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Amancay Nahuelpan/Black Mask Studios
Amancay Nahuelpan/Black Mask Studios

The Most Interesting Comics of the Week

Amancay Nahuelpan/Black Mask Studios
Amancay Nahuelpan/Black Mask Studios

Every week I write about the most interesting new comics hitting comic shops, bookstores, digital, and the web. Feel free to comment below if there's a comic you've read recently that you want to talk about or an upcoming comic that you'd like me to consider highlighting.

Nanjing: The Burning City

By Ethan Young
Dark Horse Comics 


The second Sino-Japanese war eventually bled into the greater conflict of WWII, but on its own it was one of the costliest wars in human history. The massacre of hundreds of thousands of Chinese soldiers and non-combatant refugees in the city of Nanjing and the mass rape of Chinese women by invading Japanese forces are still among the worst military atrocities ever committed during wartime. 

In the visually stunning and emotionally wrenching new graphic novel Nanjing: The Burning City, we follow two Chinese soldiers who are left behind in the fallen city and must fight to escape as invading Japanese forces close in. This is a powerful war comic that seems to have come out of nowhere from a relatively unknown cartoonist whose previous work was a semi-autobiographical webcomic called Tails. Ethan Young, the American son of Chinese immigrants, effectively taps into the story's emotion. His drawings are striking in their use of stark black and white, showing influences from both manga and the mid-century war comics of Harvey Kurtzman. This book is sure to make it on my best of the year list.

Dark Horse has a preview here.

Young Terrorists #1

By Matt Pizzolo and Amancay Nahuelpan
Black Mask 


The latest series from Black Mask Studios, a publisher whose mission is to bring fresh, edgy creator-owned comics to the market, comes from one of its co-publishers, Matt Pizzolo. Young Terrrorists aims to push buttons in a way that many readers will find off-putting. There is graphic sex and violence, and, as the title suggests, a glorification of terrorism as a way to change the system. Set in the near-future, this new ongoing series follows the daughter of a plutocrat who is seemingly framed for his death and locked away and tortured for years in a military detention camp. She escapes and becomes the leader of a movement that uses subliminally coded videos of pornography and underground fighting to foment civil and social unrest.

It follows the themes of Pizzolo’s previous work, including films he has directed like Threat as well as comics projects like Occupy Comics. He’s working with newcomer Amancay Nahuelpan, who brings a gritty realism to this sci-fi tinged story. Pizzolo and Nahuelpan were inspired by the early days of DC Comic’s Vertigo line that gave birth to works like Grant Morrison's The Invisibles, which is an obvious influence on this concept. The series begins with an 80-page first issue to set the stage but future monthly issues will be normal-size pamphlet comics.

Here’s a preview.

Mox Nox

By Joan Cornellà
Fantagraphics 


The strange, wordless comics of Spanish cartoonist Joan Cornellà have become a social media sensation in some circles over the past couple of years. With over two million followers on Facebook, you may have seen some of his hilarious and often horrifying strips in your feed. 

Cornellà paints each cartoon, and they are surreal and at times disturbing and shocking. A recent cartoon shows a white police officer gunning down a black marathon runner and then proceeding to win the race himself before being held up by an adoring white audience. Another shows a woman clutching her infant when she sees a sniper aiming from a window, but then she tosses her baby in the line of fire to save the stranger who was being targeted. It’s this kind of deeply weird play on the reader’s expectations that makes his comics work

Fantagraphics is releasing Mox Nox, the first collection of Cornellà’s work, and it is sure to be a popular bookstore item. See a preview here.

If You Steal

By Jason
Fantagraphics 


The latest book from enigmatic Norwegian cartoonist Jason is a collection of eleven short stories full of experimentation. One imagines painter Frida Kahlo as a hired killer, while another is just six Van Morrison song titles from Moondance illustrated as horror comic covers. There's also a chronologically disjointed crime story inspired by Steven Soderbergh’s The Limey and the paintings of Magritte. Other stories include ones about Chet Baker, vampire hunters, and a JFK conspiracy theory.

Jason is one of the most interesting artists to ever work in this medium. His ever-growing oeuvre of graphic novels like Hey Wait… and I Killed Adolf Hitler are classics, and even a collection of shorter works like this is a must-have for fans of smart comics.

