Two new releases from Quirk: An Obama/Biden mystery and some cute fuzzy aliens

I’m delighted to share some thoughts on two upcoming releases that Quirk Books was kind enough to send me (thank you, Quirk!). When the publisher’s name is Quirk, you know from the start that their books will be fun and a little off-beat. I’ve loved so many of their books in the past, and these two new ones definitely live up to the Quirk brand!

Hope Rides Again by Andrew Shaffer (release date July 9, 2019): The 2nd book in the author’s Obama Biden Mystery series is a (dare I say it?) quirky, engaging, light-hearted romp starring everyone’s favorite crime-fighting duo and bromantic pairing Barack Obama and Joe Biden. Following up on the joyfully funny Hope Never Dies, this new book has Obama and Biden back together for an action-packed adventure in Chicago, where they engage in high-speed chases, sneak around speakeasies and freight yards, and get up to all sorts of mischief while solving a potentially gang-related shooting.

Meanwhile, Joe is deciding on whether to run for President, fishing for intel on whether Oprah is getting in the race, hitching rides with Michelle, and applying his old boxing skills — all in a day’s work!

What can I say? Either you’re utterly charmed by the concept, or this book just isn’t for you. Reading these books is like having all those Obama/Biden bromance memes come to life. You can just picture Obama shaking his head or covering his eyes every time he says “Joe…”

 

And for my 2nd Quirk read this week:


We Are Here Forever by Michelle Gish (release date July 30, 2019): 

A hilarious graphic novel in which the human race has been supplanted by a sweeter, kinder, happier species…but are they as innocent as they seem? In this post-apocalyptic comedy, it’s survival of the cutest!

After the most adorable apocalypse ever, the human race has vanished from the earth, replaced cute, innocent, playful purple creatures called the Puramus. In this hilarious and epic graphic novel, short interlocking stories follow the purple pals as they explore their new home, form a mini-monarchy, and develop a modern society on par with 21st-century humans. A final act pulls us across time and space in the search for clues to the origins of the Puramus. Along the way, humor and intrigue abound: Can King defend his village when nobody understands what war is? Will Jingle work up the nerve to read her poetry at open mic night? Will Puff Puff ever stop floating? Based on the viral Tumblr comic that gained 18,000 followers in just one year, We Are Here Forever is for fans of post-apocalyptic sci-fi blended with dry comedy and undeniable cuteness. Colorful and cartoony art will you rooting for these cute critters through their absurd adventures. But where did they come from, and what happened to all the humans?

These little purple aliens are adorableness on four feet. They’re funny, they laugh a lot, they eat rocks and flowers and whatever else comes their way, they like to play… but what are they doing on Earth, and what happened to all the people? I was totally charmed by this sweet and funny book… and maybe a teensy bit weirded out by the ominous (but still cute) ending.

This book had its origins as a web comic — check out the author’s site, here.

I mean, come on! It’s purple adora-cuteness! You know you want to!

 

Once again, a big huge THANK YOU to Quirk for sending me these awesome books, which have totally helped me start my summer off in just the right way!

Graphic Reaction: A Fire Story by Brian Fies

Early morning on Monday, October 9, 2017, wildfires burned through Northern California, resulting in 44 fatalities. In addition, 6,200 homes and 8,900 structures were destroyed. Author Brian Fies’s firsthand account of this tragic event is an honest, unflinching depiction of his personal experiences, including losing his house and every possession he and his wife had that didn’t fit into the back of their car. In the days that followed, as the fires continued to burn through the area, Brian hastily pulled together A Fire Story and posted it online—it immediately went viral. He is now expanding his original webcomic to include environmental insight and the fire stories of his neighbors and others in his community. A Fire Story is an honest account of the wildfires that left homes destroyed, families broken, and a community determined to rebuild.

Wow. If you’re looking for a powerful graphic novel to read, this is the one.

The 2017 fires in Northern California were absolutely devastating. I live in San Francisco, and while the fires themselves never came close to our city, the air was full of smoke for weeks — schools ending up closing, people were warned to stay inside and to wear masks while outside, and everyone had headaches and coughs from the lousy air quality. But of course, this is nothing compared to the suffering of those who perished as well as the thousands of people who lost their homes.

Author Brian Fies lived through it. A Fire Story is his memoir of the fire, starting with him and his wife waking up to red skies and the smell of smoke, grabbing a few items on their way out the door, and evacuating along with all of their neighbors — then returning the next morning to find that the entire neighborhood was just gone.

The author initially drew/wrote some of these pages in the moment, using sharpies and a pad of paper, to capture and process the experience as it unfolded. From the book’s notes, I understand that these images were initially shared online and went viral. He’s now expanded from the initial drawings to convey a more encompassing picture of what he and others went through. Sprinkled throughout are the “fire stories” of others who lost their homes, how they dealt with their losses, and how they’re still dealing with rebuilding and recovering. This is incredible stuff, truly.

