Mental Floss

The Most Interesting Comics of the Week

Rich Barrett
Toni Bruno/One Peace Books
Toni Bruno/One Peace Books / Toni Bruno/One Peace Books

Every Wednesday, I highlight the most interesting new comics hitting comic shops, bookstores, Comixology, Kickstarter, and the web. These are not necessarily reviews insomuch as they are me pointing out new comics that are noteworthy for one reason or another. 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.

1. Kurt Cobain: When I Was An Alien

Written by Danilo Deninotti; art by Toni Bruno
One Peace Books

Italian writer and music journalist Danilo Deninotti was, like myself and many others, greatly affected when he first discovered the music of Nirvana. After he changed the face of rock music, the legend of frontman Kurt Cobain has only grown since his suicide in 1994. When Deninotti decided he wanted to create a graphic novel about Cobain, he chose to avoid the much-written about years of drug use and crippling celebrity and instead focus on Cobain's childhood and the early, pre-Nevermind years of the band.

Kurt Cobain: When I Was An Alien takes its name from a lyric in the song "Territorial Pissings." It also refers to Cobain's childhood belief that he was an alien and that someday his real alien parents would come back for him. We meet Cobain as a young boy in the early 1970s and watch him weather his parents' divorce while growing into a sensitive, artistic teen interested in drawing and playing guitar. At certain points throughout the book, Cobain sees himself and friends, like fellow band members Krist Novoselic and Dave Grohl, as aliens with oversized, almond-shaped eyes. In actuality, the details of Cobain's childhood as shown here don't seem that troubled or traumatic; it seems actually pretty normal, making the alien metaphor a little bit of a hard sell. The decision to focus just on his early years cuts out a lot of the dramatic value of the story, bypassing all the conflict and tragedy that would come later.

The artist for this book, Toni Bruno, is exceptional. This is his third graphic novel but he is not widely known, especially in the States. He has an expressive drawing style that looks similar to Brazilian cartoonist Fabio Moon (Casanova, Daytripper). This book marks Bruno and Deninotti's first partnership and it was an enormous success in Italy, selling out within 3 months. Now, a translated edition is being released in the States through One Peace Books. Bruno's drawings really bring this story to life, and Nirvana fans will appreciate all the details that he and Deninotti get right, including cameos by other indie rock musicians of the era like Buzz Osborne of the Melvins, Kathleen Hanna of Bikini Kill, and Thurston Moore and Kim Gordon of Sonic Youth.

Kurt Cobain: When I Was An Alien will be available in comic book stores (probably through a special order) and also via Amazon.


2. Genesis

Written by Nathan Edmondson; art by Alison Sampson; colors by Jason Wordie
Image Comics

Alison Sampson was an architect for 25 years before drawing her first comic book, Genesis, a newly released graphic novella from Image Comics. Comic book artists with a background in architecture are not unheard of—a recent example is Emma Rios, the artist of another Image comic, Pretty Deadly. You might imagine a comic by an architect to look structured with lots of clean, geometric lines, but the beauty of Genesis is that, on the surface, you get something that looks quite the opposite of that. It's full of loose, energetic drawings that look like they're melting off the page. All that careful thinking and measuring is still there, however, it's underneath the surface.

In an interview with Tim O'Shea, Sampson shares a diagram that reveals some of that measured thinking. She plots out visual cues within the design of the page that most readers would only get on a subconscious level. It makes you realize that architects, who spend a lot of time designing how human beings should move through a physical space, can also be really good at directing readers through the visual layout of a comic book.

You can see how an architect—or any artist, really—would be attracted to the concept of this book, written by Nathan Edmondson, who is known for espionage-driven material such as Who Is Jake Ellis?. In Genesis, a man named Adam discovers he has the power of creation. He initially uses this for simple and benevolent means, but he soon finds himself remaking the world and everything he loves in horrific and irreversible ways. The fact that Edmondson can go from writing popcorn-spy comics to something like this is fascinating—I hope he continues to diversify his output like this in the future.

The premise gives Sampson the architect room to build brand new environments with no limitations, but it also gives Sampson the artist freedom to create her own reality—a hallucination that deviates further from real-world physics with each page.

While the story itself probably falls short of saying anything too profound about creativity or theology, Sampson's work— along with the carefully chosen colors Jason Wordie uses to support it—make this a worthwhile book to pore over and examine. It is a stunning piece of comics work and it will be very exciting to see what Sampson does next.

Here's a preview of Genesis.


3. Neurocomic

Written by Dr. Hana Roš; written and illustrated by Dr. Matteo Farinella

An architect-turned-comic-book-artist is one thing, but consider Dr. Matteo Farinella, who pulls double-duty as a cartoonist and a neuroscientist. Farinella makes the most of his talents by illustrating various educational projects and he has collaborated with fellow neuroscientist Dr. Hana Roš to create a graphic novel, Neurocomic. Released this week from Nobrow Press with support from the Wellcome Trust, this comic brings Dr. Farinella's worlds together.

Neurocomic attempts to explain what we know of how the brain works by following a man who somehow gets transmitted directly inside of one. There he experiences—first hand—dopamine, hallucinogens, memory, and more. He also meets various researchers who pioneered studies in brain-related science who help explain various concepts to both the protagonist and the reader.

Farinella conveys information with a very light-hearted, comical approach. This book is similar to another Nobrow book I wrote about last year called Freud. While the concepts are still probably heady for a casual reader to immerse themselves in, Neurocomic is great for someone with a predisposed interest in science, especially young adult readers. A book like this can be an excellent gateway for young minds into further scientific studies.

Nobrow has some preview images and ordering information on their website here.