Review: THE NEW DEAL by Jonathan Case


We begin Jonathan Case’s new graphic novel, “The New Deal,” in New York City, 1936. It’s the depths of the Great Depression. NYC is pretty darn cold in the winter, especially when money is so scarce. There’s a young guy, Frank O’Malley, and he’s pleading with passersby to consider buying a ticket to an avant-garde production of Macbeth. Tough sale especially when, just next to Frank is his Uncle Pack hawking apples for six cents each. A potential customer tries to haggle the price down by a penny but Uncle Pack won’t budge. Quickly, we move on as Frank races to his regular job as a bellman at the Waldorf Astoria. And with that Case has hooked you in as the plot thickens and we find Frank to be way over his head.

Pages from THE NEW DEAL

Pages from THE NEW DEAL

Case delivers a solid story built upon his character-driven script and his engaging drawing style. His sly sense of humor and intrigue works its way through every page. He has managed to create characters that feel real while inhabiting the hyperreal world of screwball comedies of the 1930s. We cannot help but be curious about the relationship between a Caucasian bellman, Frank O’Malley, and an African-American maid, Theresa Harris. In public, they keep at a distance and address each other by their surnames. In private, they are playful with each other but still hold back. What we do know is that they care about each other very much and the plot that unfolds will test them.


This is an exceptionally well-paced and substantial story. It has one foot in the ’30s and the other in today’s sensibilities. This allows us to explore the relationship between Frank and Theresa and the inner world of Theresa with great subtlety. You learn to accept Frank who has to struggle with proving his trustworthiness. And you follow Theresa as she must navigate through the obstacles before her. The more complicated our story gets, the more Frank and Theresa are forced to face what it is that keeps attracting them to each other.

Make no mistake, this is a perfect blend of mystery, humor, and offbeat love story. If there’s any mention of FDR’s “New Deal,” it is only in passing. This is not a history lesson, at least not directly. That said, while you’ll learn a thing or two about swells and dolls and fancy hotels, you will also get a good sense of the cold realities of that era.

This is Jonathan Case’s best work yet. You may know him from his artwork for the critically-acclaimed graphic novel, “Green River Killer: A True Detective Story,” which I reviewed here. Or you may have caught his work for the DC Comics title, “Batman ’66.” You will definitely want to read “The New Deal,” a thoroughly entertaining and remarkable work.

THE NEW DEAL is a hardcover, published by Dark Horse Comics, available as of September 23. You can find it at all your favorite booksellers including through Jonathan’s website right here. As always, be sure to visit our friends at Dark Horse Comics right here.


Filed under Comics, Dark Horse Comics, Graphic Novel Reviews, graphic novels, Hotels, Humor, Jonathan Case, mystery

Review: ‘The Comic Book Story of Beer: The World’s Favorite Beverage from 7000 BC to Today’s Craft Brewing Revolution’


This is one of the most beautiful educational graphic novels I’ve seen this year. And what a subject, beer! It’s a long title but worth it: “The Comic Book Story of Beer: The World’s Favorite Beverage from 7000 BC to Today’s Craft Brewing Revolution.” Inspired, I chatted about the book with my old friend, Roy, at a local pub, Ballard’s own Stoup Brewing, while I went about preparing for this review. “Roy,” I said, ” I am always grateful that, in Seattle, you can literally walk out the door of one’s home and be within walking distance of a first-rate pub.” “Indeed, and Stoup is such an inviting place,” Roy observed. “Ah, to sit back and marvel over all the great things about beer. That’s the life!”

Stoup Brewing in the Ballard neighborhood of Seattle

Stoup Brewing in the Ballard neighborhood of Seattle

You had me at beer. What “The Comic Book Story of Beer” does is provide you with everything you ever wanted to know about beer in a pleasing full-color, lushly illustrated graphic novel. We begin with a young man bumbling along tasked with getting beer for a special occasion. Once inside an upscale specialty supermarket, he is lost among all the microbrew options. A helpful store employee pops in and conveniently begins our story. From then on, we are on a rollercoaster of information, often colorful and intriguing.