Brian Fies shares his own experiences with candor and grace, and even some humor, as well as conveying the bigger picture of the reasons for the calamity and the scope of the loss — and manages to keep a focus on the human impact that can be lost when dealing with a disaster of this magnitude. We may hear about thousands of people losing their homes, but as the author points out in this excellent book, each of those thousands has a unique, individual story to tell.

For a taste of the book, check out:

From: A Santa Rosa Cartoonist’s ‘Fire Story’ Comes to Life
Kelly Whalen and Farrin Abbott, Producers for KQED Arts
Video courtesy KQED Arts

 

The author’s original postings: http://brianfies.blogspot.com/2017/10/a-fire-story-complete.html

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The details:

Title: A Fire Story
Author: Brian Fies
Publisher: Harry N. Abrams
Publication date: March 5, 2019
Length: 160 pages
Genre: Graphic novel
Source: Library

Graphic Reaction: The Beauty, volumes 1 – 5

 

Oh boy, what a crazy bunch of books I just read! The Beauty is an ongoing comic series, available in five volumes (so far) of trade paperbacks. I picked these books up on a total whim while browsing library shelves — and something about the covers made me decide to grab all five at once, instead of trying just one.

From Goodreads, synopsis for volume 1:

Modern society is obsessed with outward beauty. What if there was a way to guarantee you could become more and more beautiful every day? What if it was a sexually transmitted disease?

In the world of The Beauty, physical perfection is only one sexual encounter away. The vast majority of the population has taken advantage of it, but Detectives Vaughn and Foster will soon discover it comes at a terrible cost. Now, they’ll have to find their way past corrupt poiticians, vengeful federal agents, and a terrifying mercenary out to collect the price on their heads.

In The Beauty, some people contract the disease accidentally, and others deliberately seek it out. Either way, more and more people are becoming infected, and the people with the Beauty find themselves in enviable positions within society… until Beauties start dying. And it’s not just the victims of anti-Beauty violence who die — some Beauties are found dead by internal combustion. They literally burn up from the inside out. Gross, right?

Volume one introduces us to Detectives Foster and Vaughn, assigned to the Beauty beat, who become enmeshed in the growing violence and conspiracies regarding the Beauty, as well as having personal stakes in the outcome of their investigation. They’re partners with great chemistry and friendship, nothing romantic at all, which is refreshing in a male/female detective duo.  As the story progresses, we learn that there’s an underground faction of scientists trying to expose big pharma’s role in the perpetuation of the disease, and there also people (government? organized crime?) who’ll stop at nothing to keep their secrets.

One thing I really enjoyed about the series is how the artwork uses color and light to visually cue us in on who has the Beauty. People with it have a radiance that others just don’t, so even when someone as drawn is reasonably attractive, it’s the play of light that let’s us know who has the disease.

Volume 1 ends on a major cliffhanger… and as of the end of volume 5, we never get back to that point. Let me explain…

Volumes 2 – 5 are all backstory, occurring chronologically before volume 1, each showing different views into the development of the Beauty and the vast amount of violence that goes with it. In volume 2, we meet two completely new characters, participants in the world of crime who have a devoted patron and manage to establish a family of sorts. Their little found family is of course caught up in the chaos surrounding the Beauty, and both inflict and suffer tremendous amounts of damage.

Volumes 3 and 4 continue with this story, as well as mixing stories of the scientists and the corporate bad guys who all have some part in the spread of the disease. And in volume 5, we return to Vaughn and Foster in the earlier days of their partnership, as they join the Beauty task force in response to a series of murders.

 

 

I suppose I was most enamored of the story in volume 1, although all volumes remain interesting. Still, I wished throughout for some resolution or forward motion from the end of volume 1, rather than the build-up of backstory. I know the series is ongoing, so I’m hoping that whenever the next volume is released, we can finally find out what happens next.

 

 

 

The artwork is a little uneven, especially in volumes 2 and 3, as some pretty different styles are used for parts of the story, and not all work. (It can also be hard to identify characters when their images change so much between chapters and volumes).

Still, I really enjoyed the series overall, and sped my way through all five volumes in about a day and a half. Warning: Not for the squeamish. There’s a lot of violence, lots of weaponry, close-ups of blood and bodily harm… you get the point. If you can handle these elements in your graphic novel reading, then by all means, check out The Beauty!

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The details:

Title: The Beauty, volumes 1 – 5
Author: Jeremy Haun and Jason A. Hurley
Illustrator: Jeremy Haun and John Rauch
Publisher: Image Comics
Publication date: ongoing (started 2016)
Length: varies
Genre: Graphic novel
Source: Library