NBM – Read About Comics http://www.readaboutcomics.com Where to find out what's really good. Mon, 16 Nov 2015 17:36:55 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.5.10 Fairy Tales of Oscar Wilde Vol. 5 http://www.readaboutcomics.com/2012/06/06/fairy-tales-of-oscar-wilde-vol-5/ http://www.readaboutcomics.com/2012/06/06/fairy-tales-of-oscar-wilde-vol-5/#comments Wed, 06 Jun 2012 13:00:09 +0000 http://www.readaboutcomics.com/?p=2295 By P. Craig RussellAdapted from a story by Oscar Wilde32 pages, colorPublished by NBM

When I’d reviewed The Fairy Tales of Oscar Wilde Vol. 4: The Devoted Friend and the Nightingale and the Rose back in 2004, I’d commented that it had been 6 years since the last volume and that I hadn’t realized how [...]]]> By P. Craig Russell
Adapted from a story by Oscar Wilde
32 pages, color
Published by NBM

When I’d reviewed The Fairy Tales of Oscar Wilde Vol. 4: The Devoted Friend and the Nightingale and the Rose back in 2004, I’d commented that it had been 6 years since the last volume and that I hadn’t realized how much I’d missed them. With hindsight being 20/20, I now realize that I’d cursed myself for an 8-year wait for The Fairy Tales of Oscar Wilde Vol. 5: The Happy Prince, and that this time around I should just say, "Hurrah! A new P. Craig Russell graphic novel!" Because ultimately, that’s the response you should have to just about any book by Russell, and The Happy Prince is no exception.

Oscar Wilde over the course of his brief life wrote nine fairy tales (collected in The Happy Prince and Other Tales and A House of Pomegranates), which Russell has been adapting into comics over the years. The Happy Prince is the eighth of these adaptations (some volumes contained two stories), with only "The Fisherman and his Soul" still on deck. The Happy Prince is definitely one of the more downbeat of the stories from Wilde, dealing with themes like selflessness and being truly happy. And while there’s ultimately a "happy" ending, it’s hard to keep from feeling like this is a bleak story that is anything but happy.

While admittedly not being familiar with the original story, what impressed me about the adaptation right from the start was how well Russell handles the pacing; switching from the introduction of the Happy Prince statue to the nameless swallow in love with a reed could have felt jarring; after all, at first it feels like an utter non-sequitur. But Russell makes that transition smooth, and by the time the swallow gives up on the reed we’ve seen that relationship play out over two pages, and I found myself entranced by the little swallow’s love for a plant and how it was never going to end well. From there, as we see the statue of the Happy Prince use the swallow to help give away parts of itself to assist others, we watch the friendship between the swallow and the statue grow; it’s such a strange statement to make, but I found myself entranced and touched between how selfless both an inanimate object and a bird could be portrayed.

Of course, it doesn’t hurt that Russell’s art is amazing as ever. Consider the fact that the Happy Prince never moves throughout the entire graphic novel, and yet Russell still finds a way to make the statue look expressive and almost full of motion. That’s no easy feat. But Russell’s a modern master of the art form, so it’s not surprising. Everything about The Happy Prince looks beautiful; the elaborate outfits, the detailed buildings in the backgrounds, even carefully rendered flowers. The final two pages of The Happy Prince from Russell are just breathtaking; it’s an emotional climax, and the visuals help turn it into about as much of a upbeat ending as one can, considering the material. It’s such a gorgeous final page in particular that while I suspect a lot of readers will still be staggered by Wilde’s conclusion, this will soften the blow. It doesn’t hurt that Russell’s colorist of choice, Lovern Kindzierski, is back on board (along with Jesse Kindzierski) for gentle and soft hues that accentuate every single page. For a while it felt like Kindzierski was one of the big colorists that everyone turned to for an amazing job, and his work on The Happy Prince is a reminder of how he got that reputation.

The Fairy Tales of Oscar Wilde Vol. 5: The Happy Prince is another triumph for both Russell and NBM. I’ll be sad when this series finally wraps up with the final adaptation, but it’s also as good a time as any to go back and re-read the earlier volumes. Russell’s art is never one to be missed, and The Happy Prince is no exception. Highly recommended, for readers of all ages.

