Thursday, January 12, 2006

Graphic Lit -- 1/8 and more

Only two comic reviews ran last Sunday, so I thought I'd pad things out with a bunch of reviews that ran last year (hence the dated "Epileptic" reference in the "Babel" review). Enjoy.

“Girls Bravo Vol. 1”
by Mario Kaneda
Tokyopop, 192 pages, $9.95.

High school student Yukinari Sasaki breaks into hives whenever he comes near a girl. So, of course, he ends up befriending a cute female from another world who’s unclear with the concept of “personal space.” Hilarity ensues, or at least it would if anything funny happened. The story is little more than an excuse to show drawings of pretty girls in provocative clothes. If this sort of PG-13 titillation is your bag, then by all means chow down.

“Steady Beat Vol. 1”

by Rivkah

Tokyopop, 192 pages, $9.99.

A young girl suspects her older sister might be a lesbian after discovering a revealing love letter. How she deals with this information, as well as her own budding love life, makes up the bulk of “Beat.” It’s a great idea for a story; where Rivkah slips up is in the execution. Relying too much upon tired manga tropes, the book is all over the top, a soap opera melodrama, where some subtlety would have resulted in a richer and more rewarding work. Basically this reads like the first book from a young artist, and it’s too early to tell whether she’ll grow out of the overwrought hole she’s dug herself in.

"Fred the Clown"
by Roger Langridge

Fantagraphics Books, 192 pages, $16.95.

Roger Langridge is a cartoonist's cartoonist; which means that he'san exceptional draftsman and humorist who, for whatever reason, never gets his full due.

This new collection, which focuses on the antics of an exceedingly dim, socially inept clown, might change all that. By turns heartbreaking and hilarious, Langridge shows off his immense skill at trying on graphic styles and formats, as well as his restless need to experiment. Combine this with the fact that he's one of the funniest cartoonists working today, and you have a winning package that will be embraced by comics fans everywhere.

by David B.

Drawn & Quarterly, 32 pages, $9.95.

David B.'s magnum opus, the stunning "Epileptic," just came out in stores this month, but you can get a small taste of this French artist's genius through this slim yet utterly engrossing story.

In "Babel," David B. effortlessly segues from autobiography to dream psychology to the 1968 war in Biafra without missing a step, thus turning an intimate tale of youth into a more epic look at the way images and outside forces affect our choices. It's a near-perfect introduction to an artist that comics fans will be hearing a lot about.

"A Fine Mess 2"
by Matt Madden

Alternative Comics, 32 pages, $3.50.

Matt Madden is comics' most fearless explorer, endlessly playing formal games with pen and ink in an attempt to exhibit the art form's potential. The latest issue of his ongoing series, for
example, contains an alphabet strip, where each panel focuses on a different letter, and a comics "sestina," where panels are repeated in an ever-increasing fashion. Formulists might get more of a kick out of these kinds of comics than others, but it's nice to see someone playing with the format as intricately as Madden does.

"When I'm Old and Other Stories"
by Gabrielle Bell

Alternative Books, 128 pages, $12.95.

This collection of short stories showcases Gabrielle Bell's talent for dark, deadpan humor and literate story telling. Although many of her early tales seem rough and unstructured at times, she has a self-assuredness in her artwork that many young cartoonists would kill for. "When I'm Old" makes you want to see what Bell does next.

Copyright The Patriot-News, 2006


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