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A crop of Jillian Tamaki's SuperMutant Magic Academy cover.


By Ginette Lapalme, Koyama Press, 200 pages, $20

Lift up a rock in the backyard of Pee-wee's Playhouse, and the critters of Confetti might squirm and squiggle into the daylight. Googly eyed toadstools and pastel-coloured glops of goop, along with teensy dogs and Day-Glo cats, all fill the pages of Ginette Lapalme's debut collection of drawings, sculpture and sundry wee objets d'art. Confetti begins with a dozen pages of sprightly comic strips, but these merely serve to introduce the vibrant, overripe cartoon vocabulary that suffuses Lapalme's artistic practice in the rest of the book. In the artist's immersive and pulsating world, positively everything gets anthropomorphized – from ice-cream cones to dresser drawers, and ladies' bare backsides. Lapalme's compositions teem with happy chaos, her doodled lines and radioactive colours producing a sense of life that likewise thrums throughout her menagerie of oven-baked clay figurines. In the squishy, malleable bodies that rollick across the pages of Confetti, Lapalme has distilled all the pop ephemera of childhood – Lisa Frank sticker books, tie-dye T-shirts, Barbapapas, cootie-catchers – into something potent and exuberant.

SuperMutant Magic Academy

By Jillian Tamaki, Drawn & Quarterly, 276 pages, $22.95

After swooningly drawing the tempestuous lives of adolescent girls in Skim and This One Summer, Governor-General's Award-winner Jillian Tamaki treats young adults' complex emotions with simpler and sketchier lines in her debut work as writer-artist. Tamaki's SuperMutant Magic Academy is an institution like Hogwarts, or Professor Xavier's school for training X-Men, except that here the superpowered teens behave like actual high-schoolers – smoking, swearing and desperately crushing out on each other. Over a series of single-page gag strips, we get to know the academy's students – Frances, the precocious performance artist; Marsha, the over-it malcontent; Everlasting Boy, the long-suffering immortal – but the book coalesces into something more than its one-joke origins when it dispenses with punchlines and gives itself over to the soap-operatic elements of its genre forebears. As the book progresses, Marsha's mooning after her oblivious best friend Wendy takes precedence, and Tamaki proves most capable with the kind of storylines about the trials of teenaged life that do not require a magical conceit – impending adulthood somehow seems supernatural enough.

The Disappearance of Charley Butters

By Zach Worton, Conundrum Press, 128 pages, $15

Tramping through the Ontario bush on an excursion for a black-metal video shoot, sensitive soul Travis and his brusque band mates come across an abandoned cabin stuffed with the journals and sketches of the titular Butters, who seems to have left behind a career in the art world of decades past in order to live off the grid. As Travis learns more about the artist's withdrawal, he himself enters more into the currents of life, distancing himself from the insular, macho world of the band. The languid pacing of this volume may result from there being several chapters yet to come in this story (next: "The Search for Charley Butters"), but it's also because the book is quietly preoccupied, like Butters, with the Canadian landscape and the meditative pleasures of drawing. The lovely, almost distracting way that Zach Worton limns hands – gnarled and knuckly – calls attention to his own determined handicraft throughout. In particular, when silent, inky panels of bracken and woodland punctuate the narrative, Worton asks us to pause, and let his art linger.