Purchase Links: Amazon.com | Powell’s Books

]]> http://www.readaboutcomics.com/2012/06/06/fairy-tales-of-oscar-wilde-vol-5/feed/ 1
Rohan at the Louvre http://www.readaboutcomics.com/2012/05/18/rohan-at-the-louvre/ Fri, 18 May 2012 13:00:11 +0000 http://www.readaboutcomics.com/?p=2277 By Hirohiko Araki128 pages, colorPublished by NBM

I’ve always loved the fact that the Louvre art museum in Paris has been commissioning a series a graphic novels set within and around the famed museum. Each one’s had a different take on the idea (my favorite is probably Museum Vaults by Marc-Antoine Mathieu) but they’ve all [...]]]> By Hirohiko Araki
128 pages, color
Published by NBM

I’ve always loved the fact that the Louvre art museum in Paris has been commissioning a series a graphic novels set within and around the famed museum. Each one’s had a different take on the idea (my favorite is probably Museum Vaults by Marc-Antoine Mathieu) but they’ve all been good. With Rohan at the Louvre, the Louvre has hired a manga creator to tackle the subject. And what we got was not only able to stand out in its own right, but strong enough that now I want to read more comics by Araki.

Araki quickly introduces his character of Rohan—whom I hadn’t realized until after the fact is one that’s appeared in other short works by Araki, but you don’t need to have read those to enjoy this book—and his ability to "read" people’s souls, before leaping right into the plot itself. Araki crams a great deal of time into this book’s 128 pages; we start when Rohan is young and living at his grandmother’s boarding house, and end a decade later after he’s become a successful manga creator and decides to investigate a mystery that had begun all those years ago. In some ways Rohan at the Louvre feels like two different graphic novels grafted together; the halves are tonally quite different from one another, the first being more of a gothic romance and the second being an out-and-out horror. But despite there being a strong dividing line between the two, the second half feeds off of what we learned in the first half in a way that makes this pair of stories work as a single unit.

One of the things that I think works best about the jump in time between the two halves of Rohan at the Louvre is how Araki is able to make Rohan grow up a bit between the two. When Rohan interacts with the mysterious Nanase in the first half, he’s all but spying on her as he grows more and more intrigued by her story. He’s a slightly gawky teenager, with youthful ambition and dreams but not a lot of self-control. (After all, that’s partially why he’s staying at the guesthouse.) Once Rohan is older and in Paris, there’s a bit of maturity in him. He’s a big scornful of the teens that he runs into (although his mocking their outfit when in his own slightly bizarre uniform feels a bit off), but he’s someone for whom success has clearly managed to arrive for.

The horror element in the second half of Rohan at the Louvre is strong and slightly unnerving, thanks in no small part due to Araki’s art. The art here reminds me of a mixture of Western artists like Barry Windsor-Smith and Neal Adams; there’s a strong sense of realism to the art, with heavy, strong ink lines. When Rohan and his escorts are being attacked in the bowels of the Louvre, the impossible elements are jarring in part because they’re drawn with that same level of realism that we’d seen up until that point. The tire tread moment is easily the most memorable of the actual death scenes, but what ends up being even creepier is the sideways glimpses of the dreaded Nizaemon Yamamura painting when they first arrive at vault Z-13. Araki carefully avoids letting us see it directly until almost the end of the entire book; by that point it’s built up so much menace that Araki has infused our own emotions into the final piece. We are able to understand its danger by what it can do, not just solely on how it looks at first glance.

Rohan at the Louvre is a fun book, and it’s one that grows on you with time. I enjoyed it when I first read it, but a day later I found myself thinking about it and how effective some of the scenes in the book were; not only the horror scenes, but the guesthouse interactions between Rohan and Nanase as well. I’d love to see more of Araki’s Rohan comics translated in to English, based on Rohan at the Louvre. All in all, another strong addition to the Musee du Louvre Edition line. Don’t let the garish colors on the cover of Rohan at the Louvre scare you off; this is a dark, creepy book.

Purchase Links: Amazon.com | Powell’s Books

]]>
The Lives of Sacco and Vanzetti http://www.readaboutcomics.com/2012/02/22/sacco-and-vanzetti/ http://www.readaboutcomics.com/2012/02/22/sacco-and-vanzetti/#comments Wed, 22 Feb 2012 14:00:27 +0000 http://www.readaboutcomics.com/?p=2139 By Rick Geary80 pages, black and whitePublished by NBM

There’s no mistaking Rick Geary’s comics from anyone else’s. Not only does he have a distinct art style, but his work on his series A Treasury of Victorian Murder and now A Treasury of XXth Century Murder tackles non-fiction material that few other cartoonists would brave, [...]]]> By Rick Geary
80 pages, black and white
Published by NBM

There’s no mistaking Rick Geary’s comics from anyone else’s. Not only does he have a distinct art style, but his work on his series A Treasury of Victorian Murder and now A Treasury of XXth Century Murder tackles non-fiction material that few other cartoonists would brave, let alone do so with such skill. Last year’s The Lives of Sacco and Vanzetti details a robbery/murder from the 1920s that sent two Italian immigrants to death row… but in learning about the holes in the case, it’s quite easy to imagine a version of this story taking place in the present day.