The A.V. Club has a preview here.

Ice Heist

Madeline McGrane
Uncivilized Books 


One of the best ways to support young, up-and-coming cartoonists is to buy their mini-comics. Often hand-folded and stapled by the artists themselves, mini-comics have a personal touch that web and digital versions can’t match. A number of small boutique publishers have jumped in to help these artists distribute their work to a wider audience. Uncivilized Books has a number of new mini-comics for sale through their website including some that are part of the Uncivilized Lab program intended to showcase their own interns. 

Madeline McGrane’s Ice Heist is a cute little crime comic where the narrator is confronted by the ghosts of three gangsters from the 1920s who recruit her to help retrieve a suitcase full of cash. It’s a light romp with some solid black-and-white cartooning that seems inspired by the work of Hope Larson. McGrane’s website boasts a number of other accomplished-looking comics and she looks to be someone to watch in the coming years.

You can buy Ice Heist through Uncivilized Books here.

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Yes, You Can Put Your Christmas Decorations Up Now—and Should, According to Psychologists
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We all know at least one of those people who's already placing an angel on top of his or her Christmas tree while everyone else on the block still has paper ghosts stuck to their windows and a rotting pumpkin on the stoop. Maybe it’s your neighbor; maybe it’s you. Jolliness aside, these early decorators tend to get a bad rap. For some people, the holidays provide more stress than splendor, so the sight of that first plastic reindeer on a neighbor's roof isn't exactly a welcome one.

But according to two psychoanalysts, these eager decorators aren’t eccentric—they’re simply happier. Psychoanalyst Steve McKeown told UNILAD:

“Although there could be a number of symptomatic reasons why someone would want to obsessively put up decorations early, most commonly for nostalgic reasons either to relive the magic or to compensate for past neglect.

In a world full of stress and anxiety people like to associate to things that make them happy and Christmas decorations evoke those strong feelings of the childhood.

Decorations are simply an anchor or pathway to those old childhood magical emotions of excitement. So putting up those Christmas decorations early extend the excitement!”

Amy Morin, another psychoanalyst, linked Christmas decorations with the pleasures of childhood, telling the site: “The holiday season stirs up a sense of nostalgia. Nostalgia helps link people to their personal past and it helps people understand their identity. For many, putting up Christmas decorations early is a way for them to reconnect with their childhoods.”

She also explained that these nostalgic memories can help remind people of spending the holidays with loved ones who have since passed away. As Morin remarked, “Decorating early may help them feel more connected with that individual.”

And that neighbor of yours who has already been decorated since Halloween? Well, according to a study in the Journal of Environmental Psychology, homes that have been warmly decorated for the holidays make the residents appear more “friendly and cohesive” compared to non-decorated homes when observed by strangers. Basically, a little wreath can go a long way.

So if you want to hang those stockings before you’ve digested your Thanksgiving dinner, go ahead. You might just find yourself happier for it.

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11 Black Friday Purchases That Aren't Always The Best Deal
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Black Friday can bring out some of the best deals of the year (along with the worst in-store behavior), but that doesn't mean every advertised price is worth splurging on. While many shoppers are eager to save a few dollars and kickstart the holiday shopping season, some purchases are better left waiting for at least a few weeks (or longer).

1. FURNITURE

Display of outdoor furniture.
Photo by Isaac Benhesed on Unsplash

Black Friday is often the best time to scope out deals on large purchases—except for furniture. That's because newer furniture models and styles often appear in showrooms in February. According to Kurt Knutsson, a consumer technology expert, the best furniture deals can be found in January, and later on in July and August. If you're aiming for outdoor patio sets, expect to find knockout prices when outdoor furniture is discounted and put on clearance closer to Labor Day.

2. TOOLS

A display of tools.
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Unless you're shopping for a specific tool as a Christmas gift, it's often better to wait until warmer weather rolls around to catch great deals. While some big-name brands offer Black Friday discounts, the best tool deals roll around in late spring and early summer, just in time for Memorial Day and Father's Day.

