I picked up three graphic novels this month; How To Be Happy by Eleanor Davis, Just So Happens by Fumio Obata, and Shoplifter by Michael Cho. They are all wonderful, with beautiful visuals and concise engaging stories.
How To Be Happy
Is not a book about how to be happy. Reading it was wonderful. It is a series of short graphic stories, from a single page to longer. There is a wide variety of illustrations styles for the different stories, that set interesting tones for how you approach each one. Stories are concise, often being just a small glimpse into thew worlds Eleanor Davis has constructed. These worlds feel rich, with just enough given to provoke one to stop and pause about what they just witnessed. I loved this graphic novel, and want to read it over and over and give it to friends.
Just So Happens
A story about returning home and confronting personal barriers to happiness. The protagonist, Yumiko, grew up in Japan, and now lives in England. Most of the book is set in Japan as Yumiko returns for her father's funeral. This of course causes some introspection as she considers her present, past and future. I hope it doesn't sound like I'm underselling the book. The story is standard (in a good way), and the execution is superb. The watercolor paper texture and coloring style of the graphic novel are a delight to look at. Fumio Obata has subtle and intricate attention to the detail of his characters body language that brings them to life in a very casual and personal way. Highly recommended. Especially for people expatriated from their home dealing with culture clash. This won't tell you what to do about those challenges, just give you a glimpse of someone else experience.
With a drawing style that reminds of of Darwyn Cooke's The Hunter, Shoplifter is about a twenty something in the city that is a little lost. With a job she doesn't care about, unsure about what to do next, and a bad habit that's going to catch up with her. It sounds like a noir story, and so channeling the feeling of Cooke through the style is appropriate. Minor spoiler alert, no one dies in this story, though there are some questionable moral decisions being made. Worth picking up, as are all the books I've reviewed today. If you can, pick up the physical version, its so much more rewarding.