportunity than to pick up this first collection of six issues from the hottest creators around.

Ten years after “The Big PM” left the entire world in darkness, the survivors struggle to hold off the monsters waiting beyond the few remaining sources of artificial light. Anyone caught in the dark becomes a twisted enemy — and everywhere is threatened.

Our protagonist is Val, a “ferryman” transporting people between oases of light in her converted truck, equipped with light weapons made by younger brother Emory. Then they hear of a sanctuary filled with light, and that it is under threat.

Nocterra is about fear of the dark, told in a riveting, quickfire action style. It’s best read in daylight, though.

Mike Donachie frequently writes about graphic novels and comics for The Star

4 new graphic novels offer sanctuary amidst struggle

WhatsOn Oct 14, 2021 by Mike Donachie Toronto Star

Pass Me By: Electric Vice

By Kyle Simmers and Ryan Danny Owen

Renegade Arts Entertainment, 160 pages, $24.99

Everyone needs to be paying attention to the work of Kyle Simmers and Ryan Danny Owen. These Calgary-based creators are making remarkable graphic novels that are just about as good as the medium can be. Seriously: this is astonishing stuff.

“Electric Vice” is the second book in the “Pass Me By” series but works as a stand-alone. It offers an origin story of sorts for main character Ed, whom we met in “Pass Me By: Gone Fishin’,” and is struggling with age, dementia and fading memories of a career in music. This is the story of Electric Vice, simultaneously a glam rock band and a life-changing experience for Ed.

It’s an important book, addressing queer issues in a story of love and identities. But its real strength is its craft: illustration, layouts, pacing, dialogue, palette and more are all top-level work. This series should win awards.

This Is How I Disappear

By Mirion Malle

Drawn & Quarterly, 208 pages, $29.95

It’s pleasing to see mental health handled well in a graphic novel. Mirion Malle, though, offers a nuanced lesson in how to do it in the superb “This Is How I Disappear.”

Depression, it shows, can devour a life, slowly and horribly, in ways that can make the sufferer feel as if it’s their fault. Here we have Clara, a young poet with a marketing job in publishing, who is feeling her life coming apart due to her ill mental health. We watch it happen, and her efforts to stop it, and the ways the deck is stacked against her, all presented with the subtlety only a talented cartoonist can build into a graphic novel.

“This Is How I Disappear” is just one example of exciting work that just keeps coming from the Montreal comics scene, and long may it continue.

Dying For Attention: A Graphic Memoir of Nursing Home Care

By Susan MacLeod

Conundrum Press, 160 pages, $20

Caring for an elderly patient is an unusual subject for a graphic novel. The very existence of “Dying For Attention” shows the versatility of the medium; its content shows its power. This was Susan MacLeod’s life for nine years and it’s a remarkable memoir.

It’s the story of how MacLeod and her mother — both capable, intelligent, organized women — grappled with the system’s complexities, banalities and just plain flaws. “You don’t need to be 90 to be overwhelmed,” MacLeod notes at one point.

MacLeod’s difficult relationships with her parents add another layer of emotion to this book, which is a challenging read, despite its events taking place before the pandemic’s dreadful events in long-term care homes. And the author, who’s based in Halifax, bravely shares so much, from her own perceived faults to the darkest parts of her family history. It’s compelling.

Nocterra: Full Throttle Dark

By Scott Snyder and Tony Daniel

Image Comics, 168 pages, $12.99

If you’re a science fiction person, you’ll want to get on board with “Nocterra” nice and early. There will never be a better opportunity than to pick up this first collection of six issues from the hottest creators around.

Ten years after “The Big PM” left the entire world in darkness, the survivors struggle to hold off the monsters waiting beyond the few remaining sources of artificial light. Anyone caught in the dark becomes a twisted enemy — and everywhere is threatened.

Our protagonist is Val, a “ferryman” transporting people between oases of light in her converted truck, equipped with light weapons made by younger brother Emory. Then they hear of a sanctuary filled with light, and that it is under threat.

Nocterra is about fear of the dark, told in a riveting, quickfire action style. It’s best read in daylight, though.

Mike Donachie frequently writes about graphic novels and comics for The Star