It's come to my attention recently that some of you don't like my style of reviewmanship. Koren Shadmi, who I ridiculed last month, sent me a message telling me he was going to strangle me. Well, my good douchebag, I hope your Israeli hands are as gigantic as that gaping whale-mouth you got, cause that's the only way they're going to fit around my bulbous, George Lucas-ian neck. After a few more threats and angry messages, though, I realized I should probably try to be a little bit professional before I turn the giant circle jerk that is the comics community against me. Here are my attempts at acting like a human being. Excelsior, homos!
Drawn & Quarterly
This book collects a story from Optic Nerve in which a Japanese guy acts like a jerk to all of his friends, lusts after white women, and ends up alone to reflect on his shittiness. I've been thinking a lot about something Stinky said in Hate. "Could it be that I'm a total shithead and never noticed it till now?" I've come to the conclusion that I am definitely a jerk and a lot like the character in this book. All of my friends are losers, faggots, and jerks too. As a total shithead, I relate to this.
32 Stories: The Complete Optic Nerve Mini-Comics
Drawn & Quarterly
32 Stories collects Adrian Tomine's mini-comics, reprinted as fold-over mini-comics and packaged in a cardboard box container. Through the seven issues you can watch Tomine learn draftsmanship, rip people off, and blossom like a flower. As a teenage nerd who wanted to be cool, I really like these comics. A few years later I thought they were a male power fantasy for people too old to dream about being Wolverine. I hadn't thought about these comics for years when I received the review copy.
In these mini comics you can watch a guy who loves making comics go from amateur to pro in seven issues. That's pretty impressive.
Breakdowns: Portrait of the Artist as a Young %@&*!
Finally! The years of trolling eBay and waiting to see if I could get this book for under a hundred bucks is over. This volume is a faithful reprint of Art Spiegelman's first published book, along with a new 19-page intro comic from Art. It contains some really experimental stuff, including the original Maus short comic, “Prisoner On The Hell Planet and The Malpractice Suite.” I personally find this stuff more exciting than Maus or anything else Spiegelman has done. That's not meant as a knock; I like seeing people's work when they are still figuring things out and experimenting.
The only bad thing I can say about this book is that I don't like when Spiegelman augments his super organic artwork with elements that were clearly added in Photoshop. It's hard not to be aware of it and it dates the work.
A.D.: New Orleans After the Deluge
Josh made a comic about Katrina hitting New Orleans as told from the points of view of seven characters from different walks of life. He did a pretty good job. The comic's line art is gray at the beginning of the book but by the end it's been gradually darkened to black in a way that you might not consciously perceive without flipping around in the book beforehand. That’s a pretty boss storytelling gimmick. There were a few things about this comic I wasn't crazy about. I don't like Josh's drawings, I think they're generic. The other thing is that one character's most major problem is that he loses his gigantic comic book collection in the flood. Although I too am a guy with a giant collection of books and comics, I couldn't help but want to slap him. People are sleeping on their roofs and fighting off rats in the preceding pages and struggling to get drinking water in the ones after. It's just hard to give a fuck about one guy's comic books when the other characters are scared of dying.
My Brain Is Hanging Upside Down
If there's a dominant trend in the realm of non-sci-fi and non-superhero comics, it's to do autobio work where you draw yourself looking like a child. James Kochalka does it, Jeffrey Brown does it, Liz Prince does it. They give themselves large heads, dot eyes and apologetic eyebrows and suddenly they're free of our judgment because they look like babies. It's pretty much the opposite of what Crumb did. He showed us ugly things about himself but he didn't draw himself as a cute toddler, handing responsibility for his actions over to some adult who isn't there.
I don't like this trend. I see it as dishonest, lazy, and cowardly. David Heatley's work doesn't impress me as anything more than blog comics. This kind of stuff sends me running home and staring at Shintaro Kago and Suehiro Maruo and wishing someone would drop an atom bomb on America to kill off the pussies and inspire the rest to become good artists. I am probably going to get in trouble for saying that. To Japanese people: Your culture is great, I would willingly die in order to be you. To American pussies: Your time will come.
Harvey Kurtzman, Will Elder, Arnold Roth, Al Jaffee, Jack Davis
This is the best thing I have ever been sent to review. I didn't think that this book would ever exist but now it does and it'd better than I could have imagined. Do you even know what the fuck this thing is?!
For Those Who Don't Know What the Fuck This Is: Harvey Kurtzman was the genius who wrote the first twenty-eight issues of Mad. Hugh Hefner hired Harv away to be head honcho at a fancier mag that lasted only two issues. Going back to Mad wasn't an option so he and some of the best artists from that magazine formed the funny and beautiful Humbug, which only lasted eleven issues.
For Those Who Know: The eleven issues of Humbug are faithfully reprinted in this two-volume hardcover set and it comes in a fancy and sturdy box. The magazines were funny and beautiful with art by Will Elder and Jack Davis and some other folks.
If you don't buy this book then I don't want to know you. The sticker price is $100 bucks but it's only $36 over at Amazon. There is no excuse for not buying this right now. Sell your hair, blood, or skin to get it.
Chicken With Plums
This comic is from the comicker who made Persepolis. Reading it feels like reading a folk fable like Anansi the Spider. Death comes and speaks with the main character and all sorts of improbable things happen. It was entertaining enough, but the art and story didn't resonate with me. You might like it if you liked Persepolis.
Pocket Jotters Vol. One!
When you write reviews a lot you get used to saying "Gimme one of those!" and being thanked for it. It's like living the song “Lexicon Devil.” "Gimme gimme that comic book, gimme gimme those 7-inches, gimme gimme that bagel, gimme gimme those yogurts. Gimme gimme thissss gimme gimme thay-ee-aaeeuaughaaaatt." I thought this was a comic when I asked for a free one but it turned out to be three very fancy little blank sketchbooks with decent paper and nicely illustrated covers by Meg Hunt, who is doing some rad, rad drawings.
Dawn, The Worlds Of Final Fantasy
Dark Horse Books
I like the Final Fantasy games a lot. So many rogue knights helping out fractured royal families and then, for no reason: a dragon! But I like the concept art that Yoshitaka Amano did better. It's so beautiful and graceful. He mixes together medieval fantasy shit with Japanese shit and comes up with things that it's hard to understand how he thought it up. How you do dat Yoshitako? If you like pretty drawings this is a good book for you to have.