Before I read it I was vaguely aware of "The Kindly Ones"'s status as the peak of The Sandman, in terms of both quality and narrative. It lived up to...moreBefore I read it I was vaguely aware of "The Kindly Ones"'s status as the peak of The Sandman, in terms of both quality and narrative. It lived up to the hype.
The plot of this volume centres around (Hippo)Lyta Hall's search for revenge on Morpheus, who she believes has taken her child. But this description feels incredibly inadequate. The actual revenge plot could probably be condensed into at most a regular-sized Sandman volume. What makes this into a huge comic is the epic scope of the story, which encompasses parts of all of the previous storylines and many different mythologies. The plot is simply a skeleton for the story, and although it is well-crafted enough in its own right, often seems rather distant.
If that sounds like a weakness, it's not. With the possible exception of "Brief Lives", The Sandman has always been less about Morpheus than those on the margins of his life. Given that, perhaps "The Kindly Ones" is able to capture his character in the most complete way possible by showing the web of connections developed throughout the series. To put on my lit-crit hat for a moment, the narrative distance and digressions -- checking in on an old character or telling a fable while the world is at stake in the background -- may reflect Morpheus's own ambivalence over his fate.
As great as the writing is, let's not neglect the graphic half of the graphic novel. Marc Hempel's art is a break from the style of previous Sandman volumes, and is much more stylized and abstract. It casts the whole story in a light which is both mythical and psychological -- most of all, unreal. This style takes some getting used to, but I think it's held up a lot better than the drab art you see on a lot of Vertigo titles from this era.
Beyond all the talk of narrative structures, Gaiman's writing is simply very enjoyable, showing both wit and great originality. No matter how many tangents the story goes on, you always want to see them through to the end, and even after 350 pages the book feels too short. This volume cements The Sandman as a must-read series.
*I have no idea how to properly write the title of a volume in a graphic novel series, so I went with quotation marks.(less)
[i:]Asterios Polyp[/i:] is one of the most inventive books I've seen in years. Mazzuccheli peels the graphic novel form down to its raw elements -- co...more[i:]Asterios Polyp[/i:] is one of the most inventive books I've seen in years. Mazzuccheli peels the graphic novel form down to its raw elements -- colour, shapes, words -- and reassembles it in a more intimate, more human form. The characters are not just static drawing but seem free-willed, able to control their representation and the world around them with their state of mind. Art and writing are a unity, presenting one coherent story.
The story is of the titular Asterios Polyp, a self-centred academic architect. Just as his buildings are never actually built, all of Polyp's intelligence and knowledge never seem to afford him any insight. His apartment burning down inspires Asterios, at age fifty, to start on a cross-country journey and try to get his life back on track.
The fusion of art and writing works wonderful, and leads to some very emotionally affecting moments. The "present" storyline packs a lot less punch than the flashback to Asterios's relationship with Hana, although the art and Mazzuccheli's entertaining dialogue stops it from ever truly sagging. I'm a bit less sure about the narration from Asterios's stillborn twin brother, which just seems sort of extraneous.
I would recommend [i:]Asterios Polyp[/i:] to anyone looking for an innovative and intelligent graphic novel, as well as anyone who thinks that such a thing isn't possible.(less)
An inventive and clear introduction to the world and visual rhetoric of comics. McCloud illustrates a number of key components of how we read cartoons...moreAn inventive and clear introduction to the world and visual rhetoric of comics. McCloud illustrates a number of key components of how we read cartoons and the visual language artists use to convey their message. He also adds in some interesting, though disputable, ideas on the creative process and the definition of comics. This book is from the 90s, so there is one of those rants on how comics aren't just superheroes that we've all gotten tired of, but it's mercifully brief. Recommended for aspiring cartoonists, comics novices and experts alike.(less)
So, after revolutionizing American comics in the 80s Alan Moore retreated to a shack in the woods in Scotland* and decided to write 19th-century liter...moreSo, after revolutionizing American comics in the 80s Alan Moore retreated to a shack in the woods in Scotland* and decided to write 19th-century literature fanfiction. As someone who spent most of high school reading fanfiction, I have the authority to say that this is top-notch stuff, but it still bears fanfiction's weaknesses. A plethora of Victorian characters come on stage and do their schtick, and there's an action-movie narrative weaving it together but not much depth. To be fair, it's nice to see Moore writing about something he loves and not something he hates for once, and the exuberance is infectious. (It's also nice to see him paired with a good artist for once.) If you're a fan of nineteenth century fiction this is probably great fun, stuffed with challenging cameos. (I only got a handful of the references.) Still, is this really much better than the kaleidoscope of superheroes you see in every major comics company "event"? To conclude, League of Extraordinary Gentlemen does what it says on the tin. If the premise interests you, dive right in, but don't read it just because Alan Moore's name is on the cover.
Aside: The letters pages for this are hilarious, probably the best part of the comic, but I'm not sure if they're included in the trade paperbacks.
Most of what I said in my review for volume 1 is still true for the second volume. This volume has a lot more character development and internal strif...moreMost of what I said in my review for volume 1 is still true for the second volume. This volume has a lot more character development and internal strife between the League, at the expensive of the whole storyline about Mars attacking. The back-up text for this one is mostly Alan Moore showing off how well-read he is. Once again, does what it says on the tin.(less)
Don't worry about the hugeness of this book: I got through it in about an hour and a half. This is mostly because of the almost minimalist style of Th...moreDon't worry about the hugeness of this book: I got through it in about an hour and a half. This is mostly because of the almost minimalist style of Thompson, using sketchy drawings and white space to make his love story seem warm and human. There are a lot of interesting and creative visual effects here as well.
If the art makes Blankets look human, than the writing is working against it. Despite being something of a memoir, nothing in here seems really real. Thompson depicts a world filled with one-dimensional bullies and Bible-thumpers who only exist to torment our angelic protagonists. Even Raina, Craig's love interest, is kind of flat, and at times only seems to exist to compliment the author's younger self. The parts about Craig's relationship with his brother are better, but there's still no real sense of resolution. It's the most aggravating kind of indie more-sensitive-than-thou hypocrisy. This is the thing about having one person responsible for the entire graphic novel: when it works, it's much better than a collaboration, but sometimes the creator just isn't good at both.
In short: superb graphics, shitty novel. Sort of the sweet indie equivalent of an Image comic.(less)