Posted tagged ‘graphic novels’

Review: Asterios Polyp

July 17, 2009

It’s been awhile since there’s been an indie comic that has received the sort of rave reviews being heeped upon David Mazzucchelli’s Asterios Polyp.  The last time was probably Blankets back in 2003.  It’s an awful lot of hype to live up to, and my God does it pull it off.

It’s a stunning book, one that makes it easy to forgive Mazzucchelli’s virtual disappearance from the industry for the last decade.  It’s also a very straight forward book on the surface.  The title character is a know-it all academic whose marriage falls apart due to neglect, causing him to start his anew on his 50th birthday.

But the craft on display puts this book at the pinacle of the form.  Asterios is a character who is only capable of understanding the world as a series of dualities.  And to help illustrate this point he is nearly always drawn in profile.  In fact I believe there are only six exceptions to this (the first time he’s shown, once when facing his dying father, during a dream sequence with his deceased twin, during another dream based on the Orpheus legend, and then twice at the book’s end).  The book is also a lettering tour de force.  Every character is given a differently shaped word baloon and font.  And this actually works instead of being distracting.

As a story this book is a huge success, as a work of art it’s a masterpiece.  At year’s end I will be very surprised if this doesn’t prove to be my favorite book of the year.

Cheers and Jeers

June 22, 2009

Cheers to the Hampstead, New Hampshire Library for starting an adult graphic novel collection.  But jeers to them for clearly not understanding the nature of the collection they’re putting together.  

As reported by Rich Johnston, the Eagle-Tribune interviewed the library’s director regarding their latest collection.  It’s sadly painful to read, both as a fellow librarian and as a comics fanboy.  What comes across is that the library has no grasp of this collection, and no sense of who its readers are.  Sorry to be so hars, but it’s true.  Choice bits include:

Calling graphic novels a separate genre from comics

Pointing out that some graphic novels contain both text and drawings

Claiming that graphic novels are primarily marketed at people who have trouble reading

And of course, the examples of books for the reading impaired are Black Hole and Jimmy Corrigan (with Maus and Y the Last Man being alluded to).

::shudders::

Comics Redux

June 18, 2009

Our comics collection seems to be the issue that never dies (granted some of that is my fault).  Up until now we’ve kept them solely in our YA department, and until recently in the damn 741.5 call # that I hate so much.  Well we just ordered this summer’s high school reading lists and found Watchmen and the first volume of the Sandman on it (which is very cool, and actually also Jonathan Lethem’s underated Omega the Unknown was also on the list, but that one doesn’t pose any difficulties).

These books got us thinking about age appropriateness.  Our YA collection is intended for ages 12-18, which is quite a range.  No one has any problem giving these books to someone in high school.  But the 24 hours story from the Sandman might be a bit much for a 12 year old (although that’s when I first read it).

So after a lot of discussion we decided to move these to the adult collection, but not just because of the potential obscenity issue.  Up until now our adult comic collection consisted of 2 books, Persepolis and Jimmy Corrigan.  Now we’re starting to look at building a real collection for so called “mature” comics readers.  We looked through our YA collection and pulled out a few other books that could potentially be deemed inappropriate to someone with the right mindset.  But we also grabbed a few whose subject matter simply might be of more interest to an adult audience (A Contract with God, In the Shadow of No Towers, the Golem’s Mighty Swing).

Many of these decisions were slightly arbitrary, but they also serve a purpose.  We now have just enough books to fill up a whole shelf in one of our more prominent locations.  This gives us enough to promote them as being a new collection, one that we now intend to build upon.  It’s a round about way to get to that point, but at least we made it there.

The Making of a Collection

April 29, 2009

We’re going to have a comics/graphic novels collection outside of the horrors of Dewey at last.  But what do we call it?  We need something to distinguish the collection that will fit on a spine label and which will clearly define the collection.  So, comic or some variation of graphic novel (graphic, GR, GN).

There’s no consensus on this out there.  We checked other libraries and found every option used somewhere, plus some we didn’t consider (i.e. manga).  And thus onto the debate.  In the end comics won, thanks to the arguement that all graphic novels are comics, but not all comics are graphic novels.  We wanted to include comic strips in the collection, and so that edged the debate in one direction, though not without a little bit of a fight.  Graphic novel sounds better and the term is arguably more descriptive of the format.

There’s not exactly a right answer here, which just goes to show how inaccurate libraries can be.

Review: The Death of Captain America Vol.3

April 20, 2009

Happy government workers in Mass. get an extra day off day (a.k.a. Patriot’s Day).  It seemed appropriate to finally finally finish up the Death of Captain America today.  Not that these issues actualy wrap anything up.  At story’s end Cap is still dead and most of the villains are still at large.  But what this book does is cement Bucky in place as the new Captain America.

Since taking over the book Ed Brubaker and Steve Epting have maintained the book’s quality without missing a beat.  Many reviewers have noted that the book has been so constant that it’s become difficult to review.  We’re nearly 50 issues into what is essentially a single story arc now with no end in site, but nothing feels like it’s padded and the tale certainly isn’t dragging on.  

This is just a massive superhero epic unlike anything else being written at the moment.

Review: Deadpool Classic Vol.2

April 19, 2009

Sick days (even when they coincide with weekends) are the best time to do some catch up reading, so I’m sorry for the deluge of reviews here at the moment.  

Anyway Deadpool vol.2, one of my absolute favorite comics from the mid 90’s has finally been collected, albeit in a very odd way.  The first volume contained the character’s first appearance, the first two (largely forgetable) mini-series to feature him, and the first issue of this series.  Why that 1 issue (which also marks to the start of a story arc that wraps up here) is in the first volume instead of the second is a complete mystery.

