Robin Hanbury-Tenison has compiled a first-class collection of writings and prints of THE GREAT EXPLORERS (Thames & Hudson, $39.95). From the oceanic voyages of the 1500s to the undersea exploration of Jacques Cousteau and on to the vast frontier of the cosmos, this collection continually manages to instill in the reader the same sense of awe encountered by each of these explorers at the moment of discovery. The publisher took great care to produce high-quality reprints of paintings, charts, drawings, and photographs.
In the most literary graphic novel of the year, a grown family comes together at the shore for a last family reunion before the aging parents’ divorce. The relationships between the characters in Dash Shaw’s Bottomless Belly Button (Fantagraphics, $29.99) oscillate between awkwardness and intimacy, as each member of the family pushes for autonomy and yearns for roots. Shaw’s deceptively simple illustrative shorthand draws a stark contrast to the emotional depth of the story.
Instead of battering herself into a semblance of normality, Ruth has decided it is better to be insane. She thinks about patterns and strives to arrange her bug collection in perfect order. It seems the only people she can relate to are family members who are also insane. Nate Powell constructs this mental derangement in Swallow Me Whole (Top Shelf, $19.95) by juxtaposing creepy hallucinations in a finely drafted suburban landscape. A deeply moving and powerful tale.