How to Understand Israel in 60 Days or Less
Sarah Glidden, DC/Vertigo, $24.99 paper (208p) ISBN 978-1-4012-2233-8
Glidden, a progressive American Jew who is sharply critical of Israeli policies vis-à-vis the Occupied Territories, went on an all-expense-paid "birthright" trip to Israel in an attempt to discover some grand truths at the heart of the Arab-Israeli conflict. This graphic memoir tells the touching and often funny story of her utter failure to do so. As the tour group moves from the Golan Heights to Tel Aviv, Glidden's struggles with propaganda and perspective lead only to a morass of deepening questions and self-doubt. Her neurotic need for objective truths and struggle to reconcile historical perspectives is hugely gratifying for the reader. This is especially true when the group visits Masada, the site of an epic confrontation between a sect of Jewish rebels and a Roman siege army that culminated in mass suicide. Gruesome fanaticism or a stirring clarion call for the burgeoning Zionism movement? You be the judge. As befits a travelogue, Glidden's drawings have the look of something jotted down on the fly; if it weren't for a haircut here or a pair of glasses there, many of the characters would be indistinguishable. Yet the simplicity of the drawing is offset by bright, delicate watercolors that belie our heroine's unresolved struggle with history and heritage. (Oct.)

The Best American Comics 2010
Editor by Neil Gaiman; series editors, Jessica Abel and Matt Madden, Houghton Mifflin, $23 (TKp) ISBN 978-0-547-24177-7
This yearly anthology is always something to look forward to, with its impressive editors, juicy forewords, and superabundance of comics genius between its two covers. Series editors Jessica Abel and Matt Madden start off with a brief history of the burst in comics' popularity and readership over the past decade; luckily for us, they include an extensive list of "Notable Comics" that didn't make the final cut. Gaiman, in turn, agonizes entertainingly over the accuracy of the title Best American Comics and finally suggests that the volume instead be called A Sampler: Some Really Good Comics, Including Extracts from Longer Stories We Thought Could Stand on Their Own. It's a wealth of fine storytelling: extracts from Lagoon, the gorgeously strange fairy tale by Lili Carré; Carol Tyler's great You'll Never Know; Bryan Lee O'Malley's Scott Pilgrim vs. the Universe; and Fred Chao's Johnny Hiro. Some stand-alone gems include Todd Brower and Steve MacIsaac's "Ex Communication," in which two bearish men meet for a drink and chat uncomfortably about what they've been up to since their split; Peter Kuper's two-page takedown of the Bush legacy in "Ceci n'est pas un comic"; and Gabrielle Bell's "Mixed Up Files." A thrilling and varied journey from start to finish. (Oct.)

A Sickness in the Family
Denise Mina and Antonio Fusa, DC/Vertigo Crime, $19.99 (184p) ISBN 978-1-401-21081-6
Scottish crime novelist Mina, previously known in comics for a run on Hellblazer, provides a creepy, taut tale of family greed that leads to murder. At first the Ushers' squabbles over money, home renovations, and who will take care of grandma are the stuff of ordinary dysfunction. But after family members start dying under suspicious circumstances, it becomes clear there is evil at work. The Ushers' adopted son, Sam, tries to solve the mystery, uncovering unsavory family secrets and tales of witchcraft in the process. The sharp angles and high contrast of Italian artist Fuse's b&w illustrations create an appropriately dark atmosphere and fit well with the plot's abrupt turns. Readers will likely find their alliances shifting quickly from character to character all the way to the satisfying wrap up. (Oct.)

Cowboy Ninja Viking
A.J. Lieberman and Riley Rossmo, Image (Diamond Comics, dist.), $17.99 paper (160p) ISBN 9781607062615
The American cowboy, the ninja, and the Viking form a triumvirate of toughness seldom equaled in world--to say nothing of pop culture--history. Each is superbad in his own right, but what about when the most deadly attributes of each can be found in one man? Duncan is such a man, the result of a secret government program to create soldiers for the war on terror. This experimental regimen conscripts people suffering from multiple personality disorder and turns them into "triplets," highly lethal operatives possessing three distinct personalities drawing from warrior/tough guy archetypes. Duncan serves as the reader's entry point into a complex web of espionage and violence that grows more intriguing as we are let in on exactly what's up with Duncan, the people who want to drag him back into the fold, and the rest of the triplets that remain at large. Lieberman crafts a tight and darkly funny plot while Rossmo's scratchy linework perfectly captures the jangled psychological state of its protagonist. This is one of those series whose title alone practically heralds outright narrative stupidity, but it's far more odd and entertaining than expected. (June)

Seven Soldiers of Victory, Book 1
Grant Morrison et al, DC Comics, $39.99 (400p) ISBN 9781401226954
Morrison's 2005 project, whose first half is collected here, is an astonishingly clever feat of superhero writing: eight simultaneous, interconnected serials (each drawn by a different artist) about a "team" that has to save the world despite the fact that its members' frames of reference are so disparate that they're unaware of each other's existence. It's a rich piece of work, full of bizarre conceits like pirates riding secret subway lines under New York City. After an ingenious fake-out in the opening chapter (a multi-stylistic tour de force drawn by J. H. Williams III), the "soldiers" are shown as recast versions of long-languishing comics characters, and each of their stories gets its own distinct tone. Simone Bianchi draws the Shining Knight (an Arthurian fish out of water in the big city) with high-fantasy invention surrounding photorealistic figures; the "Klarion the Witch Boy" sequence concerns a dissident in a subterranean Puritan village, drawn by Frazer Irving as creeping, blue-lit horror; the Manhattan Guardian stories tweak the character's Golden Age association with a "Newsboy Legion" to make him a newspaper's in-house superhero, drawn by Cameron Stewart as lightly satirical action-adventure; and Ryan Sook navigates the occult visions and fourth-wall breaking of the Zatanna chapters with admirable clarity. (June)