Tuesday, February 07, 2006

FROM THE VAULT: Graphic Lit 2004

No space for new comix reviews in the paper this week, so you'll just have to settle for this loose collection of reviews that ran all the way back in '04.

"Never Ending Summer"
by Allison Cole
Alternative Books, 96 pages, $11.95.

Autobiography is a popular theme in the world of alternative comics, but Allison Cole manages to avoid some of the genre's more prominent cliches in "Never Ending Summer," her first full-lengthwork. That's mainly due to her delightfully minimalist art style, where the central cast of characters is drawn more like yeti-shaped blobs.

Cole uses only a few distinguishing characteristics -- glasses, a ponytail, etc. -- to tell the characters apart, but her bare style means the reader never has too much trouble figuring out who's who.

The story -- concerning a failed relationship -- is slighter than slight, but Cole's graceful storytelling abilities show her to be a cartoonist worth noting.

"Mister O"
by Lewis Trondheim
NBM Publishing, 32 pages,$12.95.

Poor little Mister O. All he wants to do is get across the chasm that separates him from here to there. Yet each attempt not only ends in abysmal failure, but frequently leaves him injured, maimed or at the bottom of the chasm itself. Not that it stops him from getting back up and trying again.

Few cartoonists (or authors for that matter) manage to call to mind both Chuck Jones and Camus, but Lewis Trondheim's hilarious stick figure parable manages to do just that. With exquisite timing and a minimalist art style, the wordless "Mister O" is a book that both 12-year-olds and adults can treasure on any number of levels.

"Hi-Horse Omnibus Vol. 1"
edited by Howard John Arey, Andrice Arp, Joan Reilly and Bishakh Som
Alternative Books, 112 pages, $11.95.

Most comic anthologies tend, on average, to be lackluster affairs, with the mediocre or just plain bad outweighing the good. The new"Hi-Horse Omnibus" manages to avoid that pitfall for the most part, however, providing a nice showcase of some up-and-coming cartoonists.

Of special note are Joan Reilly's examination of the emotional divide between a father and his daughter, Zack Soto's surreal, disturbing tale of a sailor lost at sea, and Karen Sneider's funny story about a needy girl's love affair with a quite literal monster.

"Further Grickle"
by Graham Annable
Alternative Books, 123 pages,$14.95.

Like its predecessor, this new collection of short stories involving average people making some rather shocking lapses in judgment contains the same wonderful dark humor. Annable might be working in a minimalist style, but he coveys enough emotion and knows enough about storytelling to make him one of the one of the more notable new cartoonists to come down the pike in quite some time.

by Hans Rodinonoff, Keith Griffen and Enrique Breccia
Vertigo, 144 pages, $24.95.

What if the imaginary horrors dreamed up by famed horror writer H.P. Lovecraft weren't imaginary after all? What if all his stories were not only true, but all based on his personal experiences?

That's the premise behind this new graphic novel, which sketches out the bare bones of his life story and then has him battling demonic forces in his spare time. As gruesome and gory as the story is at times, it's not a particularly frightening tale. What makes the book noteworthy is Breccia's lavish artwork which manages somehow to be beautiful and grotesque at the same time.

Copyright The Patriot-News, 2004


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