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Jim Ottaviani and Leland Myrick (First Second)

While a retelling of modern history’s debates over theoretical physics may sound more like a summer school assignment than a beach read, this convivial biography of Stephen Hawking makes the calculations come alive as they did in Hawking’s own brilliant, buzzing brain, even as motor-neuron disease slowed his body. Drawn in neat line work with rich coloring, this well-researched tribute to a magnificent mind is well worth packing for the plane trip.


King of King Court

Travis Dandro (Drawn & Quarterly)

Dandro’s debut memoir of growing up in dysfunction clocks in at more than 400 pages, but they fly by like a childhood summer in gloriously scribbled and often wordless sequences. The detail of a small boy’s observations and dreams are punctuated by visits with his drug-addicted, charming, and monstrous biological father. Dandro acutely captures both his own innocence lost and a stunning sense of empathy for everyone in his ruptured family.


Penny Nichols

MK Reed, Greg Means, and Matt Wiegle (Top Shelf)

Wicked wit Penny, a perpetually single and cheerily disgruntled temp worker, meets an amateur slasher film director who convinces her to jump in with his oddball crew. This hilarious tale of quitting the daily grind for grindhouse is full of visual gags and quirky characters straight out of an updated Clerks. PW’s review calls this indie movie–making misadventure “a smart, snarky ode to the joy of creation.”


This Land Is My Land: A Graphic History of Big Dreams, Micronations, and Other Self-Made States

Andy Warner and Sofie Louise Dam (Chronicle)

Armchair travelers can gain inspiration from this collection of brief profiles of the exploits of idealists who set out to establish purposeful communities. Populated by free thinkers and devotees, the work visits, among other locales, religious communes, the queer Kingdom of the Coral Sea, and the sovereign North Dumpling Island established by the eccentric inventor of the Segway scooter, all rendered in whimsical pastels.


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