I’d never heard of Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti before reading The Lives of Sacco and Vanzetti. A pair of Italian anarchists who were against World War I, the pair were arrested for an armed robbery in South Braintree, Massachusetts. At a glance, it looks like an open-and-shut case; twelve witnesses who between them near the scene, performing the murders, or in the getaway car after the crime. Bullet casings are left behind, as well as a hat that supposedly belongs to Sacco. People had come to the jailhouse and identified them. But then, piece by piece, almost every piece of evidence is discounted. Identifications were not in a police line-up but of the individuals sitting in a jail cell. Numerous witnesses were either known liars, or gave pieces of evidence that did not line up. (For example, one witness included that Vanzetti was driving the getaway car, but Vanzetti had never learned how to drive a car.) Other witnesses had evidence for each of the two being nowhere near the scene of the crime at the time of the murder. The judge was heard boasting about how he was going to make sure they were guilty. And appeals were listened to by the same judge, even if appeals involved judicial misconduct.

In short, The Lives of Sacco and Vanzetti details a court case that is so full of improper procedures, sketchy evidence, and outright tampering that reading Geary’s account makes you wonder how on earth this wasn’t declared a mistrial. That’s part of what makes Geary’s Treasury books so powerful; he has a gift of pulling you deep into these people’s stories and making you feel like you’re living alongside these news events. Geary structures the writing in The Lives of Sacco and Vanzetti well; each chapter is carved out into an individual, specific element of the story. The first details the crime itself, with Sacco and Vanzetti not appearing until the end. From there we learn about the lives of the duo, then get two chapters where the first displays the prosecution’s evidence, the second the defense’s case. Next we learn about the legal appeals filed and what happened, and finally how the cause of Sacco and Vanzetti went global.

If this is sounding eerily familiar, it’s a reminder that well before the internet, Twitter, and Facebook, it was still possible for someone’s cause to become a worldwide concern. Hearing about the famous people who came to their defense was fascinating, and Geary’s telling of this international movement to free the pair will almost certainly make you rethink today’s movements and how revolutionary they supposedly are. And when it’s time to wrap the book up, I appreciated that the second-to-last page is a summation of how after all the evidence is tallied, the cases both for and against their guilt. While the case at this point will never be solved, Geary does a good job of giving us enough material to make up our own minds, as well as providing a bibliography of his sources if you want to do further reading on your own.

Geary’s art is, as mentioned before, unmistakable. I feel at times like this is what would happen if you mixed a comic book artist with an architect; very precise, meticulous lines that carve out not only people and place’s forms, but also create shading and texture. I can’t even imagine how long it must take to draw all those horizontal lines on people’s jackets, for instance, or the delicate crosshatching on the handle of a pistol. I adore Geary’s lettering, too; thee’s something about it with its precise nature that makes it stand out from everyone else’s. I don’t think this is true of almost anyone else in comics, but Geary’s lettering is as much a part of the overall look of his art as any other feature present.

The Lives of Sacco and Vanzetti is another strong, memorable non-fiction book from Geary. He’s tackled a variety of stories over the years, some famous and others a little more obscure. There are two things that link all of Geary’s books together; the presence of murder, and a high level of quality and excellence in the storytelling. This is the kind of book that will not only grab the attention of comic readers, but are a good gateway for non-comics readers. (I’d love to see a big omnibus of some of Geary’s earlier books, by the way; they’d make an amazing gift for quite a few people.) Thanks to The Lives of Sacco and Vanzetti, I not only enjoyed a good comic, I feel like I know about an important case in our country’s history. Knowledge and enjoyment, what more can you ask for?

Purchase Links: Amazon.com | Powell’s Books

]]> http://www.readaboutcomics.com/2012/02/22/sacco-and-vanzetti/feed/ 1
Bubbles & Gondola http://www.readaboutcomics.com/2011/12/14/bubbles-gondola/ Wed, 14 Dec 2011 14:00:04 +0000 http://www.readaboutcomics.com/?p=1945 By Renaud Dillies80 pages, colorPublished by NBM

Bubbles & Gondola is one of those graphic novels that fakes you out right from its cover, and never lets up in that sense until the book is over. Between the title and the glimpse of art, this looks to be an adorable (possibly children’s) book about a [...]]]> By Renaud Dillies
80 pages, color
Published by NBM

Bubbles & Gondola is one of those graphic novels that fakes you out right from its cover, and never lets up in that sense until the book is over. Between the title and the glimpse of art, this looks to be an adorable (possibly children’s) book about a little mouse, perhaps named Bubbles or Gondola, and his exciting adventures. Readers might be a little startled, then, to instead find a graphic novel about a mouse named Charlie suffering from loneliness and depression while working as writer. Fortunately, once you get past the surprise, it’s a rather nice book.

