It’s been at least a decade since I reviewed one of Raina’s comics. That’s been one of the weirdest parts of running a comics review website for so long: I tend to lose track of artists, even the ones I really like, because I get buried in review comics and/or don’t have the resources to buy all the graphic novels in the world. It’s true, this isn’t a lucrative gig! Still, I reviewed the first Smile mini comic in 2008 (ish? The actual date is lost to time; too many site rebuilds), thought it showed a lot of promise and that it might end up being her best work yet, and then… nothing. As I don’t have kids, I had no idea for years that Raina became a rock star in the young adult book world, with several different graphic novels and a devoted fan base. And she’s a legit #1 New York Times best seller! Don’t mind me, I’m just always happy to see ridiculously talented artists make a living off their work, let alone become famous with it. Anyway, I’ve always wondered what the finished Smile would look like, and since I now live a block away from a library (in one of the best library systems in the country), I can find out. No big surprises here, but it’s pretty great. The mini comic I reviewed ages ago basically just covered her injury and initial reaction; obviously this is able to get into much more detail. The basic story is that Raina knocked out her two front teeth when she was in 6th grade. Well, she knocked out one tooth and knocked the other one up into her gums. Yeah, take a minute with that one if you need to. Anyway, this is the story of the next four and a half years of her life, of all the various procedures, operations and headgear she’d have to deal with to fix her teeth. Obviously this would all be rough enough at any time, but she made the transition from middle school to high school while all this was happening, and all the gory details are included. I can also see why she’s become such a star with the kids, as this book dragged me right back into my own middle school experience. She has to deal with crushes on boys, boys having crushes on her, her friends both having her back and not having her back, and an occasionally obnoxious little sister. This is one of those times when you REALLY don’t need me to tell you to check an artist out, as most people reading this have undoubtedly already read her work. But just in case you’re one of the few people who haven’t, maybe start here? As for me, I’m going to go back and see what else I missed from her over the years. $24.99
Smile Now Available! $1
Finally available in comic form! There have been weekly updates for a while now, but it looks like she’s starting to publish it. This is the story of some extensive dental work she got when she was a little kid, and apparently it goes into graphic detail in some later chapters. What you have here is the tale of how she messes up her teeth in the first place and her immediate reaction. This doesn’t say “#1” on it, which makes me wonder if maybe she’s just planning on putting the whole story into a graphic novel and skipping the mini comics route altogether, but the brief glimpses I’ve seen of this show me that it might be her best work yet. I’ll reserve judgment until I see the whole thing, but I can’t wait to read the whole story. If you want to check out her weekly strip go here, this one is $1.