I think the art world and the literary world are both destitute and decrepit, locked between the frivolous gambling idiocy of the market, and the hide...moreI think the art world and the literary world are both destitute and decrepit, locked between the frivolous gambling idiocy of the market, and the hidebound conservative immovability of the academy. MFAs, best seller lists, and global art fairs have left us with pallid ghouls instead of vibrant art and books.
Thankfully, the comic world isn't like that. I go to a comic book fair (albeit a fair that focuses on the so-called "literary" and/or "artistic") and I am continually blown away. Every few years a whole horde of new talent springs up with new ways of approaching and making comics.
DeForge, right now, is one of those "new talents." Over and over again he surprises me with both his experimentation and his skill at weaving readable comics. He's restless in trying out new things, and smart enough to keep it fun. He knows the history of the medium and is constantly mining it for surprising viewpoints. Once again, he comes up with a new book, a fantastic new story, and new formal experiments that move the story and push the medium.
Literature and the art world might be in a stage of suspended animation, but comics, thankfully, are alive and kicking ass. Maybe it's because there's neither money to be made nor institutional positions to be had.(less)
Another amazing issue from Los Bros Hernandez. It's not the best in the series (that would be, hands down, issues 3 and 4, which made me bawl like a b...moreAnother amazing issue from Los Bros Hernandez. It's not the best in the series (that would be, hands down, issues 3 and 4, which made me bawl like a baby) but it's as brilliant as Los Bros always are, even if this issue feels more like an interstices. Where the first two issues were all about Jaime's return to superheroics and Gilbert's plunge into a new cast of characters, this issue has Jaime further dipping into noirish crime aspects, and Gilbert following his buxom family's adventures in movie making and identity. (less)
This might be a 5-star book, but I feel weird giving yet another comic 5 stars. Especially since I've been giving so many 5-star and 4-star ratings to...moreThis might be a 5-star book, but I feel weird giving yet another comic 5 stars. Especially since I've been giving so many 5-star and 4-star ratings to comics, yet regular novels have been getting 3 and 4-stars from me, even books from amazing writers.
But I'm not sure what Leviathan is. I mean, it IS a comic, but it's an allegorical comic that is deeply elliptical. It's nearly wordless, punctuated with intertitle pages with quotes from Moby Dick and The Book of Job and The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, etc. The drawings are stunningly beautiful, as is the layout, as is the color scheme (blue and white and black). Jens Harder combines a realistic drawing style with numerous drawings cribbed from Medieval drawings of Leviathans and other monsters. Harder also uses extremely surprising "camera angles" and a good chunk of the book is from a whale's point of view.
The story itself isn't really a story. The story zips through antiquity and the present day; it follows the food chain, myths, historical sea tragedies, the whale in art and literature, and Apocalyptic scenarios all revolving around a marauding Leviathan. As in Moby Dick, it's hard to figure out if the whale is real, or a stand in for God. And although the book is a comic, and therefor a very quick read, I've read it over and over in a few days, and I'm still not sure what it's about. There is an underlying structure, and seems to be a philosophy of sorts, and perhaps even an argument of sorts, but I still don't know how to 'read' this book. It strikes me as high-modernism in comic book form, that is deceptively easy on the micro-scale but imposing, exasperating and intoxicating on a macro-scale. Something is being said, but it's hard to tell exactly what it is, but I, for one, want to keep exploring the depths until I figure it out, or at least get a semblance of understand that I'm comfortable with.
As good as comics get. Just pick up it up and see for yourself.
I'm not even into "maya" or "piercing the veil" or any metaphysics whatsoever; not that...moreAs good as comics get. Just pick up it up and see for yourself.
I'm not even into "maya" or "piercing the veil" or any metaphysics whatsoever; not that it matters when the story (and the metaphysics) is as multivariate and stunning as this. And the art? Unbelievable. (less)
I originally encountered Jacques Tardi's work in a small Penguin collection of Raw magazine. I thought the art work was beautiful, but it was weeks be...moreI originally encountered Jacques Tardi's work in a small Penguin collection of Raw magazine. I thought the art work was beautiful, but it was weeks before I finally read the thing. Through out the years, I encountered more of his work in various anthologies, but never found any of the few collected English translations (Tardi is French, btw).
Anyway, finally Fantagraphics has started to translate and publish Tardi's work in beautiful hardcover editions. I hope they sell well, so Fantagraphics can afford to publish everything this master has ever made.
When I flipped through this book it looked exactly like the story I had read in Raw when I was young. So I excitedly bought it. And it wasn't the same story, but it seemed to be the same characters. The story in Raw was dreamlike and violent, like a noir Kafka, and this story You Are There was also Kafkaesque, but it was more like an existential crisis story, you know, the type written by Moravia and Camus and typified by the protagonist in Nausea staring at a handful of dirt or something. You Are There follows Arthur There (which almost puts you in a second person narrative, which is another trope of so-called existential novels) and he (and you) are stuck on a small isolated island in France. Arthur There (whose surname is assumed) used to be part of a prestigious family who owned the island but are now reduced to owning the borders between everyone else's property.
