I love comics. I mean, as a medium: Most comics suck, but when the comics are good, they’re better than anything. They connect to something in my brain like nothing else.
To this day, my most intense dreams are of me stumbling into an unknown back room or cellar of a well-known comics store and finding the section where they have all the comics by Tardi that I haven’t read. I get even more frantic in dreams at that thought than I would in real life, and I’d get pretty short of breath if that happened in reality.
But when it comes to the actual reading of comics, I sometimes have problems finding the time:
So unread comics pile up. That’s not even all of them at that window sill; the larger-format comics don’t fit there.
Perhaps because of my emotional investment in comics reading, I get a bit exhausted by the thought of actually reading them? Or perhaps I just buy more than I could possibly find time to read? And that gives me a sort of strange anxiety that I don’t have with books: I’ve got more unread books than I’ll find time to read before I die, and that’s fine, but this pile is getting out of hand, so I thought I’d try something new: Just read comics for a few days and write a few lines about each of them.
Not reviews or anything. Ain’t nobody got time for that. But just read, snap a couple of pics, and write a couple of lines.
This is day one. We’ll see how this goes.
I’ve got candy to guide me.
ITDN by Andrew Burkholder (2d cloud)
It’s a fascinating book. The production by 2d cloud is impeccable, as always, and the ten comics in this book vary from the very conceptual to the…
… er… less? Conceptual? I’d say all these comics are… brutal. There’s a palpable desperation.
It’s a great book. It’s really … I don’t know whether “enjoyable” is the right word, but it’s so stuffed with ideas and flows so well.
Nice cover flap.
Duck Avenger Strikes Again by Romano Scarpa (Fantagraphics)
I’m a Barks fan, and as a child I thought these Italian Duck comics were totally lame. But this book collects three long Romano Scarpa stories, and I thought I’d give it a try.
As you can see above, Scarpo’s artwork is really lively and pretty. It has the usual Italian Duck rubberiness, but it’s… a bit like Gottfredson, perhaps? It’s appealing, anyway, even if the gags are really, really simple. I’m guessing they aimed this at very young children?
The translations are great.
Unfortunately, I guess I have to go with my reaction to this stuff from when I was a child: It’s kinda lame.
The final story is partly based on some concepts that Barks came up with for Scarpa.
It’s not bad, but not really worth the time, either. It’s got some good gags, but the pacing feels way off.
Nature and Shit by Tom O’Hern (Mini Comic Club)
I’m subscribing to a monthly Australian mini comic club thing, so once a month I get these little minis in the mail. It’s fun.
This one is less narrative than most of them, but still pretty WTF, which I like.
Pickle #11 by Dylan Horrocks (Black Eye)
This is a curious artefact, but it’s very apropos both of the story being told in Pickle, and being obsessed with comics and the idea of finding lost works: So some scenes are a bit like reading my own dreams.
I think what’s they’re saying up there is that ten issues of Pickle were published in the 90s, and then a collected edition was published. But that collected edition (“Hicksville”) included an ending that was never published in the individual floppies. So now, twenty years later, we get a floppy that reprints the final pages of he collected edition.
And this all makes sense because this sort of meta level in comics is what Hicksville is all about, and reading this single comic now is a strange, eerie callback to the memory of reading this decades ago.
Chi’s Sweet Adventures 4 by Kinoko Natsume (Vertical)
I adore Chi’s Sweet Home, but this isn’t that. I’m wondering whether these are adaptations of an animated show for really, really young children? Like three-year-olds? (If you’re confused, read the panels downwards, from left to right.)
These are sweet adventures, but I grow impatient with them after reading a couple, so I think I’m going to stop buying these now. But I think I’d have loved them when I was a child.
House of the Black Spot by Ben Sears (Koyama)
I assumed that this was going to be another video game derived comic book, but I bought it anyway, because it’s Koyama and how bad can it be? I mean, there’s nothing I loathe as much as video game influenced comics (other than role playing games comics, or perhaps it’s any games?), but there’s always the Recycle/Reuse spot (where I can just drop off books and comics I don’t want to have and people can pick them up).
But this isn’t that! Just read the first four pages:
It’s great! It’s got an old-fashioned classic European album vibe to the pacing, while the artwork is new and fresh and cute.
Reading this was a real pleasure. The characters are interesting, the plot is fun, and it’s just so readable: Sears has got all the storytelling chops, and it all just goes down so well.