3. BEDDING AND LINENS

A stack of bed linens.
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Sheet and bedding sets are often used as doorbuster items for Black Friday sales, but that doesn't mean you should splurge now. Instead, wait for annual linen sales—called white sales—to pop up after New Year's. Back in January of 1878, department store operator John Wanamaker held the first white sale as a way to push bedding inventory out of his stores. Since then, retailers have offered these top-of-the-year sales and January remains the best time to buy sheets, comforters, and other cozy bed linens.

4. HOLIDAY DÉCOR

Rows of holiday gnomes.
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If you are planning to snag a new Christmas tree, lights, or other festive décor, it's likely worth making due with what you have and snapping up new items after December 25. After the holidays, retailers are looking to quickly move out holiday items to make way for spring inventory, so ornaments, trees, yard inflatables, and other items often drastically drop in price, offering better deals than before the holidays. If you truly can't wait, the better option is shopping as close to Christmas as possible, when stores try to reduce their Christmas stock before resorting to clearance prices.

5. TOYS

Child choosing a toy car.
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Unless you're shopping for a very specific gift that's likely to sell out before the holidays, Black Friday toy deals often aren't the best time to fill your cart at toy stores. Stores often begin dropping toy prices two weeks before Christmas, meaning there's nothing wrong with saving all your shopping (and gift wrapping) until the last minute.

6. ENGAGEMENT RINGS AND JEWELRY

Rows of rings.
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Holiday jewelry commercials can be pretty persuasive when it comes to giving diamonds and gold as gifts. But, savvy shoppers can often get the best deals on baubles come spring and summer—prices tend to be at their highest between Christmas and Valentine's Day thanks to engagements and holiday gift-giving. But come March, prices begin to drop through the end of summer as jewelers see fewer purchases, making it worth passing up Black Friday deals.

7. PLANE TICKETS AND TRAVEL PACKAGES

Searching for flights online.
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While it's worth looking at plane ticket deals on Black Friday, it's not always the best idea to whip out your credit card. Despite some sales, the best time to purchase a flight is still between three weeks and three and a half months out. Some hotel sites will offer big deals after Thanksgiving and on Cyber Monday, but it doesn't mean you should spring for next year's vacation just yet. The best travel and accommodation deals often pop up in January and February when travel numbers are down.

8. FOOD AND SNACK BASKETS

Gift basket against a blue background.
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Fancy fruit, meat and cheese, and snack baskets are easy gifts for friends and family (or yourself, let's be honest), but they shouldn't be snagged on Black Friday. And because baskets are jam-packed full of perishables, you likely won't want to buy them a month away from the big day anyway. But traditionally, you'll spend less cheddar if you wait to make those purchases in December.

9. WINTER CLOTHING

Rack of women's winter clothing.
Photo by Hannah Morgan on Unsplash.

Buying clothing out of season is usually a big money saver, and winter clothes are no exception. Although some brands push big discounts online and in-store, the best savings on coats, gloves, and other winter accessories can still be found right before Black Friday—pre-Thanksgiving apparel markdowns can hit nearly 30 percent off—and after the holidays.

10. SMARTPHONES

Group of hands holding smartphones.
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While blowout tech sales are often reserved for Cyber Monday, retailers will try to pull you in-store with big electronics discounts on Black Friday. But, not all of them are really the best deals. The price for new iPhones, for example, may not budge much (if at all) the day after Thanksgiving. If you're in the market for a new phone, the best option might be waiting at least a few more weeks as prices on older models drop. Or, you can wait for bundle deals that crop up during December, where you pay standard retail price but receive free accessories or gift cards along with your new phone.

11. KITCHEN GADGETS

Row of hanging kitchen knives and utensils.
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Black Friday is a great shopping day for cooking enthusiasts—at least for those who are picky about their kitchen appliances. Name-brand tools and appliances often see good sales, since stores drop prices upwards of 40 to 50 percent to move through more inventory. But that doesn't mean all slow cookers, coffee makers, and utensil prices are the best deals. Many stores advertise no-name kitchen items that are often cheaply made and cheaply priced. Purchasing these lower-grade items can be a waste of money, even on Black Friday, since chances are you may be stuck looking for a replacement next year. And while shoppers love to find deals, the whole point of America's unofficial shopping holiday is to save money on products you truly want (and love).

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