The story is dark and depressing and of course things go from bad to worse. The outside world intrudes and as is usual, when the outside world intrudes it is almost always a bad thing.
But back to me and Raw. As I read the story I thought that it was a precursor to the story in Raw. After all, the main male and female characters looked exactly the same. But the Raw story was set in a city and was filled with political intrigue, and You Are There is set in an island (primarily) and is filled with political intrigue. But in the end, I think Tardi just recycles the characters for a completely different story... but then again, I haven't read that Raw story in a decade.
But this is just rambles... The art is great. Some of the best ever in comics. The story is ok. It's a wonderful fantasy and full of interesting allusions and affects (it's written by the guy who wrote Barbarella) but the story is ultimately only Kafka-lite, or Maravia-lite, or Camus-lite, or... you get the idea. It's good, but not great. Still, the art makes it great. And I still don't know if this story and the story in Raw are somehow connected(less)
This is one of the more beautiful issues of MOME, but I found a lot of storytelling luke-warm. Out of all of the stories, I really like Laura Park's r...moreThis is one of the more beautiful issues of MOME, but I found a lot of storytelling luke-warm. Out of all of the stories, I really like Laura Park's ruminations on a bus, and Olivier Schrauwen deeply strange and utterly fascinating story of two white explorers in the Congo.(less)
Wow. This thing is amazing. I just found it at MoCCA, which is an indie comic book expo here in New York City. This book was sitting amongst a bunch o...moreWow. This thing is amazing. I just found it at MoCCA, which is an indie comic book expo here in New York City. This book was sitting amongst a bunch of great books at the Norwegian table, and after a few minutes flipping through the pages and drooling, I decided I had to have it. And I'm happy I bought it because it's amazing. Hell, just look at some of these images.
Brilliant and perfect, there was something about Chester Brown and his contemporaries (Julie Doucet, Charles Burns, Jim Woodring) that encapsulated th...moreBrilliant and perfect, there was something about Chester Brown and his contemporaries (Julie Doucet, Charles Burns, Jim Woodring) that encapsulated the absurdity, surrealism, and insanity of the 80s. This is a dark, perfect comix, full of shit, talking penises, Regan, clowns, killer grandmas, alternate dimensions, secret science, and endless amounts of other stuff that both work as a crazy narrative and as laser-sharp analysis. One of the few comix to approach literature.(less)
It's not really fair to give this three stars since it's mainly a collection of shorts that are tenuously connected by iconic characters (a mummy, a v...moreIt's not really fair to give this three stars since it's mainly a collection of shorts that are tenuously connected by iconic characters (a mummy, a vampire, a werewolf, Elvis, Jesus, etc). Many of the shorts are near perfect and damn funny. Some are laugh-out loud funny (for example, I was watching Lost at a friend's house and he got there late, so we rewound and started watching from the beginning on the DVR and while he was watching I was reading this book and kept laughing and laughing, which I knew was killing the taut suspenseful mood Lost is going for, so my friend shot me about twenty dirty looks until I finally realized I was killing the attempt at tautness and suspense, so I went into the other room; eventually, when I finished the book, I went back and watched the end of the episode, but any suspensefulness and tautness were watered down by after-images of Jason's funny-animal monsters living everyday lives). Anyway, some of the stories are just cute, which isn't my thing. But most are funny, some are poignant, most will probably make you laugh, and Jason is not only a master of comic book pacing, but he has one of the best visual styles out there.(less)
I've been "reading" this for a month now, but maybe I should say "perusing" it, or "examining" it, or even, "pursuing" it. It's less of a comix anthol...moreI've been "reading" this for a month now, but maybe I should say "perusing" it, or "examining" it, or even, "pursuing" it. It's less of a comix anthology like Kramer's Ergot and more of a anthology of comix as non-narrative art. It is a stunningly beautiful book, as we've come to expect from the Glomp series, but it is definitely incomplete. The book is merely an aspect of the art show, which exists in 3 dimensions, which exists in the world, and exists in the world in a way that simply can't be captured by a book. (In case you don't know (and you probably don't) this book is merely part of an exhibition; an exhibition where Glomp asked a hand-full of their favorite comix artists to make comix in 3 dimensions. So there's-
Along with Kramer's Ergot, Raw and Arcade, Glomp is one of the best compilations of experimental comix I've ever seen (but I've never seen the Japan...moreAlong with Kramer's Ergot, Raw and Arcade, Glomp is one of the best compilations of experimental comix I've ever seen (but I've never seen the Japanese Garo). This is filled with goodness.(less)