But stupid publishing decissions aside this is still a great book, not to mention the only reason the character is still around.  The Joe Kelly run, which hits its stride here in a story featuring Daredevil villain Typhoid Mary, has gained its reputation for a reason.  Deadpool, the Merc with a Mouth, is a ridiculous character, an assassin for hire with no internal monologue who can take a cartoonishly high amount of damage.  Every writer to tackle him with the exception of Kelly has played him up as a joke, and most recently he’s actually been written as being outright insane.

But Kelly actually tries to analyze the character in his stories, creating a deeply broken person who wants to improve himself but knows that he doesn’t deserve to be better.  And despite that sort of emo soul searching these issues are still funnier than those by any other writer to work on the character.  

These issues are also notable for launching the career of artist Ed McGuinness.  His pencils are an amazing fit for the character, somehow managing to convey the entire emotional spectrum with someone whose face is always covered.  The fill-in issue with Aaron Lopresti trying to ape Steranko on the other hand falls a bit flat.

Review: 100 Bullets

April 18, 2009

The best ongoing series in comics came to its conclusion this week with the 100th issue of 100 Bullets.  In honor of this momentous occasion I’ve been rereading the entire series, which was actually necessary throughout the run to keep track of the plot.

Brian Azzarello’s story begins a a series of morality tales in which a stranger is presented with the means of getting away with murder (the title’s 100 untraceable bullets) and a motive for wanting to do so.  These were fascinating and well told stories, but they seemed like parts of an anthology and not an overall narative.

However, if you keep with the book you soon discover that all these tales (with the exception of 3 issues) are intricately linked.  There are reasons for the selection of the recipients of the magic guns and their targets, and it all ties into a conspiracy involving the most powerful people in America, the Trust, and their enforecers, the Minutemen.

The series, especially thanks to the contribution of its artist Eduardo Risso, is stylish, often brilliant, and never predicatable.  Over the last nine and a half years each issue to come out has been at the very top of my reading stack.  Its (slightly rushed) conclusion is going to leave behind it a  major void.  100 Bullets has been the greatest crime comic ever produced.  ‘Nuff said.

Review: American Flagg! Vol.2

April 13, 2009

The second volume of American Flagg! finishes Howard Chaykin’s seminal run of the comic.  It’s pretty brilliant.  As I said in my review of the first volume, the series is one of the stand out comics of the last 25 years and the second half does an able job of fulfilling that volume’s promise.  The loose plot threads are wrapped up nicely and Chaykin’s manic, media saturated world is expanded on even more (I love the network’s attempt to sell Illinois when it becomes a poor investment).

About the only complaint I have with this book is that the conclusion is a bit too open ended.  While the ending is appropriate it leaves tons of new potential stories for the various characters (not to mention the newly civilized Canada) and dammit I want to read those stories!  And while they do exist, they sadly are not in print at the moment.  So please continue the series, even though it’s supposed to go downhill from here.

Review: Seaguy

April 2, 2009

My most anticipated comic for the year came out yesterday, I am of course speaking of Seaguy: the Slaves of Mickey Eye.  This is the second part of a planned trilogy, that began 5 years ago and has been in limbo while writer Grant Morrison worked on some more mainstream projects and spent time coercing DC into publishing the sequel.

Their caution is understandable, Seaguy was an incredibly bizarre comic, even by Morrison’s standards (a man famous for desiring a self aware DC comics universe), but it’s also perhaps the single best summation of his career to date.  All of his themes are here, all of his brilliance, and some of the best examples of his run away imagination (I particularly like the image of the moon crying for help, shedding heiroglyph encrusted bricks down on the happiest place on Earth).  Morrison is compleately unrestrained in this book, it seems like every stray thought he had during the writing process has found a way into the story, and that largely works, and even when it doesn’t it’s hard to resist the sheer joy that seems to be present on each page (despite the fact that the story is pretty much a dystopian tragedy).

A large part of that joyous impression is due to artist Cameron Stewart, one of the most versatile and underutilized people in the industry.  He gained a decent amount of attention two years back with the Other Side, Jason Aaron’s career-launching Vietnam tale, for which he traveled to the country to get the landscape right, so clearly he can handle realism.  But here he has to draw flying fish-like creatures, hordes of clockwork, Atlantian moths, and of course the unfinished portion of the Moon (and the Mummy who lives there), all so that they fit into a cohesive world.  The result is one of the most eye pleasing books Vertigo has ever produced.

So thank you DC for finally letting the story continue.

Review: The Immortal Iron Fist Vol.4

March 31, 2009

It’s almost enough simply to say that Iron Fist is still worth buying with the latest volume, the first without the amazing creative team of Brubaker, Fraction, and Aja.  I cannot think of another instance in which an incoming team had bigger shoes to fill.  And fortunately Dwayne Swierczynski, Travel Foreman and Russ Heath manage to come in without missing a beat.

It helps that the incoming and outgoing teams clearly worked together to make the transition as smooth as possible.  The story here seemlessly flows out of what came before, showing Iron Fist’s battle with the creature who has murdered each of his ancestors in their 33rd year.  But more importantly, Swierczynski actually maintains the sensibilities of the previous writers, continuing to include the pulp-inflected flashbacks that made the early issues of the series so distinctive.

So I’m still happy to report that the title remains one one Marvel’s best, and the lead in to the next story in which the Immortal Weapons go to Hell makes it look like that standard is going to continue.