But as good as it is, it’s not perfect. I felt that some of the investigative bits in the last half went on a bit too long. While every scene in itself was enjoyable, it felt like there wasn’t much of a progression.
Oh! And I’ve got a guest!
Can’t read while he’s staring at me.
Anyway, I’ll be keeping an eye on Ben Sears. I’m very impressed.
Architecture of an Atom by Juliacks (2d cloud)
Yes I did!
Anyway, this book is somewhat abstract, but it’s a narrative work.
And 2d cloud are probably the only ones who could have published it. As usual, it looks great, but the only annoying thing is that quite often the words disappear into the gutters of the book, making things even harder to read than they would otherwise be.
I liked the book: It held my interest. The narrative is kinda minimal, though.
The artwork’s pretty spiffy, though.
Clue: Candlestick #1-2 by Dash Shaw (IDW)
Hey, didn’t I talk about hating comics for gamers? And this is a comic based on a board game? Whaaa?
Well, it’s Dash Shaw, and I’ll buy anything he does.
I’ve never played the board game, so reading the first issue was a puzzling experience… but it’s good. It’s got real tension, and I like mysteries, so while I ignored what I’m assuming are the “clue” bits up there, it’s a fun read.
And then Tim Hodler explains everything about Clue: How the game works and stuff, which is something of a let-down.
The second issue is very, very different, and we mostly follow on of the characters on her murderous back-story, and… I mean, it’s good, but it’s a strange thing to do. The plot introduced in the first issue barely progresses at all, but there’s some satisfying call-backs to various scenes.
And some… puzzles… That I skipped.
That’s a very Dash Shaw page, and there’s one more issue to go before the solution.
We’ll, I’ll be buying it. This reviewer is perhaps less bemused than I am with the book, but he’s got some good points.
John, Dear by Laura Lannes (Retrofit/Big Planet)
This is a horrifying little book.
But either what it’s saying is a bit on the obvious side, or what it’s saying is completely obscure, which is a strange place for a work to be.
It’s got a great tension, though.
I Love You by Sara Lautman (Retrofit/Big Planet)
This book is a little gem. Lautman’s scratchy artwork (perhaps reminiscent of many French late-70s cartoonists) is so lively and on the mark.
Everything is well-observed and has a resonance.
And it’s funny. What more do you want?
I don’t think I’ve happened upon her work before, so I guess I’ll have to get searching…
Bear’s Tooth v3 by Yann & Henriet (Cinebook)
I remember the first two albums in this series to be … OK? Not great, but good enough to keep reading. It’s a rather dull story about WWII and mixed identities and all that stuff, but the artwork’s nice. I’m a sucker for artists that can draw proper interiors.
Of which there are none in this album, but there’s some nice aerial shots. And, since this is a Cinebook release, it doesn’t really look very good. They use the least impressive printers in Europe, and the colours never pop.
The main problem with reading this is perhaps that I’ve almost completely forgotten the previous parts, and this part doesn’t cater to forgetful people all, so there’s just a bunch of people I don’t really remember nattering on about stuff I can’t recall.
Bäbis 2000 by Caroline Sury (Lystring)
This is a Swedish translation of a French comic, and it’s about having a baby. But it’s not a sweet and romantic book, but instead it’s a funny and harsh look at the process.
Especially since the father doesn’t want any children.
I normally like scratchy artwork, but this doesn’t do anything for me. It’s like nothing has more weight than anything else, and my eyes skid around the page without finding purchase.
Still, there’s great scenes like this that you can’t help enjoy.
Nulteliv 2 by Friberg & Larsen (No Comprendo)
The first volume of this thing was absolutely hilarious. I wonder whether the praise has gone to their heads, because the first half of this one is pretty much devoid of real laughs.
The second half has much better stories, and more than a few gags that lands. The artwork is super basic, but probably so on purpose.
I kinda doubt that this’ll be something that publishers abroad will be excited to translate and publish, because it’s almost all references to 80s Norwegian life, and there’s so many super-specific references that’ll pretty much be lost on anybody else.
Rudy by Mark Connery (2d cloud)
This is edited and has an introduction by Marc Bell, which makes sense, but I’m afraid this collection of comics (mostly reprints from minis, apparently) doesn’t do much for me.
Perhaps in shorter bursts it would have been more effective, but with 230 pages of non-sense it all starts to become a blur.
On the other hand, I’ve been reading comics all day, and I’m kinda woozy, anyway, so perhaps that’s the explanation.
So let’s call it a day, and continue tomorrow. Right? Right.