Aaron McConnell The Comic Book Story of Beer

How did beer play an important role in everything from the rise and fall of Ancient Rome, the Dark Ages, the Age of Exploration, the spread of capitalism, and the Reformation? Well, without fear of overstatement, beer is something of a wonder drink. In this clear and concise narrative, Jonathan Hennessey and Mike Smith weave a most compelling narrative on the health benefits and motivating powers of beer as well as guide you through beer’s robust history. It’s really an exciting story that finds a perfect home within comics.


This book does yeoman service in the name of presenting information in an accessible manner. I really admire the artwork of artist Aaron McConnell. I had the pleasure of reviewing his artwork for “The Gettysburg Address: A Graphic Adaptation,” also with writer Jonathan Hennessey, which you can read here. For this book on beer, McConnell masterfully brings to life abstract subjects like pasteurization, “original gravity,” and “lagering.”

Co-writer Mike Smith adds another layer of authenticity as the beer expert that won over Jonathan Hennessy to the idea of writing a beer book in the first place. It all began when Mike gave Jonathan a tour of Mayflower Brewing Company in Plymouth, Massachusetts. The wealth of information that Mike shared with Jonathan was just too good to pass up. It makes its way into a book that will win you over with its insider insight. For example, our main story is paused by intriguing beer profiles like the one on Belgian Wit and how it was single-handedly saved by a milkman from Flanders. No doubt, this is a pleasing book to behold and easily makes for the perfect gift for anyone into comics and/or beer.

THE COMIC BOOK STORY OF BEER is a 180-page trade paperback published by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of Penguin Random House, and is available as of September 22nd. You can find it at Amazon right here.


Filed under Comics, Graphic Novel Reviews, graphic novels, History, Penguin Random House

Review: TITAN #1 & #2

Phoebe at rest, one of the Titan masses.

Phoebe at rest, one of the Titan masses.

François Vigneault is an impressive cartoonist and I am so glad to share his work with you here at Comics Grinder. Phoebe and João come from two extremes on the class spectrum but they can’t help but be attracted to each other in François Vigneault’s TITAN, a new quirky sci-fi comics series published by Study Group Comics as a webcomic and as printed issues too.

Phoebe and João in François Vigneault's TITAN, published by Study Group Comics

Phoebe and João in François Vigneault’s TITAN, published by Study Group Comics

You’ve heard of the One Percenters, right? And all the economic disparity? Ha, of course you have. Ah, yes, the haves vs. the have-nots theme. In TITAN, the haves are Terrans and the have-nots are Titans. Vigneault brings us aboard Homestead Station on the moon of Titan where we follow Manager João da Silva as he attempts to lessen tensions between the geneticly-engineered Titan workers and the Terran management. It turns out that the key to his problems lies with one voluptuous Titan worker, Phoebe.

The dynamics on Homestead Station is a lot of fun to see unfold in these first two issues. Far, far, away, in some distant future, you’ll find that crass youth haven’t really changed much at all. Slang, for instance, reflects the latest level of rage. Communication in general, particularly amongst the working class, has undergone a further breakdown in literacy as everyone speaks in choppy sentences. It’s a grim world just waiting to explode! Vigneault keeps our eyes moving with just the right touches of futuristic background and engaging facial expressions and body language. TITAN proves to be a comic in the best sci-fi tradition: a compelling exploration of the human psyche.

Phoebe can't help but tower over Joao.

Phoebe can’t help but tower over João.

The relationship between Phoebe and João is very intriguing. Vigneault does a great job in expressing the divide between rich and poor, the vulnerabilities on each side. Vigneault engages the reader with a love story every bit unlikely and yet most compelling. Phoebe, who would seem to have the disadvantage as a member of the working class, cannot help but tower over her would-be master, João. And João seems to like it.


