• Top Shelf Productions

Given its subject matter, it’s probably wrong to describe Jeff Zwirek’s Burning Building Comix as one of the coolest graphic novels of the year. Because it’s about just what its title implies: a burning building.

So let’s just say it’s probably the most cleverly designed graphic novel of the year. (“Probably” only because the year’s just a little more than half over and a superlative would be presumptuous. But in December, it will be accurate.) The book opens vertically to reveal two pamphlets, each attached to one of the covers. Taken together, the pamphlets show a cutaway view of a ten-story apartment building that has caught on fire. In an author’s note, Zwirek suggests you read the book horizontally so you can follow the stories of each of the building’s inhabitants, starting from the bottom and the source of the fire. But it’s also possible to read vertically, to compare characters’ responses and see how their actions affect their neighbors.

To further complicate your reading experience, Burning Building Comix is entirely wordless. It’s a challenge—in the best possible sense. Who are these people? Why are they behaving like they do?