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Headshot of Benjamin Ervin | For The Post

Cat's Cradle

November 28,2021

Cat's Cradle: Make the time, read a comic

By Benjamin Ervin | For The Post

The past year was packed full of the best independent and studio graphic novels we’ve gotten in the past few years. Though, it’s easy to pick favorites — Chainsaw Man, Sweet Tooth the Return, Reckless or Ultramega— it’s harder to pick the best. Stories that present something that truly stand out.

Anthology comics are always a place for creative stories. This year was no different with the return of Batman Black and White The comic has a simple concept: to tell a Batman story in eight pages, with no coloring. This leads to some creative stories.

Standouts in this collection include James Tynion IV and Tradd Moore's visual spectacle The Demon Fist , G.Willow Wilson and Greg Smallwood's rumination on the hero’s agency and Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelive's subversion of the choose-your-own-adventure story

In Far Sector, writer N.K. Jemisin and artist Jamal campbell introduce readers to the City Enduring, a planet where three alien races suppress emotions to forestall conflict, with the arrival of rookie Green Lantern Sojourner Mullein and the first murder in 300 years.

Equal parts heady Sci-fi, hardboiled noir and cheeky references, Far Sector is a reason to love superheroes. Specifically, Jemison blends in intersectional identities with the Green Lantern’s "powers" to brilliant effect. Far Sector shows the legacy of "Vertigo" that DC’s "Young Aniaml" maintains.

Vertigo comics were often speculative and noir stories. It published books like The Sandman, Swamp Thing and Y: The Last Man Vertigo perpetuated an image of the literary comic, and The Good Asian continues this legacy.

The Good Asian follows Edison Hark, a detective looking for a missing girl as he faces racism from both white detectives and other immigrants. Set in the wake of the Chinese Exclusion Act, the comic explores a forgotten chapter of history, and it acts as an antithesis to the Jack Nicholson film Chinatown

The Good Asian creative team consists of former Vertigo editor Pornsak Pichetshote on writing, Alexandre Tefenkgi on art and former Vertigo colorist Lee Loughridge.

Picheshote’s researched writing presents a hero who is as much a part of the system he is attempting to dismantle. The art team brings Picheshtote’s vision to life with vibrancy, making The Good Asian one of the year's best comics.

In nonfiction, there is Alison Bechdel’s Graphic Memoir The Secret to Superhuman Strength, written and drawn by Alison Bechdel with coloring by Holly Rae Taylor. The memoir is an open history of Bechdel’s love for physical activity.

Blending in the athletic history of William Wordsworth and Jack Kerouac, Bechdel creates a layered narrative of rebellion, physical fitness and body image that is equal parts memoir and second person narrative.

Another independent comic is Barry Windsor-Smith's new book Monsters, which asks the question: What makes a monster? Bobby is a drifter enlisted into a secret military program seeking to create a super soldier. What happens instead is Bobby becomes a “monster.”

Windsor-Smith had the idea for Monsters 35 years ago. Over the course of 3 1/2 decades the comic experienced revisions and adapted elements of Windsor-Smith's Weapon X. This being a core element to the origin of Marvel’s Wolverine.

Monsters is comparatively more nuanced. Formed by the ‘70s alternative Comics scene that asks to be read. Style changes, from simple panel work to more "Will Eisner" freeform, as well as flashbacks are used to great effect as characters are fleshed out, and their relationship to the monster becomes clear in the final poignant moments of the story.

Monsters bridges horror, sci-fi and mysticism into a story rooted in the American Past. In the end, it moves from being a simple graphic novel to a true piece of art.

Benjamin Ervin is a senior studying English literature and writing at Ohio University. Please note that the views and opinions of the columnists do not reflect those of The Post. Want to talk more about it? Let Benjamin know by emailing him

AUTHOR: Benjamin Ervin
EDITOR: Hannah Campbell
COPY EDITOR: Anma Garnai
PHOTO: Nate Swanson