If you’re heading out to the Small Press Expo, taking place this weekend in Bethesda, Maryland, you’ll be seeing some of the best independent comics around. SPX is turning 21 this year, by the way, which makes her legal. Anyway, TITAN #2 will debut at SPX and is surely a comic you’ll want to pick up. Be sure to visit François Vigneault at the Floating World Comics/Study Group table, J8-9.


For more on the Small Press Expo, visit right here. And keep up with TITAN and Study Group Comics right here.

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Filed under Alternative Comics, Comic Arts Festivals, Comics, Independent Comics, Indie, Sci-Fi, science fiction, Small Press Expo, SPX, Study Group Comics

NBM at Small Press Expo and the Brooklyn Book Festival: Debuting RELIGION, A DISCOVERY and WALKING WOUNDED

Small Press Expo and the Brooklyn Book Festival

Small Press Expo and the Brooklyn Book Festival

On the weekend of September 19th-20th, you can find NBM Publishing participating at two exciting events: the 2015 Small Press Expo and the Brooklyn Book Festival.

And at both events NBM Publishing will be debuting Religion, A Discovery in Comics by Margreet de Heer and Walking Wounded: Uncut Stories from Iraq by Mael & Olivier Morel.

Both Margreet and Olivier are appearing.

Religion, A Discovery in Comics by Margreet de Heer

The author of the bestselling Discovery in Comics series, including on Science and Philosophy, tackles a very sensitive subject. Dealing with religion often means walking on eggshells – that is what comic artist Margreet de Heer finds out in this book in which she presents the five major religions and modern spirituality in a colorful, personal yet serious manner. She explores religious history and practices with tact and an open mind, but can’t prevent a few eggs from breaking. Why is religion such a sensitive subject?

This book in comics is fun and informative for believers, non-believers and everyone in between. It offers a fresh look from different perspectives on the phenomenon of religion, the backgrounds and history of the five major world religions (Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Hinduism and Buddhism) and makes the point that religion is something that should unite us, not drive us apart.

Walking Wounded: Uncut Stories from Iraq by Mael & Olivier Morel

For hundreds of thousands of young Americans, after the shock of 9/11, there was Ar Ramadi, Baghdad, Abu Ghraib… The war in Iraq. Then came the trauma. Olivier Morel gave them a voice in his compelling documentary On the Bridge. Walking Wounded isn’t the book of the documentary but the story of Morel getting close to the young vets, their troubled experience and lives. So close he could not avoid living their trauma himself, seeing all too clearly their vision of the world after their gut-wrenching experiences. From torment to reflection, Morel and artist Mael relate through these vets the impossible return of those who do aspire vividly to get back to a normal life. The effort is huge, some can’t make it, others score their own victory by finally turning the corner… a parable for our country’s war sickness.

SPX Details and Signing Schedule

September 19th-20th; Located at E 1-2

Appearing Saturday Only: Olivier Morel & Margreet de Heer

The Small Press Expo is North America’s premiere independent cartooning and comic arts festival. SPX brings together more than 4,000 cartoonists and comic arts enthusiasts every fall in Bethesda, Maryland.

Unlike many conventions that are geared toward pop culture or corporately owned comics, SPX was created in 1994 to promote artists and publishers who produce independent comics. SPX hosts an annual festival that provides a forum for artists, writers and publishers of comic art in its various forms to present to the public comic art not normally accessible through normal commercial channels.

Signing Schedule:

11:00 am – 12:00 pm: Olivier Morel

12:00 pm – 1:00 pm: Margreet de Heer

1:00 pm – 2:00 pm: Olivier Morel

2:00 pm – 3:00 pm: Margreet de Heer

3:00 pm – 4:00 pm: Olivier Morel & Margreet de Heer

Brooklyn Book Festival Details and Signing Schedule

September 20th; Located at Booth# 308

Appearing Sunday: Olivier Morel & Margreet de Heer

The Brooklyn Book Festival is the largest free literary event in New York City, presenting an array of national and international literary stars and emerging authors. One of America’s premier book festivals, this hip, smart diverse gathering attracts thousands of book lovers of all ages to enjoy authors and the festival’s lively literary marketplace.

