1973. The Oakland Public Library. A rare, pre-1500 printed bible has been stolen. The library's special investigators have only three days to get it b1973. The Oakland Public Library. A rare, pre-1500 printed bible has been stolen. The library's special investigators have only three days to get it back. Sentences are short. Complex library lingo is everywhere.
Jason Shiga is a freakin' genius.
Shiga is a math guy who got diverted into comics, and he comes at the medium with the mindset of a hacker-inventor. As such, one of the remarkable things about this lovely and Awesome-packed little book is that it is completely linear: there are no tabs, no slots, no wheels, no choose-your-own-adventure, no simultaneous-narrative structure or slot machine cranks to pull or mysterious humming devices. It's just a straightforward story comic - and it's a GOOD one, suffused with the same spirit of inventive nerdiness that makes Shiga's experimental work so fun and exciting.
Also, this is a great big in-joke for people who love books and libraries. Call me biased - I certain fall into that category....more
Only His High Holiness Art Shpeegleman could get away with something like this: he goes for years without publishing a whit of comics, drums up all soOnly His High Holiness Art Shpeegleman could get away with something like this: he goes for years without publishing a whit of comics, drums up all sorts of hype and excitement, and then leaves us with what? Why, a board book! A fancily-printed pamphlet of newspaper pages, 38 cardstock pages total (including the frontispiece, introduction and everything), only 20 pages of which contain his actual original creations. Of course, those 20 pages are all newspaper-style double-page fold-out spreads, so it's really only 10 pages oversize. That means I spent two dollars per newspaper-sized page of comics on this. Mr. Spiegelman loves to be an ego, chain-smoking on stage while he gives lectures in smoke-free lecture halls, and I feel like this format is just another way for him to proclaim his self-importance.
That being said, the book is not without merit. His layouts can be pretty freaking excellent - very communicative, very inventive - and here, they did a smashing job of conveying his paranoia and capturing the general upendedness and gullibility of the nation at the time of the attacks. He seems to be a bit more okay with his own generally assish (I'm coining that word as of now) behavior than I would like, but I suppose that's to be expected. The pages do string together, but they don't really form a story; this book is more a mood-capture than anything.
Spiegelman always says that he views sequential communication skill as being of primary importance, and drawing as secondary. To a good extent, I agree; however, I feel that his work - not just in The Shadow of No Towers, but the rest of it as well - really does suffer from that assumption. He is not a bad illustrator, and had he simply put more effort and care into the drawings, he would have communicated the emotion behind his beautifully constructed pages that much better.
Last but not least, I thought the padding - in the form of vintage newspaper comics reprints - was unnecessary. His evolving relationship with vintage funnies around the time of 9/11 was better communicated by the (frankly well-executed) incorporation of those classics into the body of the comics themselves than by including them at the back in an attempt to make the book a bit thicker.
Both Spiegelman's talent and Spiegelman's hubris are quite present in this collection - the latter unfortunately moreso than the former....more