Graphic Lit: Review Round-Up
The review pile on my desk is in serious danger of teetering over, which means it’s time for another quick lightning round of reviews.
Let’s see if I can actually offer some thoughtful criticism in as few sentences as possible!
“But I Like It”
by Joe Sacco, Fantagraphics Books
122 pages, $24.95.
Sacco’s love/hate affair with all things rock and roll is explored in this collection, the highlight of which is easily “In the Company of Long Hair,” where the author spent several weeks touring Europe with an almost-was rock band.
There’s plenty more strong material here, though, including album covers and show posters, satirical strips and loving tributes to The Rolling Stones and Lightning Hopkins. Those who mainly know Sacco through his journalistic pieces will be surprised at the (often bitter) humor on display here, as well as his gift for over-the-top caricature. And hey, there’s even a CD included!
“I Love Led Zeppelin”
by Ellen Forney
Fantagraphics Books, 112 pages, $19.95.
Fantagraphics continues its onslaught of rock-themed books with this collection of strips by Forney, who doesn’t publish nearly enough to suit my tastes.
This is mainly a loose collection of strips from the past 14 years or so, with the older material suffering greatly in comparison with the newer.
At her best, however, Forney is able to break down complex information in short, easy-to-read bites, whether she’s talking about how to roller-skate backward or how to sew an amputated finger back on. Add in her sensuous, playful line and you’ve got a cartoonist we need to be seeing more of.
by Raymond Chandler, Ted Benoit and Francois Ayroles
Arcade Publishing, 120 pages, $19.95.
“Playback” is one of Chandler’s “long-lost” stories — a screenplay that never saw the light of day but bits of which were incorporated into his novel “The Lady in the Lake.”
Benoit and Ayroles do a decent job adapting the story to comics, but they could have done better. “Playback” isn’t primo Chandler, but Ayroles’ art doesn’t necessarily improve things — his scrunched-up and pushed-in faces prevent the characters from showing any emotion beyond ennui. It’s not a horrible book by any means, but it is more for Chandler fans than casual readers.
“Path of the Assassin Vol. 1”
by Kazuo Koike and Goseki Kojima
Dark Horse Comics, 320 pages, $9.95.
Yet another sex-and-violence choked samurai tale from the pair that brought you “Lone Wolf and Cub.” Here, a young ninja in training is assigned to protect a shogun not much older than himself.
As usual with a lot of Koike’s work, the sexual politics are a tad politically incorrect, to put it mildly. But it’s also a rip-snorting, tense and rather smartly-told yarn that older comics fans will enjoy so long as they’re willing to overlook some of the more questionable issues.
by J.T. Waldman, The Jewish Publication Society
176 pages, $18.
Here’s an oddity for you: a graphic novel adaptation of the Book of Esther that features the original Hebrew decorating the pages like architectural flourishes. Plus, you have to turn the book upside-down at the halfway point to finish reading the story.
Unfortunately, these aesthetic flourishes, though clever and delightful, don’t really aid much in storytelling. In fact, it’s very difficult at times to suss out the basic plot or tell the characters apart. Perhaps a better knowledge of the original text is necessary. In any case, this is a book best enjoyed by those with an interest in more experimental work, or in the Bible.
“Tough Love: High School Confidential”
by Abby Denson, Manic D Press
144 pages, $12.95.
If they gave out Pulitzers for good intentions, this book would surely win. However, they don’t and this won’t.
Denson’s story of a shy high school boy coming out of the closet and finding love has its heart in all the right places, but her art and writing are far too crude to engage the reader.
“Lucky Luke: Billy the Kid”
by Morris and Rene Goscinny
9th Cinebook, 48 pages, $9.99.
Across the seas in Europe, Lucky Luke is quite the popular comic character, a noble gunslinger so quick he draws faster than his own shadow.
His appearances in the U.S. have been sporadic at best, but now the U.K. company 9th Cinebook has started to release his adventures here, beginning with this volume, which rather comically imagines Billy the Kid as a mischievous spoiled brat rather than a figure of terror.
Like the “Asterix” books (which Goscinny is the co-creator of), this is a great, light-hearted series that should appeal to the kid in everyone.
Copyright The Patriot-News, 2006