Megan Kelso has proved herself a master of the cartoon short story with Queen of the Black Black (1998) and The Squirrel Mother (2006). With Artichoke Tales, six years in the making, Kelso expands her range (and her page count) by creating a family saga spanning three generations and an entire continent.
Artichoke Tales is a coming-of-age story about a young girl named Brigitte whose family is caught between the two warring sides of a civil war, a graphic novel that takes place in a world that echoes our own, but whose people have artichoke leaves instead of hair. Influenced in equal parts by Little House on the Prairie, The Thorn Birds, Dharma Bums, and Cold Mountain, Kelso weaves a moving story about family amidst war. Kelso's visual storytelling, uniquely combining delicate linework with rhythmic, musical page compositions, creates a dramatic tension between intimate, ruminative character studies and the unflinching depiction of the consequences of war and carnage, lending cohesion and resonance to a generational epic.
“[S]urprising and wonderful … Kelso’s ligne claire artwork is consistently sweet and airy … The approach provides a likable surface for a story with much darker and stickier depths, about a land whose cultural heritage is rotting away in the aftermath of a civil war.” — The New York Times Book Review
“Like Squirrel Mother, her 2006 collection of short-form comics, the book marries an open, childlike art style that invites the eye to a narrative marked by a sophisticated and decidedly adult tone. Not 'adult' in the sex-and-violence sense (though there is some of both, here), but in its flinty, steely-eyed commitment to exploring the world Kelso’s created with subtlety — and without sentimentality.” — NPR
“Kelso’s work radiates a warmth, poetry, sympathy, and simultaneously earthy and otherworldly essence that few comics creators have brought to the table with such quiet confidence and grace. The closest comic in recent memory to match Artichoke Tales, both in breadth and depth, is Jeff Smith’s Bone.” — The A.V. Club
“Kelso uses a warm, inviting style of soft colors and rounded, almost pillowy characters to explore the mysteries of people and relationships … Kelso’s stories invite contemplation.” — Time
“Kelso has sharp powers of observation, and many of her characters have a blank-eyed innocence that serves as a counterpunch to the acuity of the narratives.” — People
“Kelso perfectly marries words and images, telling stories of longing and casual cruelty with a mastery perfectly suited to the comics medium.” — Publishers Weekly
“Kelsos striking visual conceits (e.g., singing expressed by two lines forming an opening funnel from the mouth), turquoise-on-white drawing, jump-cut transitions, and constantly shifting viewpoints conjure a richness of implication and feeling of which her light-seeming, cartoony style would seem prima facie incapable. But here, as in the contemporary nonfantasy stories of The Squirrel Mother, she is a thorough and intelligent artist whose work is moving and invaluable.” — Ray Olson, Booklist