Picturebox, more than any other publisher, is committed to publishing and discovering avant-garde comics, and this is another outstanding contributionPicturebox, more than any other publisher, is committed to publishing and discovering avant-garde comics, and this is another outstanding contribution. This is the second book Picturebox has released by Yuichi Yokoyama, and unlike his last book, New Engineering, this is one long story.
Calling Travel a "story" is stretching the definition of what a story is, which is one of the great things about this book. This book follows three strangely drawn men who board a train and travel to a destination. That's it. The three travelers walk past other passengers, stare at objects, phenomena and people that pass by, and one even smokes a cigarette (which in this book, much like in Warhol's films, is a massive shift in the 'action').
This book is hard to describe, but a joy to read. It's completely "silent" and when I say that, I mean that it is without any sound cues, which his last book was full of. All we get is the imagery. And what imagery! Yokoyama's art is unlike anyone's art I'm familiar with, European, Japanese, or U.S. His line is obsessive, clean and bisque, while his layout is frantic, cluttered and fast. All of which adds to a mysterious otherness; as if we were asked to spot tiny and fleeting glimpses of beauty from the windows of a speeding train, all while on a parallel world, oddly familiar, yet deeply foreign.
I'm going to let this review act as a stand in for the whole series, since the series is one complete work, and I read the whole story at one setting.I'm going to let this review act as a stand in for the whole series, since the series is one complete work, and I read the whole story at one setting.
This was an amazing piece of genre fiction. The characters were well drawn (both in words and pictures); the action and set pieces were fantastic; the humor was funny; the plot was exciting, rarely predictable, often surprising, and the ending was wonderfully ambiguous. Specifically, I loved Allison Mann's story, Agent 355's character (Vaughan actually wrote a somewhat believable bad-ass secret agent!). Natalya Zamyatin's slaughtered English, and Yorick's one-liners, which were always funny, even though I was always annoyed by Yorick's incessant pop-culture references (in that sense, I identified with the character Dr. Mann).
The ending made me cry. It also worked wonderfully AND was deeply depressing. I thought it was a brave ending and I applaud Vaughan for not sliding into easy solutions and comfortable melodrama. (I'm glad Vaughan is now writing for Lost.)
That said, I hate how every main character was beautiful. What the fuck? No one fat or unattractive effected Yorick and company's lives? Is everyone beautiful simply because Guerra can only draw attractive women? Or is it Vaughan's writing? I also disliked how the characters were nearly invincible until the end. Even though Vaughan did his best to make that more about luck and skill, it still came off as contrived.
Vaughan's writing is sometimes over-the-top with pastiche and cleverness, as if he was one of the many awful post-Pulp Fiction Tarantino clones. Pastiche and pop-cultural references are irrelevant to his writing and are often unnecessary coloring, but thankfully he keeps them coming from Yorick, who as a character would be making incessant cultural references. Yorick himself is a very passive and uninteresting character. He is almost a blank vessel, despite his character's history, and maybe that helps reader identification. That very passivity becomes a decent plot point, esp. in "Safe Word," and thankfully his character doesn't really have a "hero's journey," only a long slow slide into his passivity and obsolescence. ...more
Lewis Trondheim manages to mix whimsy and horror in a beautiful way. These wordless (well, the stories do have an alien language, but not one that anyLewis Trondheim manages to mix whimsy and horror in a beautiful way. These wordless (well, the stories do have an alien language, but not one that anyone on Earth can read) stories follow lovable and cute Pokemon-style characters who wander through a brutal world of death and disfigurement. The stories are uniformly bleak, but their cute and cuddly protagonists makes the whole thing funny. The interconnected stories end in a torrent of violence and goo, finishing with the perfectly cute symbol of loneliness, surrounded by a sea of shit. Really wonderful stuff. Trondheim can do practically anything. He's extremely experimental and a damn fine storyteller. These stories are straight storytelling and are damn fine....more
This is basically a text book for learning how to draw comics.
And it's a damn fine one.
I've always liked to read 'how to' books, even when I already kThis is basically a text book for learning how to draw comics.
And it's a damn fine one.
I've always liked to read 'how to' books, even when I already know how to do something. You can never know everything and a good 'how to' book should always teach you something new. This book is a very good 'how to' book. The practice sessions look sensible and effective (even though I haven't done any of them and only plan on trying out a few). The history and theory of comics is solid. The sections on how to construct comics and comic stories was a stand out. And the section on tools, for me, was a real eye-opener. I can't wait to go try out various nibs!
A damn fine primer to anyone who wants to make a comic, or even to those who feel like they already know how to make a comic.
My only concern - and this has little to do with the book - is that comics are slowly being taught in colleges and universities. This scares me, since professionalization, in the U.S., seems to creep into every profession, even (or esp.) professions that do NOT need to be accredited. Since the 60s, the comic world has remained remarkably free-wheeling, with creators coming from every walk of life, their only connection a dorky love of comics. But the time will come where a MFA in comics will be necessary in order to get a book deal, much as an MFA from Yale, CalArts, or Columbia is practically required in order to get a show from a decent gallery. This type of professionalization, I believe, has had dire and devastating effects on the art world and will have dire and devastating effects on the comic world. I love school, and I love text books like Drawing Words & Painting Pictures but I hope the stranglehold of college accreditation doesn't take the comics world by the neck, as it has the art world....more
The two stories by the Scandinavians are light and sweet but still dark; both are full of color in lush watercolor and colored pencil. Anneli Furmark's story (from Sweden) is a snippet of a gay couple visiting one man's very religious family. It's full of tiny observations, a lot like Jeffery Brown's early work, and similarly, it's not "well" drawn in a representational sense, but the drawings are perfect for the story. Despite the amateurish art, it's beautifully detailed and lends perfectly to the story's ultimate ambiguity.
