I Need a Graphic Novel Compass

Does anyone else get lost in graphic novels?

Seriously—I get lost, and not in the “Wow, this is so good, it swept me off my feet!” kind of way. I actually lose my way. Do I look at the pictures first, or the dialog? When there’s a big box that spreads over two pages, where does that fit into the sequence? Are these people talking or fighting, or both? Do I read right to left or up and down? Do I read them or look at — ooh, that picture is pretty!

You get the idea.

When I was about ten, I fell in love with an Elfquest novel so obscure I almost couldn’t find it on Amazon at the moment—a novel, not a graphic novel, one with no (or at least very few) pictures. I loved it so much, I requested another Elfquest book from another library. When it arrived, it was—

A graphic novel.

I was flummoxed. I tried to read it, but it outdid me. It was beyond my ten-year-old powers of comprehension.

That’s weird, right? Kids are supposed to like comic books. Lots of action, pictures, not a lot of reading. But even as a kid, I thought, “There aren’t enough words in this book!”

Now, as a “grown up,” I’m trying to read Neil Gaiman’s Sandman series, but The Dream Hunters, the only one I’ve successfully made it through, was more like a picture-book than a graphic novel. I’ve also ordered The Long Way Home (Buffy the Vampire, Season 8, Volume 1), because I need (that’s an imperative) more Buffy… but what if I get lost again?

Do I need a graphic novel primer? Does such a thing exist? Can you help me? I feel as though my nerd-credibility is slipping.