- Posted by Johanna on October 18, 2008 at 7:20 am
- Category: Graphic Novel Reviews
- PUBLISHER: Graphix/ScholasticOni PressExhibit A PressDC / Minx
I picked up some interesting books at this year’s Small Press Expo (SPX). I went up there expecting to discover minicomics and other self-published, hand-made works — some of which I did find and will talk about later — but I wound up with a stack of graphic novels, too. Many of these can be called “mainstream” in the true sense of the word, aimed more at the general public than the typical comic fan.
Slowpoke: One Nation, Oh My God!
Jen Sorensen’s latest book of editorial cartoons was one of the first on my list to seek out. I’d tried to order it through a comic store, but since I wasn’t willing to pre-order, Diamond refused to ship it to them. (They cancelled the back-order the shop placed for me.) At least this way, I got a charming little sketch of Mrs. Perkins in a hamburger-shaped spaceship that doesn’t run on carbon-based fuel.
I’ve enjoyed the previous two Slowpoke books, both because of Sorensen’s pointed perspective on modern life and politics and her thick-line cartooning. It’s attractive while paring down her images to only what’s needed. New to this volume are her annotations, commentary on what inspired a particular comic. I’m always glad to learn more about an artist’s thoughts on her own work, so that’s a great addition. Plus, the explanations remind the reader of the context of when the strips were created, making them seem less outdated.
Many will likely condemn her work for attacking the bureaucracy in charge, but her strips move beyond traditional politics to express concern for such topics as voting rights, ethical journalism, fads and trends, economic decision-making, sexual freedom, the environment, and the abuse of language. Her comments make her leanings clear, though, with a righteous anger that fuels art with a definite perspective. See samples at the Slowpoke website.
The Baby-Sitters Club: Claudia and Mean Janine
This edition focuses on the fourth original member, Claudia, an artist who struggles with school, while her older sister Janine is more typically brainy. Their frustrating-yet-loving relationship is beautifully realistic, and I like the way that their family structure includes grandmother Mimi, who serves as a calming, wise influence. Everyone’s facial expressions and gestures are wonderfully evocative while still comedically exaggerated.
The kids are growing up, as Claudia has to cope with Mimi having a stroke and the club runs a summer camp-like playgroup for their charges. New girl Dawn and leader Kristy have some conflicts, but they work them out in a well-drawn barn setting. It’s a charming graphic novel that will be especially loved by girls, who will relate to the domestic conflicts and challenges. And it’s refreshing to see Janine, a young woman I could relate to, learn how to balance family life and the computer classes she loves.
I had a lovely conversation with Chris Schweizer about some snarky comments I made earlier in the year. We’re all fine now, because he’s a very nice guy, and he explained the lack of women on his promotional material as having two good reasons behind it: they *are* aiming at young men with the stories, and although there are many female characters appearing, he didn’t want to ruin romance hints and plots of the upcoming books.
His boys’ adventure series of graphic novels kicked off with this first volume, about pirates, and next up, in March, is book two, Crogan’s March, about a Legionnaire. I admire his plans; a 16-book series is ambitious, but I believe he’s going to do it.
The Soddyssey and Other Tales of Supernatural Law
The latest Supernatural Law collection fills in a gap in the series. It’s second in reading order, after Tales of Supernatural Law and before Sonovawitch! Like the rest of the series collections, it’s a very handsome book, with the most gripping cover yet, and completely remastered pages. To quote the copyright page, “Most [stories] have been completely relettered, and many have been retoned; in some cases, art has been redrawn.”
Batton Lash’s monster lawyers are funny. Well, that’s not quite right — they’re often the sane everyday folks while funny things and puns happen around them. In this volume, the cases include an X-Files parody about a missing child, a woman having Satan’s baby, a wannabe stand-up comedian haunted by ghostly laughter, a klutz suing his guardian angel, some personal involvement with other lawyers, and the trial of a plant monster named Sodd. The Ann Rice analogue, in a story set in New Orleans, really took me back to when I was reading her vampire novels.
The next-to-last Minx book is just like the rest of them: the story of a significant (and visual) event that teaches a girl more about what she wants from life, forces her to stand up to her parents, and gives her the possibility of a boyfriend. This one most closely resembles the original release, The Plain Janes, in that it preaches the transformative power of Art, although in this case, the definition of art is stretched so widely as to cover reading someone else’s diary while standing on stage wearing your grandmother’s 60s dresses. (I do wish the ethics of stealing that diary had been a little more directly addressed.)
I read it because I like Steve Rolston’s (One Bad Day) art. He draws the cuddliest pierced punks, all round faces and non-threatening features. The story, by Mariko Tamaki, is just a little too precious, with self-aware narration that includes cross-outs. By the seventh page, one character, looking back, is telling another “how wyrd it is that 1 summer can chg everythg.” (They’re texting, don’t'cha know.) Except it really doesn’t. Not for our lead, anyway — I was more interested in following the story of the suburban mom who came out and moved to the big city with her new lover. But then, I’m not a teen girl wishing for fantasies of changing your life just by attending a rave with people who wear weird clothes and glitter and discovering that anyone can be a superstar by calling themselves one.
Paradigm Shift 2: Agitation
I had an amusing conversation at the show with Dirk Tiede, author of this manga-styled cop story. I was talking to the person at the table next to his, and as I finished, he got my attention. He’d recognized my name on my badge and mentioned he’d sent me a review copy of book one. I said, “I know, I wrote about it over the summer.” He’d never seen it. I’d sent him an email at the time, but he hadn’t gotten it. So I pulled up my site on my cellphone and let him read the review right there. Ah, modern technology.
The story continues at its same relaxed pace as Kate and her partner are still investigating a series of grisly maulings. It’s all leading up to a werewolf story, but it’s taking a long time to get there. I suppose the plodding interrogations and slow piece-by-piece examination of the case are realistic, but I’ve read more engrossing fiction. There is also a shootout action sequence. The art’s professional, easy to read, and distinctive. (See earlier comment about the cop’s bangs having a life of their own.) I enjoy the notes in the back, many of which are about actual Chicago locations used in the story, and I applaud Dirk’s work ethic. Read the strip at the Paradigm Shift website.
Jennifer Hachigian has collected the first eight issues of her minicomic about vampires and robots in high school into a paperback. It’s a bit much for the material — the simple black-and-white art may seem more approachable in photocopied-and-stapled minis. You can see a progression from beginning to end as the artist becomes more confident, especially with use of black areas. Check it out for yourself at the Lore website.
One of my more interesting acquisitions was a galley copy of this kids’ graphic novel by Daniel Langsdale (Geeks in Disguise). He’s looking for a publisher now. It’s a combination of four youngsters investigating neighborhood mysteries and fighting bullies, mixed with activity pages — logic puzzles, codes, word finds, and the like. Their detective club starts off figuring out the real story behind rumored werewolf attacks.
One boy’s a handyman, one’s the natural leader, another’s studious, and the lone girl is the athletic one. The art’s scratchy, with dodgy anatomy, but it has energy. My favorite part was when the kids were discovering an abandoned bomb shelter (closed since 1984, or “like forever”, according to them) and turning it into their clubhouse. There’s an old-fashioned feel to it that makes it timeless, while the kids still seem reasonably modern.