Signing Schedule:

11:30 am – 12:30 pm: Olivier Morel

12:30 pm – 1:30 pm: Margreet de Heer

1:30 pm – 2:30 pm: Olivier Morel

2:30 pm – 3:30 pm: Margreet de Heer

3:30 pm -4:30pm: Olivier Morel

4:30 pm – 5:30 pm: Margreet de Heer

Be sure to follow NBM on Twitter @nbmpub and visit our friends at NBM Publishing right here.


Filed under Brooklyn Book Festival, Comic Arts Festivals, Comics, NBM Publishing, Small Press Expo, SPX



“Intro to Alien Invasion,” published by Scribner, an imprint of Simon & Schuster, is a cheeky story about what happens when extraterrestrials take over a secluded liberal arts college nestled in the Vermont hills. All is not quiet and mellow at Fenton College once the biggest life lesson of all opens the eyes, and tears the limbs off, a bunch of sheltered and pampered brats.

Member of the library staff caught in sheer terror.

Member of the library staff caught in sheer terror.

In the same spirit as “Rushmore” and “Animal House,” it’s the exceptions to the rule, the small fringe element of misfit students, that will prove their mettle and perhaps save everyone else’s sorry asses. This very funny graphic novel has some great talent behind it. Owen King is author of the novel, “Double Feature.” And Mark Jude Poirier is the screenwriter of the 2013 film, “Hateship Loveship,” starring Kristen Wig. The artwork is by newcomer Nancy Ahn.


Much of the story revolves around nerdy and mousy Stacey, an otherwise brilliant mind, who is vulnerable beyond measure. Bumbling Professor Evans, plans to exploit his status as an expert in astrobiology, and lure Stacey into his snare. And then there’s a huge change in plan. Something that the professor smuggled back from Siberia has come to life.

The story will bog down a bit when it gets to a lot of explaining as to the what and the why about goopy things running amok on campus. Really, at some point, nobody cares anymore and have settled in for a gross-out yuck-fest which this book happily provides. That said, these asides don’t ever last too long and, in the spirit of Lisa Simpson, are edifying in their own weird way. There are times too when Ahn’s loose style will get rather too loose and slack. That can be attributed to some extent to the easygoing, and unconventional, narrative. Honestly, I’m not sure if I’d want this book done any other way considering the offbeat vision.

As it seems to be de rigueur in even the most crass humor, a tender thoroughly sensitive love story is included here. It proves to give an overall nice balance to the belly laughs and/or mild amusement you’ll find here depending upon your temperament. It’s a credit to the writing that it actually does work. You have characters here that you grow to care about. It’s not just Stacey and some creepy prof but all of Stacey’s friends and frenemies. At the end of the day, this is a fun book and will appeal to a lot people, like fans of “The Simpsons” and “Adventure Time,” which is, at last count, a whole lot of people. “Intro to Alien Invasion” is a 224-page black & white trade paperback, available as of September 15th. You can find it at Amazon right here. Visit our friends at Simon & Schuster right here.


Filed under Comics, Graphic Novel Reviews, graphic novels, Satire, Sci-Fi, science fiction



The funeral for his mother back in Croatia compels Frank Sokol to leave his new life in Ontario to pay his respects. It’s been twenty years since he was a soldier in Bosnia-Herzegovina. He never got over the Bosnian War. And now he is taking his 11-year-old son, Ben, with him. Since Frank’s wife, Samantha, passed away, her parents have been very protective of Ben. If it were up to them, Frank would be left to wrestle with his demons on his own. But Ben wants to go. Of course, he’s too young to know better. For Ben, he’d just love to know the meaning of his dad’s favorite swear word, “Kurac!” And so begins an intriguing new graphic novel, “Balkans Arena,” published by Humanoids.

