MARKET DAY (Drawn & Quarterly, $21.95), by James Sturm, is a glimpse into a day in the life of a Jewish rug-maker. Mendleman puts every ounce of his passion and care into making the most artful rugs anyone has seen. He is thrown into despair when he can no longer sell his wares at the market, and must begin to think more about money and responsibility than about the craft itself. Sturm’s story is heartbreaking, and his artwork is equally powerful. Each panel is a dynamic collection of color and forms, and carries the sober, powerful pace of the craftsman’s day forward. Sturm’s work is as delicately woven and masterfully conceived as the beloved rugs of his character.
This vision of DANTE’S DIVINE COMEDY (Bloomsbury, $20) features Dante as a 1920s noir detective seeking answers to the great mysteries. Fedoras, Tommy guns, and peacock feathers adorn the cast in a portrayal differently inspired than those of Dore, Blake, or Birk. A bit more jaded, Seymour Chwast’s primitive depictions of anguish are full of geometry and symmetry, giving a sense of musical entertainment. The depiction of each canto is beautifully divided into three vignettes with gilded columns, neon lights, or celestial arcs. Seamless melding of stark iconic images and bold Broadway stems with hairline serifs evoke art deco signage. This graphic designer’s incorporation of maps and graphs make for a clever, if crude, condensed schematic of the afterlife.
In FORGET SORROW (W.W. Norton, $23.95), Belle Yang, tells the story of a Chinese family, using panels that recall the black-and-white ink paintings essential to Eastern culture. Beginning with this visual cue, Yang recreates a world of characters and settings that ring absolutely true. At the same time, she imbues the tale with a spiritual presence that’s evident in every pen-stroke. First and foremost, however, Forget Sorrow is about family. With the merest illustration and description, Yang conjures uncles, grandparents, and siblings who have the nuance, charisma, and weight of real people. This book is not only a landmark in graphic nonfiction, but a significant addition to the canon of Asian family memoir.