I haven’t made the time to write about comics over the past few months. I’d like to get back to it, at least occasionally. I also have several books I’d like to talk about, because I’ve decided to try rereading everything in my collection, hopefully before the end of the year. Anything that I’m not interested in reading gets sold or given away.
Anyways. I’ve set a timer for an hour. Let’s see how many books I can get through. Then back to comics for the evening.
SKIM, Mariko Tamaki & Jillian Tamaki - Even better than I remembered. The layouts are so good (lots of tricks I’d like to steal) and the story is so pleasantly understated and compelling. I like the rendering that combines ink with either pencil or dry brush applied so carefully it imitates pencil. Impressive either way. A very good book.
ASTERIOS POLYP, David Mazzucchelli - Some killer pages here in terms of sequencing, composition, color, pacing. Mazzucchelli is such a great cartoonist, too — so much confidence in his lines here, and an impressive range of markmaking while staying within a set stylistic range. But the next time I read this I will be skipping the words. Skimmed through several text heavy sections on this read, even. I mean, I’m happy to get hit over the head with a metaphor every once in a while, but I’d rather it be a soft tap than a two ton sledgehammer. If the idea was to create a book that reflected the Polyp character’s personality (the idea of characters drawing their own autobio comic that Dash Shaw says he aimed for in BOTTOMLESS BELLY BUTTON) then it’s a success on that level. But as I wouldn’t ever like to have a conversation with Asterios Polyp, I’m not really interesting in reading the words this book. But again, immensely impressive in places as a comic. Perhaps it’s Mazzucchelli’s superhero past leaking through…you could cut all the words out of this and still be able to follow most of it.
ANNIE SULLIVAN AND THE TRAILS OF HELEN KELLER, Joseph Lambert - Strong use of color. The drawings are nice, good nib work. The formal tricks that people seemed to like when it came out are neat; some nicely executed visually repetition throughout the book as well. Printed too small for the number of panels per page, and some of the text heavy pages don’t work for me.
EDEN, Pablo Holmberg - A collection of one page strips, if you’re not familiar, mostly whimsical or poetic and sometimes funny. The best ten or twenty are so strong (I think about this strip all the time, for example) but there are a lot of real duds in here too. Too cute, or too trite, or too pointless, at least in my mind. The majority is in between those two extremes, of course. But I don’t know if it would work better if I were to rip out the worst offenders…the visuals are uniformly appealing, the length of the book creates a sense of rhythm and repetition, and the strips that really congeal arrive as a breath of fresh air, a tiny revelation that perhaps shines even brighter for standing in contrast to the pages around it. That’s a nice effect, even if I don’t imagine it was intentional.
I NEVER LIKED YOU, Chester Brown - My favorite Chester work. FUCK still would have been a better title. Interesting that the drawing is a little uncertain in places; even putting aside the stylistic shifts, his line is more certain, more efficient, in LOUIS RIEL and PAYING FOR IT. It occurs to me that despite how influential it has been, regularly cited by cartoonists as a formative influence, I can’t think of many comics that imitate the approach to layout here. I think that’s one of the most effective and affecting aspects of the work. (PAYING FOR IT is one of the many books I got rid of. Boring, and more importantly bleh.)
That’s it for the rereads so far, excluding things I either couldn’t finish or picked up, sighed, and put down again. I got rid of MAUS, for instance — I’ve read it a couple times already, and if I really wanted to read it again, I’m sure I could find it at pretty much any library in the country. The timer’s still running, so let’s go through a few more. Most of these are going back a couple months, since I’m mostly focusing on the rereading project now…
FAIRE SEMBLANT C’EST MENTIR, Dominique Goblet - Oh look I read fancy French comics too! I liked this. Excellent pencil drawings that remind you of the amazing range of marks and tones you can get from a pencil. A very strong final sequence that fades into abstraction nicely. The story is strong in places, but bogged down by some very straightforward dialogue sequences which are visually interesting only due to the way they are drawn, not the content of the images themselves. Talking heads, in other words. But maybe that’s ok. Maybe there’s something to be said for a book that is visually experimental and (for the most part) narratively conservative.
NEGRES JAUNES, Yvan Alagbe - Thick, bold ink lines chisel into the paper, forms emerging from overlapping blobs of black. Mazzucchelli’s Rubbet Blanket work isn’t a bad reference point, actually, though there’s more aggression in the markmaking here. I’d like to try drawing more like this when I use ink. I got my hands on the original Amok edition, which is huge, 9x12 or so I’d say. The Fremok edition currently in print is smaller. Another one, though, that perhaps supports Matthias Wivel’s argument. I’ve heard that the most recent ECOLE DE LA MISERE is stronger, and it seems very different visually, so I’d like to give that one a try.
UN GENTIL GARCON, Shin’ichi Abe - A collection of short stories. Abe contributed to Garo in the 70s, left comics for many years, and returned to the medium in the 90s only after repeated requests from admiring editors and cartoonists. (That’s all per the supplementary material in this book, so I assume/hope it’s correct.) Both examples of the 70s and 90s work are included here, and there are some striking differences between them. I’m much more drawn to the early work, visually, but in terms of narrative almost every story here is interesting. I’d like to write more about these comics in the future.