Thursday, March 30, 2006

First Second books are here!

The wonderful publicists for First Second (thanks Gina!)were kind enough to send me their entire debut line, as well as their catalog and a CD-Rom press kit. I'll get around to posting full reviews of each book somewhere down the road, but in the meantime I thought I'd post some preview images along with some initial impressions.

Overall the books look great, though they're a bit smaller than I initially expected. Sfaar's work in particular seems a bit cramped compared to the larger pages of "The Rabbi's Cat." Still, these are handsome, expertly produced books that would look nice on any shelf. And if you don't care for softcover, some books are apparently available in a limited hardcover edition.

Originally I was going to cover all six books in one sitting, but it's late and I'm tired, so I think I'll split it up into two nights. You don't mind, do you? Good.First off, and easily the most eagerly anticipated book of the line is Eddie Campbell's "The Fate of the Artist." Campbell foregoes his ususual pen and ink work here to add color, photos, text and collage. Taking a page out of "Ice Haven," Campbell mimics classic newspaper strips and more to tell the story of his own "mysterious disappearance." It looks grand.
Next up is "A.L.I.E.E.E.N.," the new book from Lewis Trondheim. The catalog, as well as the ever-cute art style, suggest that this is a book for kids. IT IS NOT. This is a dark, dark, dark, very funny, dark work.

It all goes downhill from there. I suppose if your children are into Edward Gorey, they'd enjoy this book, but I can also see a good bit of nightmares coming from some sequences, not the least of which being the apocalyptic shit-storm at the end. I don't mean to demean the book; I just want to warn folks. It's really quite good and plays well to Trondheim's usual deadpan tone and wonderful black humor. Fans of his work will like it, but it is easily the most disturbing and unsettling work of his I've read yet.

And while we're all light and sunshine I'll move on to "Deogratias: A Tale of Rwanda" by J.P. Stassen. This won the prestigious Goscinny prize and it's not too hard to see why, though it's about as cheery as "A.L.I.E.E.E.N." and obviously much less heartwarming.

A quick scan through the pages suggests this is the sort of book that will break your heart but leave you wanting more. I expect it to be a tough, but ultimately rewarding read.

Time for sleep. Tomorrow: Sfaar, Sfaar and Klein.


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