*Vogelein: Old Ghosts — Recommended

The story of the clockwork faerie continues with the second book in Jane Irwin’s series of gorgeous, painted, modern-day fairytales.

As with any good series, you don’t need to have read the first volume (in which Vögelein copes with the death of her caretaker) to enjoy this one. Vögelein now carries her own key and as the book opens, she’s acting as something of a daredevil, riding wind gusts in the city. It’s a beautiful sequence, introducing the character and her motivations as well as demonstrating both the setting and the artist’s skill.

Vogelein: Old Ghosts cover
Vögelein: Old Ghosts
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The black-and-white art has an organic, pencil/charcoal feel to it. The key is a great symbol, by the way. It’s iconic, providing a summary image for the series with its Celtic-style knot. It’s attractive, providing a decorative accessory to the design of a young girl. It’s meaningful, representing Vögelein’s control over her own existence, letting her make the decision who will control her and literally keep her alive. It’s a memorial, reminding her of the people who’ve held it throughout her life.

Vögelein’s perspective is a charming mix of the naive (she’s still young, emotionally, learning about herself and the world) and the accomplished (she’s functionally immortal, having already lived for hundreds of years). Her quest, to better know herself and her own desires after escaping a kind of captivity (albeit loving and well-meant) is one most readers will relate to. Her existence requires the care of others, making real the symbolic struggle of relationships. For everyone, it’s a continuing challenge to find the proper balance between giving oneself over to others and maintaining the independence necessary for one’s identity.

She’s now got a group of Guardians, people who can wind her up when needed. One’s a folk musician who reminds her of another person from her past, a Romani (Gypsy) harried by soldiers in the late 1600s. Her time with him ended badly, sending her on a quest to resolve her guilt. She hopes the journey will help her better accept the change that’s a necessary part of life, as well as learning more about a culture most of us are unfamiliar with.

Irwin’s quite talented in sketching characters quickly and yet with depth. Their dialogue is realistic and distinctive, and they live in a solid, well-delineated, detailed world. They give the impression of being observed from life, or at least inspired by people Irwin’s really seen. They’re also more diverse and unusual than the expected comic types, from a workingman to a short-order waitress to a young woman choosing a life that allows her to take care of her aging grandmother.

I appreciated the way the book acknowledges the importance of rituals, as well as the way its inhabitants respect culture, music, their environments, and especially books. After reading this graphic novel, I’d learned things I wouldn’t otherwise know, I’d felt what other lives might be like, and I wanted to meet these people and spend lots more time with them. It’s gorgeous.

Find out more at the Vögelein website.


13 Responses to “*Vogelein: Old Ghosts — Recommended”

  1. Tim O'Shea Says:

    Wow. I’m glad to see Jane Irwin returning to these characters. Thanks for the headsup, Johanna.

  2. Journalista - the news weblog of The Comics Journal » Blog Archive » May 8, 2007: All quiet in Dullsville Says:

    [...] Johanna Draper Carlson reviews Jane Irwin’s new Vögelein book, Old Ghosts. [...]

  3. James Schee Says:

    So its in this Previews? Interesting, I may have to go ahead and preorder it through DCBS despite a pledge to take a comics break.

  4. Johanna Says:

    Yep, current Previews. Lots of good stuff in there… I’m still working on a writeup for more.

  5. Lisa Lopacinski Says:

    Thanks for reviewing these upcoming books! When it comes to indie graphic novels it is SO hard to know what to order based on previews. Because of your review of this book I contacted Jane and got to see more of her work so I could make an intelligent decision about weather or not to order this book. If no one else tells you this – let me tell you – thank you so much for taking the time to read and share your reviews and information on upcoming books. It really helps me out!

  6. Johanna Says:

    Oh, I’m so glad to hear that! I’d love to see more retailer support for good books like this one, and I’m happy I can do a small part to help.

  7. Daniel Athearn Says:

    I have been patiently awaiting this book for the past several years. I bought the first book as a serial, and then when the tpb came out I bought it too. Jane’s art style is beautiful, and her storytelling is superb. I would highly recomend this book to anyone.

  8. Jane Irwin Says:

    Aw, you guys are the best! Thanks so much.

  9. Vögelein Update » Comics Worth Reading Says:

    [...] second Vögelein volume, Old Ghosts, were due out in July, but due to printer troubles, they’ve been rescheduled for next month, [...]

  10. Irwin Interviewed, Appearances » Comics Worth Reading Says:

    [...] Irwin has released her second graphic novel, Vögelein: Old Ghosts, which was just as good as I expected it to [...]

  11. Webcomic News: Clockwork Game Debuts, Sam & Lilah Moves, Zuda Update » Comics Worth Reading Says:

    [...] immensely talented Jane Irwin (creator of Vögelein) is trying her hand at a webcomic: It’s called Clockwork Game, The Illustrious Career of a [...]

  12. Thank You, Jane! » Comics Worth Reading Says:

    [...] Irwin, talented cartoonist and author of Vögelein and Clockwork Game, also makes steampunk-influenced jewelry. (Which turns out to be quite an [...]

  13. Clockwork Game Returns » Comics Worth Reading Says:

    [...] buddy Jane Irwin, best-known for the two Vogelein graphic novels about a mechanical fairy, launched Clockwork Game: The Illustrious Career of a [...]




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