Marc Ellerby walks a treacherous fence between comic relief and emotional breakdown in this collection of his autobio strips (most of which ran on theMarc Ellerby walks a treacherous fence between comic relief and emotional breakdown in this collection of his autobio strips (most of which ran on the web several years ago). It's the kind of balance most of us seek in life: can we laugh long enough to keep from crying? Luckily, yes, Marc can, and this keeps Ellerbisms from being the cliche diary comic where it's just navel gazing and self-absorption. Marc chooses his moments carefully, building his own narrative about chasing one's artistic dreams while also chasing romance, and finding triumph and heartbreak alike in both. Having worked with Marc on other comics, I know the raw honesty that is on display here. He is cagey in how he tells his tales, but he doesn't bury the emotion of the events. The result is a comic that is both entertaining and relatable....more
I have a feeling hanging around with the Bechdels must be exhausting. The subject here feels more forced than Fun Home, the narrative less organic. WoI have a feeling hanging around with the Bechdels must be exhausting. The subject here feels more forced than Fun Home, the narrative less organic. Wonderful construction, but I ultimately had the sense it was more meaningful for the author in the writing than it was for me in the reading....more
Very few comics have made me cry. This is one of them. The last handful of pages are masterful, as Scott Chantler reframes a scene we've visited severVery few comics have made me cry. This is one of them. The last handful of pages are masterful, as Scott Chantler reframes a scene we've visited several times before in the book, giving it new resonance and tying the whole narrative together in a way that packs real power. It's a brilliant example of thoughtful storytelling, emotional without being manipulative. But then, there isn't a pen stroke in this comic that isn't perfectly planned. Two Generals should be given to all prospective cartoonists as a tutorial on how to visually tell tales. Adhering to a strict layout based on a nine-panel grid, Chantler frequently relies on silence and small details to relate change, movement, and outward expression of inner thought and feeling. His pin-point eyes tell more about a character's internal conflict than most other comics artists manage when rendering a complete face. Also, his sparse use of color avoids gimmickry and instead conveys an added layer of meaning. The portentous use of the dark wine color that also adorns the cover of this handsomely designed graphic novel alerts us to deaths to come, like a more serious employment of the Star Trek red shirt. Except here, under the grim specter of war, any man is as expendable as any other.
Two Generals is based in large part on the diaries of the author's grandfather, a lieutenant in the Canadian army in World War II. Chantler's approach is, in some ways, "just the facts, ma'am," avoiding mawkish sentimentality; yet, he is not scared of nostalgia, humor, or genuine human connection. The comic also manages to honor the brave fighters without cheerleading or propaganda, in much the same way another visual medium, television, payed tribute to the soldiers in the miniseries Band of Brothers and The Pacific. I'm considering putting Two Generals on the same shelf as those DVD sets, even if it would fly in the face of my compulsive filing system. Someone get this novel in the hands of Tom Hanks, stat....more
As I write this, I only just finished the actual comics in the book. There are 50 pages of appendices in the back, which is a good illustration of howAs I write this, I only just finished the actual comics in the book. There are 50 pages of appendices in the back, which is a good illustration of how pedantic Brown's writing is. I found myself torn by this book. On one hand, I liked some of the ideas, but I found the presentation of them boring, particularly next to the moments where some kind of actual humanity emerged. The narrative is random, and despite all the talking--and let's be honest, the "debate" scenarios are contrived and unrealistic, with several bad transitions where the inelegance of the writing calls attention to Brown having no better way to go from one moment to the next--never really does more than go beyond the surface of a lot of what actually "happens." The author seems to prefer justification to genuine insight.
Yet, I also can't entirely dismiss it. There's something here, and the divide may just be between from what I want when I read a memoir--i.e., some kind of story with a personal connection--and what Brown intended. (I also am ashamed to admit that I've never read his work before, and so have no other context to judge.)
[Update: I never got around to reading the back matter. I had to take the book back to the library and, honestly, I just couldn't work up the interest. Plus, others had warned me I was in for a world of hurt if I wandered into it. Trust your gut!]...more
The book structure could have used a little more focus, and the prose could have been sharper and scintillating. I liked the specific anecdotes best,The book structure could have used a little more focus, and the prose could have been sharper and scintillating. I liked the specific anecdotes best, particularly the stuff about Sarah's childhood and doing comedy as a young woman in New York. The more schticky sections were made bearable by Silverman reading it herself on the audio book....more