There’s all sorts of imagery packed into Bubbles & Gondola, from the bird named Solitude that only Charlie the Mouse can see, to a climax at a masked-parade à la Carnival. Renaud Dillies, though, never lets up or stops impressing you as a reader. Some of the illustrations, like Charlie zooming on a little boat across the moon, are jaw-droppingly beautiful, and the masked-parade is full of great shapes and designs that you can stare at for hours. While Charlie himself comes off a bit of a sad sack early on, I found that by the midpoint of Bubbles & Gondola I’d genuinely come to care about him and his plight. This is a book that’s as much a treatise on what it’s like to be an artist (of any medium) as it is about the sapping nature of depression, and I think Dillies manages to get his points across strongly on both subjects. This was an unexpected little surprise; it’s not what you might think, but it turns out to be much better.

Purchase Links: Amazon.com | Powell’s Books

]]>
Stargazing Dog http://www.readaboutcomics.com/2011/10/10/stargazing-dog/ http://www.readaboutcomics.com/2011/10/10/stargazing-dog/#comments Mon, 10 Oct 2011 13:00:28 +0000 http://www.readaboutcomics.com/?p=1883 By Takashi Murakami128 pages, black and whitePublished by NBM

Stargazing Dog is the kind of book that will either grab you instantly with its cover, or make you run screaming. For me, there’s something instantly attractive about an image of a cute dog in a field of sunflowers that made me want to read this [...]]]> By Takashi Murakami
128 pages, black and white
Published by NBM

Stargazing Dog is the kind of book that will either grab you instantly with its cover, or make you run screaming. For me, there’s something instantly attractive about an image of a cute dog in a field of sunflowers that made me want to read this comic that was a runaway success in its native Japan. What I found inside, though, was a strange duo of stories about the relationship between men and dogs. It’s bittersweet, but I appreciated that it didn’t take the easy way out.

The first half of Stargazing Dog is the titular story, where a family adopts a puppy named Happie, but over time the father finds his wife and daughter drifting away from him, until it is just him and Happie on the road, trying to make ends meet. Takashi Murakami takes a slightly peculiar approach to the narrative here, starting off by making the father extremely standoffish and not terribly good on a personal level with anyone. It makes him hard to get excited about when the book’s cast contracts to just him and the dog, as a result. You can see this being a story of (somewhat) redemption for the father, but none the less it’s a bit of a speed bump for those earlier chapters.

Then again, even once it’s just the two of them, he’s not the most dashing of protagonists. He makes some ridiculous mistakes along the way, and there are some hiccups that are hard to believe (why is all of his money in cash?) that seem to exist solely to push the pair of them into ruin. But if you ignore the plot and just focus on the story of Happie, it’s a sad if touching story about devotion and unconditional love that will do its best to tug at heartstrings. That’s something that is echoed in "Sunflowers," an epilogue starring a different character who comes to investigate the aftermath of "Stargazing Dog." It’s another piece about the love that a dog gives its owner, and while the story itself seems slightly unnecessary, I appreciated that this protagonist was a bit more admirable and interesting. Once again, Murakami deliberately avoids a simple, pat, happy ending, and it makes me wonder if this is a hallmark of all of his fiction or if he was trying to stay in the same vein as "Stargazing Dog."

Murakami’s art in Stargazing Dog is a blocky but attractive style. I love how he draws Happie, with his perpetually eager and joyous canine face. A lot of the emotion of the story comes not from the script but from the visuals of the piece; it’s hard to keep from finding yourself entranced by Happie as he goes from good to bad situation but still has that upbeat canine spirit. He brings a lot of detail to the book, too; the fields of vegetation are drawn in a thick but interesting manner, letting you feel like you’re really seeing an area that’s choked by weeds and flowers. Looking at the old houses and cars, or the masses of sunflowers helps sell this story as being about a real place.

Stargazing Dog is a good book, and it’s easy to see why it became such a smash hit in Japan. It’s probably little too saccharine in places for some readers, but there’s enough bleakness here too that I ultimately found that it worked far better than I’d expected. I do wish the story had a little more meat on its bones in places, but as it’s much more of an emotional than plot-oriented piece that’s understandable. I’ll definitely take a look at future comics from Murakami. If nothing else, I’d like to see what he can do without placing dogs in harm’s way to still stir up emotion. For now, though, I’m satisfied with Stargazing Dog.