The second Scandinavian story is by Amanda Vähämäki from Finland and it's wonderful. It dreamily follows two young kids and it meanders a lot. It seems to revolve around a magic remote control, but it's unclear what is real and what is childhood imagination. It the best story in this collection of great stories.
The story by the American, T. Edward Bak, isn't as colorful or light, but it's equally beautiful, full of amazing stylistic choices. Where the Scandinavians are fairly conservative in their panel layout, Bak is very experimental. (Furmark largely uses two panels on each page, which gives a sense of extreme intimacy, and Vahamaki sticks with an 8 to 12 panel grid pattern, but without any borders. The lack of borders blurs the panels together, and the regularity gives a structure to a free-wheeling and fantastic story.) Bak sometimes uses panels, sometimes does not, and wildly tries various structures, all while jumping back and forth in place and time. That said, the story is opaque even though it focuses on the story of a jilted lover, and the other's trek through a fantastic, and seemingly war-torn, realm. It's beautiful, but lacks the emotional impact of the other two stories. Still, it is a stand out story in a stand out collection....more
As I said in my last review of the last Fables book, the politics in these are disturbingly simplistic and retrograde, and the author uses the creakieAs I said in my last review of the last Fables book, the politics in these are disturbingly simplistic and retrograde, and the author uses the creakiest of hoary tropes, which can be fun, but can also be annoying. In this case, it's somewhere in between the two, with a WWII commando story that doesn't compare to the many great WWII commando stories in comics or movies. This one uses Bigby, as a werewolf commando working for "the good guys" and even throws in Frankenstein's Monster. Still, the story is funn but flat and without anything new or exciting, lacking the crazy inventiveness of Mike Mignola and Hellboy, or the visceral doom and gloom of EC comics. Worse, it uses WWII cliches that were boring in the 40s, and the fight between the two monsters isn't that great.
That said, the book is fun and worth reading if you read it like I did, while sitting in a Barnes and Nobel, at the same time slowly drinking and people watching. ...more
I still remain skeptical of Fables. The storytelling is fast and fun, and that's probably the most important thing, but the writing is often clunky anI still remain skeptical of Fables. The storytelling is fast and fun, and that's probably the most important thing, but the writing is often clunky and the politics are often regressive.
In this issue, for example, there is a funny subplot about the Arabic fables use of slaves, as well as a standard Machiavellian wizard, but all of the stories are oddly toothless and with little impact or commentary about our world, which is odd since almost all of the old fables tended to be deeply political (even if 'coded' and sly about what exactly they were saying).
There's a lot to mine in this idea, but for the most part, I think this book has largely missed the great potential of such a fun concept. Still, I keep reading this book every time I go into Barnes and Nobel, so they must be doing something right (although they're not doing it well enough for me to want to buy it)....more
This one introduces T. Ott who does wonders with a scratch board; Laura Park, whose minis blew me away at MOCCA; Josh SimmoAnother solid issue of MOME.
This one introduces T. Ott who does wonders with a scratch board; Laura Park, whose minis blew me away at MOCCA; Josh Simmons who delivers a kick ass interpretation of a chunk of the Book of Revelations; Conor O'Keefe who does a comic in the style of the turn of the century; and Derek Van Gieson who beautifully paints largely abstract violent stories; and a long serialized story by comix legend Gilbert Sheldon.
Then there's the usual cast of MOME characters who we already know are good....more
This is my favorite in the Fables series. It's very good, answers in a lot of questions that the series has accumulated through out, and is filled witThis is my favorite in the Fables series. It's very good, answers in a lot of questions that the series has accumulated through out, and is filled with a lot of action. The character of Little Boy Blue is greatly expanded, as well as Jack (of Jack in the Bean-stock). Jack's character is a classic Trickster, but his character is still weakly drawn and is more of a cipher, but Little Boy Blue, while drawn in quick action-movie strokes, is a fun take on the standard action hero....more
I missed the fourth volume, so I was a little lost in this, but it's primarily three different stories, one following Cinderella as a femme fetale, onI missed the fourth volume, so I was a little lost in this, but it's primarily three different stories, one following Cinderella as a femme fetale, one following Bigby the Wolf Man in WWII, and one following Snow White giving birth to a litter of kids....more
I have a rough time with this book. It's beautifully done and one of the best graphic novels about superheroes (but not nearly as good as Watchmen). TI have a rough time with this book. It's beautifully done and one of the best graphic novels about superheroes (but not nearly as good as Watchmen). That said, the book's politics are deeply unnerving. There's something wickedly authoritarian, adolescent, libertarian, simplistic and vindictive in all of Miller's writings, but it all starts here. Thankfully, this is much more complex than 300 or Sin City, and more fully realized than Ronin or his earlier superhero work. For me, it's like watching Olympia - it's engaging with something that is deeply beautiful and deeply creepy....more
An giant oversize book of full page reproductions from Pulitzer's turn of the century newspapers. The reproduced pages are full color, and all from thAn giant oversize book of full page reproductions from Pulitzer's turn of the century newspapers. The reproduced pages are full color, and all from the Sunday supplement, so are rife with comics, models, to scale diagrams (including one of various gun diameters used on ships), and illustrated sensational and lurid stories. If any of this sounds interesting, go buy the book asap. You won't be disappointed....more