Balkans Arena Jorge Miguel

Philippe Thirault (Miss: Better Living Through Crime) provides a script, based on an original idea by Darko Macan, that is crisp and sophisticated. Jorge Miguel (The Z Word) provides sharp and precise artwork. Together, Thirault and Miguel transport the reader to scenes and places well deserving of the comics medium: dramatic tension builds and gives way to suspense and terror. We grow to care about each character and are shocked when the unthinkable happens. Frank, now reverting back to his given name of Fran, must make things right on two levels: for the sake of his own sanity and, most importantly, for the sake of his son, Ben, who finds himself entering his very own Balkans arena.

Balkans Arena Humanoids 2015

Jorge Miguel’s artwork commands the page. It is easy to lose yourself in it as he gives the narrative a cinematic quality. Thirault’s pacing is spot on. The family dynamics explored here are fascinating. We know right away that Fran’s brother, Anton, will be trouble. His resentment over being the sibling that stayed home and took care of the parents is palpable. Anton’s wife, Ivana, is just the opposite and is sympathetic to Fran. This lights the fuse to our story’s first powder keg. Strange. The Balkans were known as “The Powder Keg of Europe“, leading up to World War I. And our story here is certainly sensitive to the unique tensions of this region.


This is one of the most riveting graphic novels I’ve read in a long time. It all comes down to how a number of smaller factors mount up. A lesser writer could have stumbled and gone too dark. This is a very important distinction because going too dark is no longer suspenseful but simply lazy and bad writing. This is for mature readers due to its serious content but it is not a heavy-handed story. Thirault has crafted a story that tests the wills of father and son to the extreme in a crisis situation that draws the reader in. It’s a variation on a missing child story that will stay with you.

“Balkans Arena” is a 112-page hardcover in full color, published by Humanoids, and available as of Oct 14, 2015. For more details, visit our friends at Humanoids right here.


Filed under Comics, Graphic Novel Reviews, graphic novels, Humanoids

Advance Review: CARVER: A PARIS STORY #1


CARVER: A PARIS STORY is a thrilling noir adventure written and drawn by Chris Hunt. I want you guys to keep an eye out for Chris Hunt since he brings a lot to the table. With his new Carver series, he offers up a world fueled by bold artwork and storytelling. It’s a gritty world you’ll want to come back to.


Francis Carver is a tough adventurer in 1920s Paris. He has come to the aid of Catherine, the only woman he’s ever loved. Her daughter is being held captive by a most devilish creature, Stacker Lee. In this first issue, we begin with Chapter One, “Who Are You?” Stacker Lee is a gentleman dandy hiding behind a hooded mask. Stacker faces the reader, speaks to someone beyond the frame, makes some threats, and introduces himself byway of introducing his prey to us, Carver.


We’re all just getting to know each other, right? Hunt does a great job with these introductions. His expressive linework is nicely controlled allowing for precision amid an energetic sensibility. Hunt studied under master cartoonist Paul Pope and he’s come away with his own fun and vivid style. I like what he’s doing here with his Hemingwayesque main character. Carver is hard as nails and yet quite vulnerable. Hunt offers up to the reader a whole world of possibilities in the spirit of Milton Caniff and Hugo Pratt.

“Carver: A Paris Story #1” is published by Z2 Comics and available as of November 11, 2015. For more details, visit our friends at Z2 Comics right here.

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Filed under Chris Hunt, Comics, Comics Reviews, Noir, Z2 Comics


Gemma Arterton and Fabrice Luchini in "Gemma Bovery"

Gemma Arterton and Fabrice Luchini in “Gemma Bovery”

Out in the rural French countryside, everything is meant to move in slow rhythms. Passive and erudite Martin Joubert (played by Fabrice Luchini) has abided by that bargain. And then this ravishing young beauty, Gemma Bovery (played by Gemma Arterton) steps into his world. Gemma and her husband, Charlie (played by Jason Flemyng) have moved into the little modest house just across the street. Martin can quietly observe all he wants. But he wants much more and, in the spirit of a good Alfred Hitchcock film, he will insinuate himself into the most intimate details of Gemma’s life.

