- Posted by Johanna on October 29, 2012 at 10:23 pm
- Category: Graphic Novel Reviews
edited by Tom Pomplun
Eureka Productions, $17.95 US
The 23rd in the Graphic Classics anthology line follows the same pattern as the others: public-domain stories drawn in a variety of styles. As always, it’s the artist that makes some of the tales more memorable than others. I found Washington Irving’s “Legend of Sleepy Hollow” as drawn by Shepherd Hendrix to be too flat, bright, and lacking character to be scary. The use of the wording of the original text and the lack of definite ending also didn’t help. For similar reasons — mostly the brightly colored and Deco-like art — “The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari” done by Matt Howarth also didn’t work for me as I had hoped.
Nick Miller illustrates “A Curious Dream” by Mark Twain, an obvious lesson about taking care of the neighborhood cemetery that was a poor choice to include. I quite liked “Lot No. 249″, though, by Arthur Conan Doyle and Simon Gane, whose work reminds me of Paul Grist. It benefits from being a lesser-known mummy tale as well as from Gane’s atmospheric art. Craig Wilson also well brings the spooky to H.P. Lovecraft’s “Cool Air”. The ending becomes obvious before we get there, but it certainly puts air conditioning in a new light.
New to this volume is a framing sequence by Mort Castle and Kevin Atkinson that introduces each story in comic format, a technique that both evokes the classic EC horror comic hosts and provides a pleasant bonus to the stories themselves. I hope other future Graphic Classic volumes do something similar.
Werewolves of Wisconsin
by Andy Fish
McFarland, $17.99 US
I couldn’t pass this up, given the title featuring my new state of residence, even if it is subtitled “And Other American Myths, Monsters, and Ghosts” (so not all Wisconsin-based). In fact, we don’t get to Wisconsin until 68 pages into this 120-page book, and then there are only 10 pages of muddled mentions.
This is an illustrated book of folklore, and as such, the text is firmly primary. Often, the images are unnecessary. The art appears photo-referenced and is frequently stiff, sometimes lacking backgrounds. Some particularly ugly panels let the computer manipulation take too much focus from the content. Often, the figures appear artificial, like dolls, and the panel composition (including arrangement of items and choices of what to show) can be flat and boring.
It’s particularly damaging to a book of supposedly spooky stories when you can’t tell what you’re supposed to be looking at. This book was hard to read; I would have much preferred it as prose, except that so many of the stories are merely bits and pieces of things I’ve heard about before. Very disappointing.
Luci’s Let Down
written by Marjee Chmiel; art by Sandra Lanz
Baba Yaga Books, $13.95 US
There’s nothing that says a familiar tale has to be told badly, though. For instance, transferring known material to a new context can shed new light on the theme, as happens in Luci’s Let Down, a debut graphic novel I first saw at last year’s SPX.
Luci is a designer, helping God create the Earth. It’s Paradise Lost if the protagonist was a hipster chick in striped shirt and cat’s-eye glasses. Many readers will relate to the feeling of working for a clueless boss who promotes gladhanders who can’t do the job over those who are actually working hard without recognition.
The storytelling is straightforward but competent and intriguing, especially when it comes to the starscapes Luci finds compelling. She’s the one that invents death and sex and possibly even the platypus. By mashing together two familiar stories — one the oldest, the other, that of cubicle workaday life, potentially coming from yesterday — Chmiel gives us new insight into one of the greatest villains of all time.
(The publishers provided review copies.)