Tuesday, October 04, 2005

FROM THE VAULT: Graphic Lit 7/10

I had no room to run any comics reviews in the paper this week, so you'll just have to settle for this lengthy round-up that ran back in July. Enjoy.

"The Plot: The Secret Story of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion"
by Will Eisner
W.W. Norton, 148 pages, 19.95.

Eisner's last book, published a few months after his death at age 87, attempts to strike a blow against anti-Semitism with an ambitious scrutiny of one of the most infamous tracts in history, how it came to be and why it still manages to be believed.

As a point-by-point denunciation of "Zion," "Plot" succeeds admirably. As a work of art, however, the book falls very flat. A large part of the problem is Eisner's decision to have his characters talk in unwieldy swaths of exposition and declarative sentences. His taste for over-the-top melodrama, which served him better with his other works, also trips him up here.

In the end, while the book's ultimate goal is very admirable, the end result is rather disappointing and not the first place one should go when delving into Eisner's work.

by Dan James
Top Shelf Productions, 152 pages, $12.95.

An expert vampire hunter meets his match in this surreal, wordless little book from relative newcomer Dan James. James employs an overly geometric, woodblock style that can make it frequently hard to follow the story. Still, there are few cartoonists today who have such an idiosyncratic style, and, once deciphered, "Mosquito"does manage to evoke some nice moments of dread.

If James can tighten up his cartooning chops a bit more, he could easily become an artist to reckon with.

"Tokyo Mew Mew A La Mode"
by Mia Ikumi
Tokyopop , $9.99.

A group of dewy-eyed, oh-so-cute pubescent girls save humanity yet again in this homage/parody/rip-off (take your pick) of "Sailor Moon."

In the latest volume of this ongoing series, the Mew Mew group gets a new member and leader while a evil, mysterious group of aristocrats plots evil, mysterious things. It's all a bit too cloying for my tastes, but then, I'm not the target audience. If you're a young girl between the ages of 9 and 12, chances are this will hit your sweet tooth perfectly.

by Brandon Graham
Alternative Books, $12.95.

If nothing else, this collection of short stories involving aliens, urban life and curvy young women in skimpy clothing shows that Brandon Graham has been reading a lot of "Heavy Metal" magazine.

Sadly, solid cartooning chops aside, this slim volume reveals little else. Most of the stories are too slight or shallow to last in your memory after you put the book down. Come to think of it, that was always one of my main complaints about "Heavy Metal" too.

adapted by Gary Reed and Frazer Irving
"The Red Badge of Courage,"

adapted by Wayne Vansant
"Black Beauty,"

adapted by June Brigman and Roy Richardson
Puffin Graphics; $9.99 each.

The folks at Penguin have plunged headlong into the graphic novels for kids market with this new series of adaptations of timeless literature. Think of it as "Classics Illustrated," but a higher page count.

Overall, these books do a fine job translating the works of Crane, Shelly and Sewell into the comic format. Each boasts a professional, clean style and the notes in the back of each book provide a nice touch, with sketches showing how the story was broken down into panels.

As well done as these books are, however, they ultimately walk too safe a path and, while they don't harm the original works, they don't add anything either. In other words, there's nothing here that makes you feel like you wouldn't be better off reading the stories in their original prose form.

Copyright The Patriot-News, 2005


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