Monday, December 22, 2008

Graphic Lit: Graphic novel mish-mosh

The end of the year draws ever closer and yet there are tons of notable books I haven’t mentioned.

Let’s try to rectify that somewhat with this quick review:

“Bourbon Island 1730” by Lewis Trondheim and Appollo, 288 pages, $17.95.

The idea of Trondheim doing a pirate story sets up expectations of high farce in the manner of his “Dungeon” series.

The big twist then, is that he and collaborator Appollo play it completely straight, telling a realistic, melancholy tale of colonialism, slavery and the end of piracy that proves to be quite moving and thoughtful despite the fact that the characters are rendered as funny animals.

“Gus & His Gang” by Chris Blain, 176 pages, $17.95.

The unbelievably talented Blain offers a subversive take on the American Western. The catch here is that Gus and his band of expert bank robbers are more concerned (nay, obsessed) with hooking up with beautiful women than making money and keeping one step away from the cops.

Blain portrays the men as hapless romantics, eager to pitch woo but utterly flummoxed as to how to go about doing so. Their cluelessness toward the opposite sex is hilarious and endearing, especially in the case of Clem, a family man who finds himself besotted by an adventurous cowgirl. “Gus” is the rare funny book that resonates as well as entertains.

“Chiggers” by Hope Larson, Antheneum Books, 176 pages, $9.99.

Returning to summer camp, Abby finds herself adrift from her usual clique and ends up making friends with Shasta, the new, weird girl everyone hates.

It’s a slight tale, and I had trouble at times telling the supporting characters apart. Still, Larson shows a real inventiveness (I particularly like the way she handles sound effects) and she takes enough care in shaping her main characters for the book to win over its target audience.

Buy it for the young tween girl in your life.

“Freddie & Me” by Mike Dawson, Bloomsbury, 304 pages, $19.99.

Dawson humorously recounts his lifelong obsession with Queen’s lead singer Freddie Mercury in this memoir. Dawson is a good raconteur and caricaturist, but he never examines why Mercury and his music meant so much to him and as a result the book feels more than a bit superficial.

“A Treasury of XXth Century Murder: The Lindbergh Child” by Rick Geary, NBM, 80 pages, $15.95.

Having chronicled various gruesome true tales of 19th-century homicide, Geary moves up a century to chronicle a news story that held all of America in its grip in 1932 — the kidnapping and murder of Charles Lindbergh’s baby son.

True to form, Geary avoids sensationalism to lay out the details of the crime and subsequent trial in thorough, objective fashion. It’s an engaging, fascinating recounting of a sad tale that underscores what a remarkable talent Geary is.
Copyright The Patriot-News, 2008



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