Purchase Links: Amazon.com | Powell’s Books

]]> http://www.readaboutcomics.com/2011/10/10/stargazing-dog/feed/ 1
Dungeon Monstres Vol. 3: Heartbreaker http://www.readaboutcomics.com/2010/11/22/dungeon-monstres-vol-3-heartbreaker/ http://www.readaboutcomics.com/2010/11/22/dungeon-monstres-vol-3-heartbreaker/#comments Mon, 22 Nov 2010 16:00:46 +0000 http://www.readaboutcomics.com/?p=1600 Written by Joann Sfar and Lewis TrondheimArt by Carlos Nine and Patrice Killoffer96 pages, colorPublished by NBM

Joann Sfar and Lewis Trondheim’s sprawling series Dungeon has always been all over the map, especially with all of its different sub-series (The Early Years exploring the past, Zenith the present, and Twilight the future, plus Parade set [...]]]> Written by Joann Sfar and Lewis Trondheim
Art by Carlos Nine and Patrice Killoffer
96 pages, color
Published by NBM

Joann Sfar and Lewis Trondheim’s sprawling series Dungeon has always been all over the map, especially with all of its different sub-series (The Early Years exploring the past, Zenith the present, and Twilight the future, plus Parade set in the early days of Zenith), but the easiest one to jump into in many ways is probably Monstres. That’s because each story just focuses on a different monster or beast, telling their particular story whenever it might take place. This new collection of two of the Monstres volumes from France is all over the place, not only in setting but art style and writing to boot.

The first half, Heartbreaker, is set during The Early Years timeframe, taking supporting character Alexandra and showing us just how this beautiful assassin’s mind truly functions. It’s a slightly unpleasant story, with her continued captures and tortures not being a light or happy tale by any stretch of the imagination. It’s drawn by Carlos Nine, and I wish that he’d had the time to paint the interior like he did the book’s stunning cover. The interiors aren’t bad, but his loose lines and sketchy character designs just can’t compare to the cover and all of its beauty. Nine drawing Heartbreaker is an inspired choice, though; Alexandra spends much of the comic drugged by her enemies, and this slightly blurry, loose style is a great match. Readers of The Early Years definitely shouldn’t skip this volume, though; it ties closely into the main narrative, and Sfar and Trondheim provide a big surprise for readers of that series at Heartbreaker‘s conclusion.

The second half, The Depths, is drawn by Patrice Killoffer, whose precise and smooth ink line is a dramatic contrast to Nine’s work. And while the first half was grim in a hazy sort of way, there’s no escaping the sheer nastiness of this story when Killoffer draws its events. This is easily the most (deliberately) vile and horrible story in the Dungeon milieu to date, as the poor underwater creature Drowny goes through all sorts of nasty situations in order to survive when the Great Khan’s armies invade. There’s a huge amount of detail packed into every single panel, but be warned that you might not want to look too closely. This story is designed to repulse its reader, and at that it succeeds mightily. Dungeon Monstres Vol. 3: Heartbreaker seems to see just how low it can go, and while I applaud it for succeeding, it’s the one Dungeon book I can’t see myself wanting to ever re-read.

Purchase Links: Amazon.com | Powell’s Books

]]> http://www.readaboutcomics.com/2010/11/22/dungeon-monstres-vol-3-heartbreaker/feed/ 4
A Home for Mr. Easter http://www.readaboutcomics.com/2010/05/07/a-home-for-mr-easter/ http://www.readaboutcomics.com/2010/05/07/a-home-for-mr-easter/#comments Fri, 07 May 2010 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.readaboutcomics.com/?p=1328 By Brooke A. Allen200 pages, black and whitePublished by NBM

There’s no way around it: A Home for Mr. Easter is one of the strangest comics I’ve seen all year. It’s a book that starts about a girl who’s picked on by her classmates at school as well as her mother, and then transforms into [...]]]> By Brooke A. Allen
200 pages, black and white
Published by NBM

There’s no way around it: A Home for Mr. Easter is one of the strangest comics I’ve seen all year. It’s a book that starts about a girl who’s picked on by her classmates at school as well as her mother, and then transforms into a bizarre chase through the woods involving environmental activists, a lying pet store owner, a failed magician, and the police. And the whole time, it just gets odder and odder as the tone of the book shifts and twists around. For that reason alone, it’s hard to ignore A Home for Mr. Easter.

In the early chapters of A Home for Mr. Easter, Brooke A. Allen plays her cards in a coy manner, not telling us for certain on if Tesana really has found a rabbit that lays multi-colored eggs or if she is hallucinating/imagining the more fantastical parts of her experience. This is after all a loner that’s picked on by almost everyone around her, and the book almost immediately leaps to a nine-page fantasy sequence involving Tesana standing up for herself and then escaping on a unicorn before the world snaps back into reality around her. It’s easy to see Tesana’s imagination running wild again when she first sees a rabbit lay an easter egg, doubly so when it then starts talking to her. It’s not until more characters start seeing the fantastical elements in A Home for Mr. Easter that you start to realize that yes, this is all happening. The book has quietly transformed from a story about a pathetic person unable to handle the real world, into one about a genuine hero trying to help a rabbit that everyone’s trying to get their hands upon. It’s an odd shift, one that might take the reader a little while to fully wrap their head around.

