Friday, July 30, 2010

More Recently Read Comics

Birchfield Close by Jon McNaught
This tiny book is a designer's notion of a good comic. It contains a variety of suburban vignettes, all of which appear as if you are an observer standing some distance away from them, quietly observing them and taking note. They don't cohere into a story or even have much relationship to one another. You see part of some television show. You see a cyclist fall off his bike and pick himself up. You see the aerial ballet of a large flock of birds. It's all rather impersonal, and the art reflects that. It's a lovely, gemlike piece of work.
Moving Pictures, written by Kathryn Immonen and drawn by Stuart Immonen
Set in an interesting milieu (the Louvre during World War II), this book is doomed by its pointlessly oblique storytelling, its terrible dialogue, and its characterless art. Apparently Stuart Immonen is a popular mainstream (i.e., super-hero) comics artist. I am unfamiliar with that work, but here he seems to be attempting a clear line style. His work resembles that of Paul Grist, but he lacks Grist's dynamism and humanity.
Weathercraft by Jim Woodring
One doesn't "review" a story like this. One genuflects before it. Mysterious as usual, we see what seems like a near redemption of that most human of creatures, Manhog.
Wally Gropius by Tim Hensley
Hensley has always been a talent to watch. Prior to this book, the coolest thing I had from him was a soundtrack he recorded for Dan Clowes' Like a Velvet Glove Cast in Iron. This book takes a lot from Clowes. Like Clowes, Hensley has an interest in the minimalist anonymous comics for small children from the 1960s and 70s. Wally Gropius is not merely a pastiche of them. I hesitate to say it is a deconstruction, because that implies a certain logical approach. Instead, Wally Gropius reads like an attempt by an alien civilization to communicate with us, having only read these comics prior to the attempt. Meaning is struggling to come to the surface of this sea of signs.
Superf*ckers by James Kochalka
Superf*ckers is a seriously funny idea, and it works for a good chunk of this book. It starts to run out of steam in the end, though. The superhero team here are a bunch of hard-partying teenagers. Instead of  incomprehensible teenage super teams like the New Mutants or the Teen Titans, this team acts more like the cast of a reality show. And that's really funny. Kochalka's intensely colored art here is really pleasing as well.
Wilson by Dan Clowes
Really deserves a long, analytic review. Suffice it to say here that Wilson is really good--a story of a deeply unpleasant misanthrope told in a visually interesting and formally inventive way. It's good to see Clowes not working on mediocre movies and instead doing really great comics--the thing he was born to do.
It Was the War of the Trenches by Jacques Tardi
Another book that deserves a long, detailed review. It's a great one that you must own if you are serious about comics as art. One thing that struck me is how indebted Tardi is to Louis Ferdinand Celine. Celine's cynical "fuck it" attitude permeates French cultural production, and It Was the War of the Trenches is no exception. In this series of short stories, the luckless protagonists seem to be asking, over and over again, "Can you believe how fucked up this is?"

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