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Each fall, freshmen college students at Northern Kentucky University are assigned a reading list. That expectation has been in place since 2000. This year their reading list has one special addition. One of the former NKU students went on to become an author and has had his graphic novel chosen to be on the select recommended reading list.

First Time

It is the first time that the students are reading a graphic novel as part of their requirements. Around 1,500 freshmen enrolled in English 101 are reading David Mack’s 2009 graphic novel Kabuki: The Alchemy Each student is participating in the Office of First-Year Program’s Book Connection Project designed to increase student’s enjoyment from reading, sharing and discussing stimulating texts.

The author and artist is David Mack, NKU class of 1995. Since his graduation, he has become a New York Times best-selling and award-winning author. Mack will return to campus to speak to this year’s freshmen and the public about his graphic novel “Kabuki: The Alchemy.”


Mack’s “Kabuki” series tells the story of a masked female assassin who works for a secret police agency in the Japan of the near future. He employs words along with vivid sketches, paintings and collage to enrich his tale. “The Alchemy” is the seventh volume in the series and has the honor of having an introduction by celebrated “Fight Club” novelist Chuck Palahniuk.

It is particularly meaningful to Mack to have been selected as the featured novel due to it being his alma mater. Mack’s ‘s books have been required reading in numerous high school and college classes before, but it was at NKU that he devised the original concept of the “Kabuki” series and the first volume of “Kabuki” became his senior thesis.

It’s the kind of book that I would have liked to read when I was I was a freshman,” said Mack, 39, of Bromley, Ky. “When I was that age, I was trying to figure out what my place in the world was going to be. This book is almost written to that perspective. The character is at a place that a lot of people find themselves in after high school or college graduation or in between jobs.

Additional Exhibit

In addition to his book’s inclusion as part of the Book Connection Project, more than 200 original pages from “Kabuki: The Alchemy” are hanging on the walls of NKU, behind 11-by-17-inch panels of glass. Chapters 1-8 are on exhibit in Steely Library’s Eva G. Farris Reading Room, located on the second floor of the library. The final Chapter 9 of “The Alchemy,” is even on display in the NKU Fine Arts Center.

Special Collections and Archives on the first floor of Steely Library has a variety of other David Mack works on exhibit, including larger paintings, graphic novels, early work that he did as an NKU student and his Daredevil work for Marvel Comics.

NKU Thrilled

The fact that he’s an alum and the fact that we have not done a graphic novel before made it a great choice,” said Robert Wallace, Regents professor of literature at NKU, whose book “Thirteen Women Strong: The Making of a Team” was a 2009 book selection. “It deals with questions of identity that freshmen themselves are grappling with, and the freshman class has responded very directly to the art and the language of the book. And of course, it’s very beautiful. He’s an amazing artist.”

Mack is current working on projects like illustrating an animated web series for the hit Showtime series “Dexter,” but is eager to hear the current freshmen students take on his graphic novel.

I want them to find it enjoyable. I want it to be fun, above all else,” Mack said. “Beyond that, I hope there’s something useful they can get out of it.