- Posted by Ed Sizemore on February 17, 2009 at 7:55 am
- Category: Graphic Novel Reviews
- CREDITS: by Felix Tannenbaum
- PUBLISHER: Passenger Pigeon Publishing; $10.25 US
Review by Ed Sizemore
Chronicles of Some Made consist of two stories. The first, and longest, is “Dent”, about military robots that have common sense literally knocked into them. They decide it’s not in their best interests to go off to war and be destroyed. Instead, they search for a new way of life. The second story is “Why Doesn’t My Robot Love Me, A Cautionary Fable”, about a robot who falls in love with a snowwoman and has to deal with the aftermath of the spring thaw. Tannenbaum won a 2008 Xeric Award for this book.
Chronicles of Some Made is a quirky little book that falls outside of the traditional comic categories. These are really short, quiet pieces that offer reflections on human nature. The metaphors are open-ended and allow for a wide variety of interpretation. In “Dent”, the robot’s programming could stand for genetic tendencies, our parental upbringing, social expectations, religion, American culture, etc. What you take away from this story really depends on what you bring into it. I like that, because it makes the book feel very personal, like a private conversation between you and the author.
Tannenbaum apologizes in the After-Words that “Dent” doesn’t have “a cleaner, more upbeat ending.” But such regrets are unwarranted. It’s true that “Dent” doesn’t have the traditional, happy Hollywood ending with all the loose ends neatly tied up. Instead, it offers something more profound — hope. In the end, these robots with their flaws and shortcomings are able to create a place for themselves. They have developed a friendship that embraces their imperfections and have built a life in which these glitches are a natural part. “Dent” lets us know that we don’t have to be perfect to find true, significant happiness. That no matter how damaged we think we are, we can still create a good life filled with its own particular meaning and purpose.
I’m not sure how to read “Why Doesn’t My Robot Love Me?” I think the events at the end of “Dent” skewed the way I view this story. One interpretation is to see the events in the story in linear time. This means that the beginning of the story represents the first time the characters are experiencing these events and time moves forward in a constant direction. Under this reading, the story gives us a vision of hope similar to “Dent”. The other interpretation is to see the events taking place in cyclical time. This means that we could be reading the first, the fifth, or the hundred and fifth time the characters have lived out this story. Under this reading, it’s a bittersweet tale of how fleeting the time we have with our loved ones really is and how we need to enjoy them while we can. You can persuasively argue for either version. Since I think both interpretations have a sense of hope and encouragement, plus they don’t contradict each other, I’m inclined to think the story embraces both meanings.
The art in the book is sparse black and white line drawings. There’s lots of negative space on the page, which lets you focus in on the characters and their interior lives. The characters designs are also minimalist. The art suits these quiet stories perfectly. Tannenbaum does a great job of communicating a wide range of emotions through body language and simple changes in the face.
The one sticking point for me is the price. $10.25 seems a bit steep for 96 pages of black-and-white art. Also, the number itself feels a little awkward. Why not make it $9.95, in accord with standard comic pricing strategies? That being said, I know this is a self-published book, and the price is a reflection of the economic realities of the printing costs. I’m fairly confident that Tannenbaum didn’t pick a random number for the price. This book was obviously professionally printed and bound and I can’t image that comes cheap. Plus, recent changes by Diamond have made me more aware of the uphill battle self-published books face. I wish I had some suggestion to offer that would could balance both sides of the equation: a way for the book to make a profit for Tannenbaum at a price point appealing to buyers.
Tannenbaum has a generous preview of the book available on his website. You can read the first chapter of Dent and the entire Why Doesn’t My Robot Love Me? story. Chronicles of Some Made is currently available for pre-order from Previews with the code FEB09 4423. It’s due out in comic shops at the end of April.
I enjoyed this book and wish it contained a few more pieces of similar style. The slow pace makes it a relaxing read. The characters and musings offered here will stick with you for a while and offer the chance for personal reflection. Writing this review showed me how much these stories had subtly worked their way into my own heart. It’d be a wonderful addition to any comic library.
(The author provided a promotional copy for this review.)