Graphic Lit: Graphic novel roundup
Yesterday we looked at some recent graphic novels aimed at the elementary school crowd.
Now let's take a gander at some of the more notable fancy-schmancy comic books that have come out recently for the grown-up set:
"Three Shadows" by Cyril Pedrosa, First Second, 272 pages, $15.95.
Three shadowy figures appear on the hill overlooking a farm house, where a family of three resides. They've come to take the little boy. The mother knows this and is resigned. The father, however, refuses to give up his son so easily and takes him on a desperate race across the countryside, though the three figures are always close behind.
Such is the premise behind Pedrosa's powerful allegorical tale about coming to terms with the death of a child. By focusing exclusively on the father, certain other characters, most notably the mom and the son, get short shrift in ways that might have otherwise enhanced the book. And Pedrosa takes several diversions — particularly at the end — that hurt the overall flow and emotional structure of the book.
That being said, there are sequences here that still haunt me months after I've finished reading it. There are sequences here that are some of the best cartooning I've seen in ages. This is a book that, regardless of its faults, demands your attention.
"The Bottomless Belly Button" by Dash Shaw, Fantagraphics Books, 720 pages, $29.99.
Few up-and-coming indie cartoonists have been met with as much expectation and praise as Dash Shaw. He tries to live up to it with "Belly Button," a brick-sized opus that chronicles a seaside family reunion that comes on the heels of the elderly mother and father announcing their
The book mostly focuses on the three grown-up children and their reaction to the news while at the shore. Shaw tries a variety of rather ingenious experimental approaches and is quite deft in his characterizations of the younger protagonists, though the older characters — particularly the
mom and dad — come off a bit too enigmatic to suit me.
Still, this is an adventurous, admirable work, one that will further help cement Shaw's growing reputation as a formidable author.
"Skyscrapers of the Midwest" by Joshua W. Cotter, AdHouse Books, 288 pages, $19.95.
Cotter's heart-wrenching, darkly funny tales of growing up in the bleak Midwestern landscape make for a stunningly impressive debut.
Though his influences are writ large (particularly Chris Ware), the book is polished and confident, with none of the awkwardness that tends to plague first-time works.
An episodic look at the trials of a pre-adolescent boy and his younger brother, "Skyscrapers," though fictional (and filled with hallucinatory and surreal meanderings inspired by the brothers' flights of fancy) carries an aura of unflinching honesty and eye for detail that makes you realize the author is drawing upon personal pain. It's a really, really excellent book.
"Too Cool to Be Forgotten" by Alex Robinson, Top Shelf Productions, 128 pages, $14.95.
Remember all those age-switching movies that came out in the late '80s (i.e. "Big," "18 Again")? That's basically the premise behind Robinson
That may be part of the problem. Protagonist Andy Wicks is such a decent, considerate sort that no real tension arises from his time-traveling predicament. And the "big revelation" at the end is telegraphed so poorly as to be rendered completely unbelievable. Chalk this up as a disappointing work from an otherwise talented creator.