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Neil Gaiman

Gloria Nieto/The Globe and Mail

Hand-Drying in America and Other Stories

By Ben Katchor (Pantheon)

Fourteen years' worth of Katchor's strips for an architectural magazine are reprinted here, and you'd be hard-pressed to find a more detailed or truthful record of our new century. The artist's expansive portrait of the way we live now doesn't deal with historical events or figures, but instead reads fantastic significance into everyday places and objects: a sardine-tin opener, a boring stretch of freeway, the unique sound of each city's garbage collection: All here speak eloquently of our times.

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Julio's Day

By Gilbert Hernandez

(Fantagraphics)

With five major books out this year alone, Hernandez is working at the same fever pitch as Philip K. Dick or Rainer Werner Fassbinder in their own manic heydays. Julio's Day stands out among the veteran cartoonist's recent work. It recounts, in bracing fragments, the desires and catastrophes that make up one man's century on Earth, and the life of his small village in the American southwest.

Very Casual

By Michael DeForge (Koyama Press)

The author's first book, Very Casual is a collection of restive, peculiar tales that squirm as you read them like germs under a microscope, or like weird teens in love. The Toronto cartoonist is a Cronenberg of the funny pages, making the psyche flesh, in the form of malevolent snowmen, slugs shaped like deer or just odd, obsessive dads.

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So Long, Silver Screen

By Blutch (Picture Box)

An essayistic look back at 20th-century cinema, So Long, Silver Screen is at once nostalgic, angry and meditative. The first work in English from this masterful French cartoonist is full of pointed references to movie history, sweeping and bravura brushstrokes, and the most astonishing gloss on Burt Lancaster's stardom that anyone's likely to pen.

Susceptible

By Geneviève Castrée (Drawn & Quarterly)

Castrée's graphic memoir isn't so much thinly veiled as slightly muffled, like one of the toques or blankets that wrap around her stand-in here as she tries to dull the pain of growing up. Thanks to an insecure mother who boozes and dopes, and a father who's left for the woods of B.C., the young artist's efforts to mature are always a struggle, but the adult Castrée recalls them with an aching clarity that's evident in her sombre grey tones and her dexterous, serpentine lines.

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