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Some of the best books I have ever read have been graphic novels. I seriously love graphic novels so much. Growing up we always had tons of comic books in the house, and I learned to read with my dad’s Calvin & Hobbs books (ok, I know, those are a different genre) and my older brother’s Tintin books. I cannot stress enough how helpful comics can be to someone who is struggling with learning to read. I had a lot of trouble as a kid, especially in my older brother’s shadow, but comics helped me connect the few words I could understand so that I was able to piece together stories. They helped keep me from getting frustrated and giving up on reading when it seemed too difficult. Now, I probably own more comic books than actual novels.

I wish I could go and recommend a hundred other graphic novels, but I want to stick to focusing on the feature, a graphic novel I read last month called Box Office Poison by Alex Robinson. (Note, book cover in the link is different than the version I own. It’s the same book though.)

We had picked up another book by Robinson, Tricked, last year when we found we had some extra Amazon gift card money. The art style of a graphic novel is the number one make-or-break for me when it comes to graphic novels. Even if a story is amazing, I can’t continue reading if I don’t like the art style. It needs to be pleasing as well as easy on the eyes, but with a skill and talent from the artist that I can respect. I chose Tricked based solely on Amazon “Click to look inside” feature when I saw that I could appreciate Robinson’s art style. (Typically we try to purchase most blind graphic novel buys from an actual bookshop, so we can flip through a few pages first.)

Obviously, Robinson did not disappoint with Tricked, and when Eric saw this spring that we had some more Amazon gift card money, he went ahead with the purchase of Box Office Poison. (Definitely support your local bookshop when you can. We try to. These were special cases.)

I need to stop you right now to say that although I did start out this post talking about helping youngin’s learn to read with comics is a good idea, Box Office Poison is not a book for kids. There is a lot of vulgarity of many types in this book. It’s be rated R if it were a movie. So. Keep that in mind please.

The story (stories) follow a handful of people living their lives in New York City in the 90s, most of them a couple years out of college. All their stories intertwine in neat ways and the entire thing ends up focusing on the comic industry: the struggling artists that do the creating, the old way that super hero comics were made, and the rise of indie comics. It’s really fascinating from an artistic standpoint, but also really fascinating from a sociological standpoint. Especially in that, as you follow each character, you see the black & white of good guy vs. bad guy break down. Robinson is great at giving “heroes” flaws, and “villains” likable characteristics.  (I hesitate even putting the characters into such boxes.) He just has such a great way of making you connect and feel for the characters, and he makes you change your first impressions. It’s really quite amazing.

I don’t want to tell too much more, because I don’t want to give a lot away (I feel as though I already have). I do highly recommend both Box Office Poison and Tricked, as long as, like I mentioned, you don’t mind the vulgarity (there is a lot). If you end up reading either, let me know what you think. And also, please, if you have any awesome graphic novels you’d love to recommend, please do so. I’m always on the lookout for a new one.

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