The world of Martin Joubert is fairly pleasant. He has all the books he can read. He runs a successful bakery in town with his wife, Valérie (played by Isabelle Candelier). The dynamic between the middle-aged couple is fun to watch. Clearly, Valérie must keep an eye on her daydreaming husband. But Martin is unusually determined this time around. With each new encounter with Gemma, he becomes that much more attached to her. The opportunities to see her when she visits the bakery alone are priceless for Martin. We see in Gemma a delightful young woman but we also accept her as very private. For Martin, he can’t help but see endless comparisons between Gemma Bovery and Emma Bovary, the Madame Bovary, one of the most tragic characters in literature.

Thanks to director Anne Fontaine, this film does well with balancing dramatic tension and touches of humor. The screenplay, written by Pascal Bonitzer and Fontaine, is adapted from the graphic novel by Posy Simmonds. It remains faithful to the Simmonds work and adds another layer of menace to the bumbling obsessive Martin. And that is also certainly thanks to the caliber of acting from Fabrice Luchini. His performance makes me want to seek out more of his work. Poor Gemma is something of a goner under Martin’s scrutiny as he reveals to us a less than innocent and quiet young woman.

“Gemma Bovery” proves to be a wonderful slow-boil thriller. I couldn’t help but already know about the “Gemma Bovery,” by Posy Simmonds, originally published as a serial in The Guardian in 2000, when I viewed this 2014 film. But there is no reference made to comics here aside from the fact that the story, with all its nuances, provides the backbone for an intriguing tale on screen. This is a great example of how graphic novels are simply another great way to tell a story and you may find the next film you love to have originated from the comics medium.

Be sure to check out the work of Posy Simmonds right here. You can find the Gemma Bovery graphic novel here.


Filed under Comics, graphic novels, Movie Reviews, movies, Posy Simmonds

Seattle Focus: Joshua Boulet illustration for Seattle Weekly Homeless Cover Story

Joshua Boulet illustration for Seattle Weekly

Joshua Boulet illustration for Seattle Weekly

There are those times when everything seems to fall into place. I sat down to a cup of coffee at Zeitgeist Coffee in Pioneer Square when a friend handed me a copy of Seattle Weekly with a cover illustration by Joshua Boulet. “You’re the dude that reviews comics on Comics Grinder. You gotta give Joshua Boulet a shout-out!” Yes, indeed. Happy to do it. In fact, the cover story is a very compelling piece that offers our city a viable plan to address our evergrowing homeless population. I enjoyed my cup of coffee, a first-rate cover story, and a pitch perfect illustration from our local hero, Joshua Boulet.


Filed under Illustration, Joshua Boulet, Seattle, Seattle Weekly

Kickstarter: BAREFOOT GEN for Schools and Libraries Campaign Ends 9/10/2015


Our friends at Last Gasp need that last big push to get them over the top for such a worthy goal: a new hardcover edition of a landmark in manga, “Barefoot Gen,” for schools and libraries. This is the story of the bombing of Hiroshima told from the perspective of a young boy. It has moved Art Spiegelman, creator of the masterpiece in comix, “Maus,” to call “Barefoot Gen” a prime example of how the comics medium can bring ideas to life.


All you Kickstarter supporters know that thrill of making it to the finish line. Let’s all do what we can, spread the word, donate to the campaign, and visit often (the campaign ends this Thursday, Sept 10th!) right here.


Last Gasp estimates that $36,000 is the minimum needed to create and distribute 4000 copies (1000 each of four volumes). The cost would cover the following:

Redesigning the books for hardcover
Printing hardcover books
Mailing rewards to backers
Kickstarter and credit card processing fees


Barefoot Gen (Hadashi no Gen in the original Japanese) is a semi-autobiographical story about wartime Japan and the bombing of Hiroshima. For many years, Last Gasp has published the English edition of this classic manga story.

Visit the BAREFOOT GEN for Schools and Libraries Campaign right here.

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Filed under Barefoot Gen, Comics, Japan, Keiji Nakazawa, Manga