Life with Mr. Dangerous
Paul Hornschemeier, Villard, $20 (160p) ISBN 978-0-345-49441-2

Though at first it’s like just another story of a lovelorn 20-something frozen in depressive, media-saturated ennui, Hornschemeier’s simple, sad but gorgeous novel about a girl, Amy, whose life is spiraling down into morose singledom, gets right what so many tales of this kind never do. Drawn with the kind of illustrative simplicity that makes Adrian Tomine’s work so addictive--the faces and backgrounds are glassy and blank at first, but in fact draw the reader deeper in--Amy’s story follows a downward arc. Working a dead-end retail job and having just broken up with the last in a series of uninspiring boyfriends, Amy loses herself in angry, self-lacerating interior monologues and reruns of a surreal cartoon, “Mr. Dangerous.” Her devotion to her cat and morose, divorced mother loom as forecasts of a future she hates to contemplate. In between rejecting any friendly co-worker or potential date who gets anywhere close to her, Amy agonizes over her life’s sole saving grace: long-distance conversations with her friend Michael, who moved out to San Francisco and appears to be the only person who gets her. The conclusion comes down to a will-they-or-won’t-they scenario that could easily be trite, but Hornschemeier handles it perfectly. (May)

Dungeon Quest Book Two
Joe Daly, Fantagraphics, $12.99 trade paper (136p) ISBN 978-1-60699-436-8

Anyone who ever got into fantasy role-playing games during their early adolescence no doubt remembers how those early forays into heroic adventuring could be fraught with profane characters, ludicrous moments during breaks from the quest at hand, and the strange, often puerile creations of a hormonally charged dungeon master. All of those elements fuel the entertaining world that Daly drops readers into with this continuation of a band of adventurers who quest after the scattered components of the Atlantean Resonator Guitar. There are encounters with monsters, violent battles, magical items to be gathered, eerie dungeons, and so on, but we are also treated to a hilarious bit where the characters get zooted on weed and cocaine while spouting drug-appropriate dialogue. With a visual style that’s a gene-splicing of Charles Burns’s Lynchian creepiness with an “underground” sensibility, this quirky work is every bit as entertaining as it sounds, spouting anarchic humor in every direction. (Apr.)

Demo: Sad and Beautiful World
Brian Wood and Becky Cloonan, DC/Vertigo, $17.99 trade paper (160p) ISBN 978-1-4012-2995-5

Cloonan and Wood return to their anthology series, telling more tales of young mutants who are clearly not superheroes. Instead, their abilities are metaphors, dead weight anchors and the basis for life-changing transitions. These six stories aren’t about powerful people but very troubled ones, including a cannibal; a compulsive but charming young woman who lives via instructions on Post-its; a boy who can breathe underwater; and a time traveler who tries to reassure her younger self. Wood writes to explain the characters’ outwardly confusing decisions, as they often disappoint themselves but come to terms with living on. Cloonan’s art is outstanding, able to evoke worlds instantly and in depth, with structure that supports and underpins the needs of each story, gorgeously stark black and white that isn’t afraid of detail. The chapters swing in mood, repulsion alternating with hope (sometimes in the same story). This is the perfect transition book for readers who know superheroes but are looking for a comic more relevant to their lives. (Mar.)

The Last Unicorn
Peter S. Beagle, Peter Gillis and Renae De Liz, IDW, $24.99 (152p) ISBN 978-1-60010-851-8

Since it was first published in 1968, Beagle’s beloved fantasy novel has been made into a stage play and a film--and now this gorgeous, emotive graphic novel adaptation. Set in a fully realized but slightly tongue-in-cheek fantasy world that has inspired everything from The Princess Bride to Stardust, Beagle’s story is a romantic fable about a regal unicorn who leaves the forest she has protected since time immemorial to find more of her kin. After a short spell of imprisonment by a witch’s traveling circus, she journeys onward with an accident-prone magician, hoping to find the answer to her quest in the land of a coldhearted king and a monstrously fearsome red bull. Along the way, the unicorn and her good-hearted but hapless companion have many encounters, including one with a Robin Hood–esque group of bandits who seem dropped in from a Monty Python skit. Beagle’s sumptuously descriptive writing, adapted ably by Gillis, casts a spell throughout, while De Liz’s glowing, painterly artwork meshes perfectly with the haunting otherworldly beauty of the story. (Feb.)