As summer moves into autumn, I’m finding that there’s a little magic in the air. All of my picks for fall have a bit of a dreamlike quality about them—whether it’s a mysterious cat who tags along on a road trip or a world inhabited by stone giants—and take us to a world that’s just a little different than our own.
The Girl in the Bay by J.M. DeMatteis, Corin Howell, and James Devlin
In 1969, Kathy Sartori is attacked and thrown into the water at Sheepshead Bay. Fifty years later, she climbs out of the water only to find that a doppelganger has taken over her life. In order to recapture what she’s lost, Kathy must confront her musically inclined murderer and find herself in the process. DeMatteis’ story is complex and shadowy, and given his musical background, it’s no surprise that he deftly weaves musicality into every part of this comic. Howell’s haunting and emotive art adds depth and nuance to this supernatural story, and Devlin’s intuitive coloring gives each panel surprising complexity. This is a satisfying comic for those who like their ghost stories on the philosophical side.
Sparrowhawk by Delilah S. Dawson, Matias Basla, and Rebecca Nalty
The first few pages of Sparrowhawk are a revelation. Matias Basla’s art transports the reader into a Victorian England that is both fresh and historical. Rebecca Nalty’s coloring creates a fully realized landscape filled with bright greens and unexpected yellows—hinting at the fantasy world that is just around the corner. Artemisia, the daughter of a naval captain, is pulled into a dark world by the Faerie Queen and forced to fight in order to survive. This is a gritty fantasy with a compelling storyline that explores the sinister side of the fey and the evil that lurks inside all of us.
Are You Listening? by Tillie Walden
Tillie Walden’s latest graphic novel opens with a quotation from poet Adrienne Rich:
“…All maps are fiction
All travelers come to separate frontiers”
Lou and Bea are road-tripping together through Texas by happenstance and pass the time by talking. Bea is running away. Lou is meandering towards her great aunt’s, but it’s only a pit-stop. As they look at their maps, roads widen and destinations start to shift. The narrative makes room for emotional discovery, reconciliation, as well as a fluffy cat that may or may not be real. This is one of those graphic novels that—like all good road trips—is about the journey rather than the destination. Walden’s evocative art along with her sparse prose pull the narrative in unexpected directions, from magical realism back down to earth again as Bea and Lou understand that there really is no guidebook on the road to self-discovery and healing.
The Stone King by Kel McDonald and Tyler Crook
In a medieval-inspired world, where a stone giant patrols the countryside, Ave has just become a full-fledged member of the Stoneport thieves. As she climbs up the stone giant to steal some of the healing moss that grows along its shoulders, she makes a discovery that could affect her entire village. McDonald and Crook do a wonderful job of building out the world’s mythology and, at the same time, creating a compelling and nuanced character in Ave. This Eisner-nominated comic has fast-paced dialogue paired with immersive art that together tell a gripping story about a thief who just might save the world.
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