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Comics for the Summer - More than Superheroes, but we've got them too! (Part One)

So, school's out and we're heading into August. What's good to take to read on the beach, or in the garden (or, let's be honest, sheltering from the rain...) this summer?

Well, we're glad you asked, because we have some ideas for Graphic Novels and Trade paperbacks you should check out.

We'll start with Jeff Lemire's Royal City. Lemire spins the ambitious and engrossing story about the Pike family from the small factory town of Royal City and the ghosts that haunt them.

We follow Patrick Pike, a failing who reluctantly returns to the once-thriving factory town where he grew up. He's quickly drawn back into the dramas of his two adult siblings, his overbearing mother, and his browbeaten father, all of whom are haunted by different versions of his youngest brother, Tommy, who drowned decades ago.

As the family struggles to keep themselves together, it becomes clear that Tommy’s death isn’t the only secret tearing the town, and this family, apart at the seams.

Can the Pike family come to terms with their own guilt over Tommy’s death, and make peace with the many versions of Tommy that haunt them, or will they all be dragged down below the river along with his lingering ghost?

Illustrated in Lemire's sensitive, scratchy colour wash on ink style this is a tour-de-force of a family drama. The first two collections are currently available, with the story continuing in individual issues which will be collected later.

For younger readers (of all ages - I'm 46 and I loved it...) you could do worse than take a look at Chad Sell's The Cardboard Kingdom.

Sell introduces us to a neighborhood of kids who transform cardboard boxes into costumes, and their ordinary block into the cardboard kingdom. This is the summer when sixteen kids encounter knights and rogues, robots and monsters – and their own inner demons – on one last quest before school starts again.

In their Cardboard Kingdom, you can be anything you want to be! Created, organized, and drawn by Chad Sell with writing from ten other authors: Jay Fuller, David DeMeo, Katie Schenkel, Kris Moore, Molly Muldoon, Vid Alliger, Manuel Betancourt, Michael Cole, Cloud Jacobs, and Barbara Perez Marquez.

This powerful little book affirms the power of imagination and play during the most important years of adolescent identity-searching and emotional growth - if you're old like me it'll make you nostalgic for your childhood, when a box from the supermarket could provide hours of entertainment, and if you're still a kid it's not just a cracking good read it might make you look at cardboard in a whole new way...

Finally in this post, we have Guy Delisle's Hostage, the true story of Doctors Without Borders administrator Christophe André, as told to Delisle.

In 1997 André was kidnapped by armed men and taken away to an unknown destination in the Caucasus region. For three months, he was held solitary confinement, handcuffed, with little to survive on and almost no contact with the outside world.

Award-winning cartoonist Guy Delisle (Pyongyang, Jerusalem, Shenzhen, Burma Chronicles) recounts the story through André's eyes through his battle to keep his mind alert as he becomes increasingly desperate and despairing of rescue.

Delisle's minimal style with muted colour washes (even more muted and sensitive than Lemire's...) illustrates the psychological effects of André's solitary confinement, compelling us to ask ourselves some difficult questions regarding the repercussions of negotiating with kidnappers and what it really means to be free.

Thoughtful, intense, and moving, Hostage offers a profound insight at what drives us to survive in our darkest moments.

There you go - three solid reads for the summer, and not a cape in sight!

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