After following up the perfect Ganges 2, Kevin H. gives us the beautifully crafted and thoughtful Ganges 3; however, this long story about insomnia,...moreAfter following up the perfect Ganges 2, Kevin H. gives us the beautifully crafted and thoughtful Ganges 3; however, this long story about insomnia, identity and the flow of thoughts doesn't reach the devastating power of the last issue, especially last issue's story that personalizes the busting of the dotcom bubble by following one fired salaryman whose fate is encapsulated in the fury of a Quake-like first person shooter, and how his co-workers show solidarity while playing the networked shooter, expressing intense and even tender emotions during a session of violent death, which was a crazy story that was both weird and brilliant, yet was still almost matched in the same issue's ending thoughts of love and longing all while resting in bed, staring at a loved one and drifting to sleep. The problem with Ganges 3 is that Kevin H. just used the ruminations-while-resting-in-bed routine. Maybe this issue would be better if I hadn't read the heights of the last issue. This one is pretty good, but it lacks the jarring novelty of the other two issues, and it lacks the psychological power of the Gagnes 2, or of his stories in Curses. Still, Kevin H. is, for my money, one of the best cartoonists out there, and this is a damn good comic.(less)
I'm not sure why this is better than Mister I but it is. Where Mister I is about a greedy hotdog doodle who is always hungry and always trying to ste...moreI'm not sure why this is better than Mister I but it is. Where Mister I is about a greedy hotdog doodle who is always hungry and always trying to steal pies (and endlessly dying for his troubles), Mister O is about a circle doodle who just wants to get to the other side of a chasm. Tons and tons of other doodles easily get across, but he just can't do it. It's laugh out loud funny, yet sad. How the hell can a wordless joke comic featuring a little doodle be sad? I dunno. But it is.(less)
I took a break from Gravity's Rainbow and found two wonderful books by Mr. Trondheim at half price! So I immediately bought them, got a hot drink, wen...moreI took a break from Gravity's Rainbow and found two wonderful books by Mr. Trondheim at half price! So I immediately bought them, got a hot drink, went to the nearest park, and sat down and read them. A friend was with me and she read one as I read the other. We continuously laughed out loud, then traded books and laughed some more.
Trondheim is brilliant. He has perfect pacing and can do that amazing thing where his comics are both laugh out funny and, somehow, touching and human. Touching and human even though the comics feature a doodle that looks like a hot dog. Still, this is awesome. Just not as good as Mister O.(less)
Olivier Schrauwen is one of my new favorite comic book artists, but I've only read three of his stories: this book, two connected stories in MOME 12...moreOlivier Schrauwen is one of my new favorite comic book artists, but I've only read three of his stories: this book, two connected stories in MOME 12 and MOME 14, and a story in (the ridiculously awesome) Glomp 9. Oh, and he's also got a blog. And the blog and each of those stories are damn perfect. Schrauwen changes styles from heavy metal notebook-drawings to Winsor McCay impersonations to I-don't-know-what-the-hell-that-is. He's damn awesome. Gocheckhimout.
No one does comics like Jaime Hernandez. His comics have engrossing developments, beautiful art, pitch-perfect dialog, and a total immersion into his...moreNo one does comics like Jaime Hernandez. His comics have engrossing developments, beautiful art, pitch-perfect dialog, and a total immersion into his world, the world of Maggie and Hopey. So what, you might say, other people can do that too. But Jaime (and his brother Gilbert) are different. What makes their comics special is both their serial nature and their characters changing in-real-time. Unlike superhero serials where the characters never age and never change, the characters in The Hernandez's stories age, change, and grow, and in a different way then in movies, TV shows, or film. Maggie, Hopey, and the rest of their cast have grown over the years from punk kids to less-punk adults. Maggie is no longer the skinny mechanic she once was; Hopey is now a teacher; and the rest of the former punks are still moving on with their now-completely-different lives.
Jaime (and his brother Gilbert, along with their predecessor, King's Walt and Skeezix) create characters that have narrative arcs that are quite unlike the narrative arcs of characters in other mediums. The stories of Maggie, Hopey, and all the rest will only be complete when the characters are dead. Now, that may seem like a big fucking whatever, but what is different about Love and Rockets is that their stories are being written in real time. The characters are aging with us, and with their authors. And BECAUSE their stories are evolving in real time, there is no over-arching plot. Instead of plot, the characters' lives meander, just like our lives, and there's a beautiful some thing about their messy ramblings in a near-parallel world that has no equal in any medium.
But enough about that. If you're reading this, you probably agree with me. And you probably already know about Love and Rockets. And you've probably already read Locas. So I'll just state what you already suspect: this book is as brilliant as Locas.
We've gone a long way from the first Maggie stories; a long way from Rand Race and quirky superhero stories that reveled in the quotidian and sundry (yet Jaime has returned to the superhero stories - with Penny Century!). After Jaime brought Maggie back to Hopey, we followed them into the LA punk scene, and then to their background and lives in the barrio. Now they're aimless and wandering and on the verge of much delayed adulthood. This book is mainly dalliances, little love stories and missed connections that occupy their time as they try to get a bearing on their changed and changing lives. (Along with a quick marriage, a character who embodies trouble, an off scene death with gangsters, and the seeming magical departure of a major character.)
Maggie and Hopey are drifters, and they are surrounded by drifters, but stability, despair, adulthood, and age are creeping along. How they handle change, their mundane existence, and their encroaching age is what makes this book beautiful.(less)