Once you know that all of this is happening, though, it’s actually fun to stop reading the book at that point and start over with that additional knowledge. It comes across as a fun adventure with strange characters and crazy ideas. This is, after all, a graphic novel with a talking rabbit that lays easter eggs that grant wishes. The best thing about A Home for Mr. Easter‘s story, though, isn’t the crazy ideas and the madcap pace that everything unrolls as the book progresses. Rather, it’s Tesana and her relationship with Mr. Easter. Her love for the little talking rabbit will pull at the toughest of heartstrings, quite frankly; Allen absolutely lays on the sweetness with Tesana and her caring for the rabbit, and you start to realize that aside from her mother, Mr. Easter is the first time she’s cared about someone else. If their relationship wasn’t so strongly delivered, I don’t think this book would work nearly as well as it does.

Allen’s art is consistently strong the whole way through the book, and even people who might not like the whimsy and flights of fancy of A Home for Mr. Easter will be hard to ignore Allen’s work here. Allen draws Tesana as a large girl, one who is mocked and teased by the other students at school. What I like, though, is how Allen is able to use that to Tesana’s advantage as the book progresses. Tesana comes across as someone who doesn’t know her own strength, and Allen draws her barreling through crowds and obstacles in a way that feels believable. She’s always got a sweet expression on her face, though, and it keeps Tesana from looking like a brute. Then again, the whole book is a lot of fun visually; Allen’s art feels like a strange cross between Paul Pope and Jim Mahfood, coming across both loose and blocky at the same time, if that makes any sense. It’s a beautiful art style that is able to handle everything from huge chases across the woods to Tesana thanking a horse in a cute way, and I’m entranced.

A Home for Mr. Easter is a strange, shifting book that switches up its tone and potentially tricks its reader at first. It’s a bit of a rambling story, but by the time I was done I had a big smile on my face. Allen’s story has heart, and her art is fantastic. As a first graphic novel, A Home for Mr. Easter is an impressive debut. I definitely look forward to seeing what she has up her sleeves next.

Purchase Links: Amazon.com | Powell’s Books

]]> http://www.readaboutcomics.com/2010/05/07/a-home-for-mr-easter/feed/ 2
Little Nothings Vol. 3: Uneasy Happiness http://www.readaboutcomics.com/2010/04/14/little-nothings-vol-3/ http://www.readaboutcomics.com/2010/04/14/little-nothings-vol-3/#comments Wed, 14 Apr 2010 08:00:38 +0000 http://www.readaboutcomics.com/?p=1299 By Lewis Trondheim128 pages, colorPublished by NBM

Little Nothings is, quite frankly, one of the best titles for a diary comic that I’ve ever come across. After all, at the end of the day, the vast majority of diary comics are full of little, inconsequential nothings. They may be important (or not!) to the person [...]]]> By Lewis Trondheim
128 pages, color
Published by NBM

Little Nothings is, quite frankly, one of the best titles for a diary comic that I’ve ever come across. After all, at the end of the day, the vast majority of diary comics are full of little, inconsequential nothings. They may be important (or not!) to the person they happened to, but to anyone else they’re a vague amusement at best. That said, I also think that Lewis Trondheim’s Little Nothings not only has one of the best titles of a diary comic, but that it’s one of my favorite diary comics. The book might be full of little nothings, but there’s something about Trondheim’s charm in his comics that makes it engrossing reading.

Trondheim’s comics in Little Nothings: Uneasy Happiness are rarely deep, or even particularly meaningful. They’re often about his travels, or the moments of mundanity like trying to capture or remove a mouse in his home. What he does bring to his stories, though, is a level of honesty and openness that’s coupled with a strange sort of innocence. So you get to feel his wonder as he sees a huge waterfall on Reunion Island, or his sheepishness as his wife points out that his plan to smoke out a hiding mouse would also set fire to the bookshelves. Trondheim lays out his fears and neuroses for the reader to see; I suspect he understands that it will at any given moment be a mixture of readers laughing at him, and readers laughing with him. There’s a little bit of Trondheim in all of us.

Even better, though, is Trondheim’s lush art. For quick one-page diary comics, there’s a lot of effort put into these pages. I absolutely adore the watercolors that he lays down on a lot of the pages, letting us see clouds wander across a blue sky, or shades of green and brown among the wilderness. If I found myself crazily wealthy, I’d give serious thought to trying to convince Trondheim to travel around the world for me and create a series of art books about each location. Forget about the stunning art detailing Fiji or skiing in the mountains, who knew that old residential balconies overlooking Placa Santa Maria Del Mar could be so enticing? Even a cold wintry sky comes to life under Trondheim’s pen, and makes me wistful for a type of weather that just a month ago I was loudly cursing to everyone within earshot.

