Captain Barbosa and the Pirate Hat Chase
By Jorge Gonzalez
Graphic Universe

Captain Barbosa is one of those pirates who eschews the normal surly pirate crew for an elephant and an alligator to help him out on board instead. He trusts these two animals enough to actually take a nap and leave them on watch. But one day when a seagull swoops down and steals the Captain’s pirate hat, a cross-ocean chase ensues to get it back.

Argentinean illustrator Jorge Gonzalez utilizes his lovely pencil work to depict a calm, wordless comic book chase that will amuse kids. With soft edges on his figures, and expert body language to fill out his silent character’s personalities, this isn’t a work packed with narrative, or even twists and turns, but rather an elegant exploration of sweet absurdity, where kind-heartedness and understanding supersede all other pressing matters in a pirate’s life. Charming!

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New Life
by Xavier Betaucourt and Yannick Marchat
Translation by Montana Kane
Life Drawn/Humanoids

Pregnancy stories from the point of view of the man are not necessarily in great demand these days, so if you are going to craft one I think it’s best to create a story that examines the man’s role in a critical way that offers some insight. An autobiographical work, New Life is able to do this by presenting a circumstance in which a man way past the point where he wants a baby, and in a situation where he thinks there no chance he would get a baby, ends up with a baby.

Post-divorce with a grown son, 48-year-old Xavier’s life is really falling into place with Lea, about 10-years his junior and a perfect companion. Oh, and she apparently can’t have children, something that suits Xavier just fine. Until, of course, she can have kids. Surprise!

It would be easy for Xavier to come off as selfish when he isn’t quite sure if he wants a baby at his age. Some of it is that he just doesn’t want to, and I certainly can’t blame him. Kids can be a bummer if you’re seeking freedom. Some of it is honorable, fearing how it will affect his relationship with his son. Xavier’s situation may be different from many, but I certainly think people should give it a lot of thought before they have children, and whether Xavier’s reasoning resonates with you or not, the struggle he has is a worthy one to have. If the ending signifies acceptance of what you can’t control, that’s certainly the best message possible for a story like this, which I appreciated for pulling no punches in addressing some actual issues about having babies.

Things Go Wrong #1
By James Bradshaw
Paper Rocket Comics

James has a few things going wrong at once. He’s got a disease of some sort that requires attention. And he’s faltering in his art practice, which elevates his self-loathing even as he pursues commercial work. And the more these take over his being, the less he takes care of himself, and the circumstances that throw him into depression escalate, trapped on a treadmill of doom like so many of us.

There’s plenty there that any of us can identify with, a typical horror story from the creative frontlines of America, but Bradshaw’s approach helps this story — which may well be autobiographical for all I know — never go into self-pitying territory. Rather than rendering it all in painful realistic detail, Bradshaw pushes into the absurd realm, exaggerating the portrayal with cartoonish glee. And rather than making it a first-person narrative, Bradshaw employs the paternal tone of an invisible narrator that makes this all seem a bit like a nature documentary, complete with verbal foreboding, but that softens the blow that any of us might feel if it becomes a bit too familiar for comfort, as well as maybe giving us the chance to see ourselves a little bit.