*Alice in Sunderland — Best of 2007

Bryan Talbot’s Alice in Sunderland isn’t read so much as succumbed to. It’s a happening more than a graphic novel.

Alice in Sunderland cover
Alice in Sunderland
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Talbot draws himself visiting the Empire in gorgeously detailed pen-and-ink, where he views himself on stage narrating a celebration of the 100th anniversary of the theatre, at which point the book explodes into a colorful collage of every kind of image and graphic. Bits of everything are woven into this phantasmagoria — quotations, the geography of the North East of England, the history of the region, art, culture, literature, most especially Alice in Wonderland. Talbot makes a case for the imaginative classic having many more ties to the region than is commonly acknowledged.

The pictures and text blend without the usual panel borders or page grids, creating an immersive experience for the readers as we wander through Talbot’s train of consciousness. Elsewhere, formal panel arrangements contain the most boundary-crossing material, when Talbot’s selves argue with each other or ghosts elaborate on legends. Then there are the dragons and the Jabberwock.

The book is incredibly wide-ranging, from prehistory to modern art to metaphysics. Some sections are more interesting than others, but each reader’s choices will differ as to which is which. Like the weather, if you don’t like one page, just wait a bit, and it’ll change. It’s a great book to dip into and sample various sections, or to return to at different times with different interests. Reading through all at once is not recommended, because there’s just too much to take in, including a justification of comics as a medium featuring guest-prophet Scott McCloud.

Nearly impossible to describe, it must be experienced.

Sample pages can be found at the official website. Steve Flanagan created an extensive review of the book in similar multimedia style, while Sean Kleefeld compliments Talbot’s storytelling in his review. Paul Gravett provides an overview of Talbot’s career and an interview with him.

4 Responses to “*Alice in Sunderland — Best of 2007”

  1. Best of 2007 » Comics Worth Reading Says:

    […] Alice in Sunderland by Bryan Talbot – Not as much a graphic novel as a happening, made up of bits and pieces of every kind of image and graphic design. An unusual blend of pictures and text that eschews the usual panel borders or page grids to immerse the reader in a phantasmagoric trip through Talbot’s mind and the history of this particular area of Northeast England. Nearly impossible to describe accurately, it must be experienced. […]

  2. Adam_Y Says:

    We were lucky enough to get Bryan to come and give a talk at the Lancaster Comics Convention.

    Strange bloke, undeniably talented and friendly enough… but he is his work and so all of that oddness in Alice does seem to be a reflection of the artist…

    Which is a good thing, right?

    Oh, and he drank my coffee… just picked up off the corner of my table and wandered off with it.

  3. John Says:

    This is one of my favorite graphic novels of all time and it’s rich enough that I know I will be giving it repeated readings over the years and will take away something with each one. That said, I’ve had a hard time recommending it to anyone, it seems like it’s asking for quite a commitment from people!

  4. Alice in Wonderland Comics » Comics Worth Reading Says:

    […] don’t know how to classify Bryan Talbot’s Alice in Sunderland, other than to say it’s just as creative as the original in very different […]




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