Seth T.'s Reviews > Curses

Curses by Kevin Huizenga
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Jun 25, 09

really liked it
bookshelves: comics
Read in June, 2009

Anthologies and short story collections are always such a difficult thing for me to judge. Generally the quality and value of the work is so varied that it's hard to come up with any kind of monolithic opinion to summarize the work. While single-author collections can be a bit easier, they still aren't wholly immune to this kind of trouble.

Kevin Huizenga's Curses is, for me, no exception to this rule.

While some of the stories are great and perfect examples of viable ways to use the comic medium to tell stories, others are merely good. Certainly, there are no bad stories found in this collection, but not everything is awestriking. Easily the best story in terms of sociological interest and storytelling chops is "Jeepers Jacobs," in which a golf acquaintance of protagonist Glenn Ganges ponders his responsibility for the state of Glenn's soul while penning an article on the doctrine of hell for a conservative evangelical journal of theology. I found myself very interested in Huizenga's ability to portray with sympathy both Jeepers' view of hell and his Christian responsibility and that of his colleagues with whom he sometimes strongly disagreed.

One of the more interesting stories visually was one of the least interesting in narrative terms. "Case 0003128-24" follows the expansion over about a hundred irregular panels of a sometimes impossible landscape, mimicking in pen-and-ink form the artistic style of Chinese brush paintings. In almost every case (there are a couple interesting divergences) the panels can be aligned to bring forth a single scene. And over this artistic expression, a narrative quoted directly from adoption paper plays out in captions. The effect is interesting and I'd love to explore it in more detail, but it wasn't the most invigorating read.

"Lost Boys" employs some narrative genius and makes the valuable use of the tools of the medium. Both subject matters treated are fascinating but I only partially think I understand Glenn's reaction (or punchline) at the tale's conclusion. "Green Tea" was an interesting exploration of a (fictional) historical incident. I didn't particularly care for "28th St," though it was an inventive enough retelling of another story and "Not Sleeping Together" was actually sometimes a chore to get through, though in the end it turned out to be worth the effort. "The Curse" may be the central story and its exploration of the Evil of the starling was fascinating and well rendered.

Like many of these kinds of books, there are several overarching themes that tie together (to one degree or another) the book's stories. I've only read through the book once now and suspect (due to the author's evident talent) that I'm likely not going to be able to pull the whole thing together in a single read. I'd like to spend more time in it, but it's due back at the library soon. I may have to purchase the book in order to best understand it (and that wouldn't be a bad use of money). Though currently, I'd rate some of the stories 5 stars most of the others 4 stars and maybe one of them 3 stars, I'll allow that the books complexity and the requirement of subsequent readings puts this at least solidly in 4 star territory.
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