Thursday, March 16, 2006

Graphic Lit -- 3/12

"The Best of The Spirit"
by Will Eisner

DC Comics, 192 pages, $14.99.

Fans of Will Eisner’s seminal 1940s crimefighter will no doubt quibble over what was left out of this collection (a lot of good pre-World War II material is neglected), but it’s hard to argue with the stories that are included here.

From "Ten Minutes" to "Gerhard Shnobble," this is all high-caliber Eisner. For curious readers wondering what all the fuss over this work is about, this is a fine place to begin.

"North Country"
by Shane White

NBM, 96 pages, $13.95.

Even with its limited page count, White’s autobiographical tale of his abusive childhood feels like it could have used some editing.

Too many of the anecdotes feel apocryphal, and offer little to the central focus of growing up with an alcoholic father. What’s more, White’s need to draw "meaning" into every memory weighs his book down with ponderous narration and dilutes some potentially powerful scenes.

That being said, there are some stunning sequences, such as a friend’s birthday party that goes horribly awry, that almost make me want to recommend the book. Almost.

"Night Fisher"
by R. Kikuo Johnson

Fantagraphics Books, 144 pages, $12.95.

The early buzz on Johnson’s debut graphic novel compared it to the arrival of the Hernandez brothers’ seminal "Love and Rockets" series back in the 1980s. Very few books could live up to that sort of hype, and "Night Fisher" is no exception.

Which is not to say that it’s bad. Far from it. Johnson’s story of a bright high school student drawn into abusing crystal meth while living in Hawaii has a number of things going for it.

I particularly enjoyed Johnson’s use of visual shorthand — hornets buzzing around the ears to suggest a drug high, for example. I also liked how he portrayed the main character’s isolation from the rest of the community.

Yet the story feels a little slight, too many intriguing characters are left unexplored, too many relationships are left only hinted at, for this book to reach the high watermark it’s obviously aiming for.

Nevertheless, it’s a good debut, and I’ll be sure to check out what Johnson does next time around.

Copyright The Patriot-News, 2006


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