Reading any volume of Little Nothings is the comics equivalent of comfort food. Settling down with it can’t help but relax you, make you feel at home, and somehow deeply happy. Seeing this third volume of Little Nothings not only tickled me immensely, it made me dig out the first two volumes to re-read as soon as I was done. It’s nice to see that Trondheim hasn’t lost his charm when it comes to autobiography.

Purchase Links: Amazon.com | Powell’s Books

]]> http://www.readaboutcomics.com/2010/04/14/little-nothings-vol-3/feed/ 2
Year of Loving Dangerously http://www.readaboutcomics.com/2009/12/09/year-of-loving-dangerously/ http://www.readaboutcomics.com/2009/12/09/year-of-loving-dangerously/#comments Wed, 09 Dec 2009 05:00:35 +0000 http://www.readaboutcomics.com/?p=1111 Written by Ted RallArt by Pablo G. Callejo128 pages, colorPublished by NBM

Ted Rall is probably best known for his political cartoons, and his travel journalism in books like Silk Road to Ruin. When I think of Rall, though, one of the works that always jumps to my mind is his autobiographical My War With [...]]]> Written by Ted Rall
Art by Pablo G. Callejo
128 pages, color
Published by NBM

Ted Rall is probably best known for his political cartoons, and his travel journalism in books like Silk Road to Ruin. When I think of Rall, though, one of the works that always jumps to my mind is his autobiographical My War With Brian. That’s probably why I was intrigued when NBM first announced Rall’s autobiographical The Year of Loving Dangerously; Rall wasn’t afraid to lay out his past in an unflattering way based on My War With Brian, and Rall’s new book promised to do just that. What I found, though, was a book that gets oddly defensive in places that you’d have expected otherwise.

The Year of Loving Dangerously explains what happened to Rall when, due to a medical situation, he ended up getting expelled from Columbia University’s engineering department after his junior year. Suddenly without a place to live or an income, he finds himself homeless, and that’s when he discovers a whole new way to "couch surf." Thus begins Rall’s pattern of hooking up with numerous women, in part so he can stay at their home overnight and have a bed to sleep in. It’s a premise that makes you wonder why film directors haven’t already co-opted it (Rall should contact Seth Rogen right now), although to be fair The Year of Loving Dangerously really isn’t a comedy. Instead it’s a story about someone struggling to survive in a bad situation the best he can.

One thing you pick up very quickly is that The Year of Loving Dangerously is in some ways less a straight forward story, and more a series of justifications for past actions. Some of them make perfect sense; when you have no money and nowhere to stay, you’re willing to lower your standards and do what you have to. Selling signs that were slated to be thrown out by MTA? Perfectly understandable. Stealing electric typewriters from Columbia? That’s where things start to get hazier; it’s certainly not a "good" thing to do, although many people can look back into their youth and find similar, full-of-rage moments that seemed like a good idea at the time. What gets odd, though, is when Rall tells the story of a trip into Massachusetts where he and his friend Chris are taking unauthorized side trips while delivering a car. After getting pulled over while driving without lights on at night, and smoking a bong in the car, they briefly end up in jail and fleeced of their money. Rall ends the story with the comment, "The arrest wasn’t my fault." It’s a perplexing comment, because you look at the sequence of events and one thing is abundantly clear: it was his fault.

From that point on, reading The Year of Loving Dangerously is a very different experience. When Rall-as-narrator speaks, you understand that what he’s saying versus what really happened might not be in perfect alignment. His perspective on the series of events puts him alternately as martyr and hero, with remarkably little blame ever landing at his own feet. (Only in hurling water balloons at passing cars from his dorm window does he truly admit guilt.) So while watching Rall’s struggles and dubious decisions continues to be interesting, it’s hard to not see the buck getting forever passed to other characters in the story. I’m actually all in favor of a story told using the literary device of the "unreliable narrator," but one gets the impression with The Year of Loving Dangerously that it wasn’t Rall’s intention.

Pablo G. Callejo’s art in The Year of Loving Dangerously is a treat from start to finish; he draws his characters with an innocent look, thanks to rounded faces and clean lines. Callejo draws the young Rall in a way that makes him both recognizably the cartoonist (for those who have seen or met him), but without feeling stiff, posed, or light boxed off of existing photographs. I think it’s Callejo’s art style that actually makes the book slightly more likable; Rall’s narration may not ever come across as warm, but his alter-ego on the page does in places.

The Year of Loving Dangerously is the sort of book that’s fun on the surface; the unapologetic nature of the story telling, the juggling of "relationships" that Rall holds down, the mishaps that he has with his friend Chris. It’s only when you start to think about the book that it takes on a different and slightly off-putting air. I think it’s a good story, but perhaps not the story that Rall entirely planned on telling. This is the kind of glimpse into someone’s life that readers rarely get.

