Comics are a great way to examine the world around us, to discuss difficult issues we all face in daily life. Whether it’s things we hope we never have to contemplate, or the things we feel deep down when it’s dark outside, these three comics examine three separate issues that we face in contemporary society, and each will help us further understand the human condition.
A Silent Voice, Vol. 1 – Yoshitoki Oima (Kodansha Comics)
This excellent manga, which is three volumes in, deals with a very serious issue: bullying. Shoko is a girl who’s new at Shoya’s school, and he can’t understand her. She’s hard of hearing, and he doesn’t like that she’s different, doesn’t like that she doesn’t act the same way as the rest of his classmates, doesn’t like that she always has a smile on her face, no matter what he says to her. Shoya is brutal to Shoko; it’s painful to read about, especially as the reader gets to know Shoya and understand just how wretched he is inside. The third volume of this series just released, and it’s absolutely worth picking up.
Not Funny Ha-Ha by Leah Hayes (Fantagraphics)
Abortion. It’s not a fun or easy topic to discuss or think about, but many women grapple with the decision on whether to have an abortion, or the anxiety of not knowing what to expect during the procedure. That’s where Not Funny Ha-Ha comes in. It’s a no-nonsense handbook on what it’s like to have an abortion. There are two stories within its pages, following two different women who have different types of abortions: medical and surgical. It explores some of the immediate emotional ramifications, reaching out to friends and family about the decision, and what you can expect during and after the procedure. While it’s not to be considered medical advice by any means, it’s a brave and nonjudgmental guide on a very difficult subject.
Shoplifter – Michael Cho (Pantheon)
Loneliness is something we’ve all experienced at some point. Sometimes the loneliness can become overwhelming, even in the midst of a big city. When so much life is going on around you, you feel lost and left out, like everyone else is going somewhere with a purpose and you are standing still, feeling forlorn. Michael Cho’s graphic novel tackles this feeling expertly. At first glance, the main character has it all: a good job, a nice apartment, places to be and things to do. But as the novel progresses, her loneliness seeps out of each panel. It’s beautiful and poignant; many will sympathize with what they see on these pages.