Purchase Links: Amazon.com | Powell’s Books

]]> http://www.readaboutcomics.com/2009/12/09/year-of-loving-dangerously/feed/ 1
Dungeon The Early Years Vol. 2: Innocence Lost http://www.readaboutcomics.com/2009/11/25/dungeon-the-early-years-vol-2-innocence-lost/ http://www.readaboutcomics.com/2009/11/25/dungeon-the-early-years-vol-2-innocence-lost/#comments Wed, 25 Nov 2009 05:00:34 +0000 http://www.readaboutcomics.com/?p=1109 Written by Joann Sfar and Lewis TrondheimArt by Christophe Blain96 pages, colorPublished by NBM

Joann Sfar and Lewis Trondheim’s Dungeon series is certainly one of the more ambitious ones out there; Dungeon Zenith takes place during the height of the construction’s time, Dungeon Twilight takes place in its apocalyptic future, Dungeon Early Years as a [...]]]> Written by Joann Sfar and Lewis Trondheim
Art by Christophe Blain
96 pages, color
Published by NBM

Joann Sfar and Lewis Trondheim’s Dungeon series is certainly one of the more ambitious ones out there; Dungeon Zenith takes place during the height of the construction’s time, Dungeon Twilight takes place in its apocalyptic future, Dungeon Early Years as a prequel series, and Dungeon Parade and Dungeon Monstres as adjunct one-off stories that are all over the place. That said? I like that with the vast majority of the graphic novels, you can just pick one up and jump right into the story. It’d been a while since I’d read Dungeon, but this new-to-English installment was a pleasant trip back to Sfar and Trondheim’s creation. Pleasant might not be quite the best word, though; Dungeon The Early Years is shaping up to be an awfully grim series.

The Early Years stories primarily follow Hyacinthe, who by the time of Zenith will be known as the Dungeon Keeper. Before then, though, he was best known as the "Night Shirt," a Zorro-meets-Batman avenger of the night that hunts the streets of Antipolis. I remember enjoying the first The Early Years volume, and how it showed a different, lighter side to Hyacinthe. Here, though, you start to see things change for Hyacinthe, and it’s an interesting shift in tone. Here we’re seeing characters lose their faith in everything they hold dear, loved ones dying before their time, and wholesale destruction left and right. If you’ve only ever read the light-hearted Dungeon Parade books, this might come as a bit of a surprise.

It’s odd, though, because Sfar and Trondheim still keep some of the lighter elements that were already introduced, like Hyacinthe’s numerous magical tobaccos. They’re actually an odd fit at this point, a reminder that there is a joking, silly version of this setting out there. Hyacinthe accidentally using a tobacco that lets him see through people’s clothes instead of something to face his attackers, for instance, feels like a joke misplaced from one of the other Dungeon series. Fortunately, those are moments which go away more with time. Other ideas, like a flying machine, are ones that probably would have been a joke in another series but are taken seriously in The Early Years. Sfar and Trondheim take their mission to show the origin of the Dungeon and its Keeper’s life seriously, with each new event shaping Hyacinthe in a way that drains the youth out of him. He’s truly become an adult by the end of this The Early Years volume; it’s no small coincidence that it’s subtitled Innocence Lost.

If you’re going to have a grim and dark Dungeon series, I must say that having Christophe Blain illustrate it is an excellent decision. His style is extremely versatile; some pages will be crisp and clean, others using a dark, moody art style that has shadow clinging onto every character and object. As The Early Years grows darker, so does Blain’s art, culminating in a cataclysmic event at the end of the book that is jaw-dropping in how creepy Blain’s depiction turns out. Even Blain’s colors fit in perfectly to this progression within the art; there’s a moment in the second half where a bunch of characters are killed in fast succession, and the deep red hue that Blain puts around the wavy, Edvard Munch’s Scream styled panels is eerie. Blain can pack a punch in a short space, and I was sad to hear that this is the last of his The Early Years contributions for now.

Dungeon is more than an ambitious series, it’s addicting. Sfar and Trondheim have fun snapping all the pieces together, but I’ve found myself regularly surprised at how much I come to character about the characters from all of the different time periods. Dungeon The Early Years Vol. 2: Innocence Lost might a tiny bit too grim for some readers, but there’s always some Dungeon Parade waiting as an antidote. For those who don’t mind seeing a character lose his innocence (proverbial and otherwise), definitely check out The Early Years books.

Purchase Links: Amazon.com | Powell’s Books

]]> http://www.readaboutcomics.com/2009/11/25/dungeon-the-early-years-vol-2-innocence-lost/feed/ 1