Good Comics at the Comic Shop February 12: Beautiful Darkness

Here’s what I found worth drawing your attention to this week from your local comic shop. Sorry this is a day late, but I’m imagining that customers for these works aren’t “gotta have it within two hours of release” types, anyway.

I’ve already talked about The Bojeffries Saga (Top Shelf, $14.95), so let’s look at the other major graphic novel release this week. Beautiful Darkness (Drawn and Quarterly, $22.95) isn’t out in bookstores yet, but comic shops (at least, the good ones that stock significant indy works) have it. It’s a very strange book, one that will appeal to lovers of fantasy grotesque. Written by Fabien Vehlmann and illustrated by the team couple called Kerascoët, I was reminded, at various times reading it, of Lord of the Flies, Mean Girls, Toy Story, Cinderella, and some weird kind of hipster neighborhood parody.

Aurora and her many doll-like friends find themselves abandoned in the woods after the human girl they were apparently living in (!) dies. While Aurora tries to ensure everyone is fed and sheltered and makes friends with the local wildlife, other inhabitants are engaging in their own selfish pursuits. Some are babyish, crying and whining so others take care of them. Many are self-obsessed, demanding their every whim be satisfied, no matter the cost to others, even causing their deaths. Most are unequipped to survive, playing games and engaging in distractions instead of feeding themselves or taking care of injuries.

It’s all gorgeously illustrated, with lovely illustrations of the natural world and the decaying body. The publisher calls it “a dark fairy tale about surviving the human experience”, which is accurate. A cynical person might take away the message that prettiness is a childish fantasy, that everyone degrades to survive. Others might call it realism, survival of the fittest, and recognizing that you’re better off by yourself than with those who drag you down. Beautiful Darkness is definitely something you’ll be thinking about long after you read it.

For a book really for kids, not one that just mimics the form, there’s Tippy and the Night Parade (Toon Books, $12.95) by Lilli Carré. When Tippy sleeps, she dreams of wandering through various landscapes, collecting animals as she goes. When she wakes, her room’s a mess, with hints of her various followers left behind for little readers to identify. It’s a wonderful nighttime adventure, with different locales to spur young imaginations, portrayed simply in monochrome (blue for night, orange for day). The book is structured cyclically, with Tippy at first awake, then dreaming, then awake again, in a sequence that could be infinitely continued with different creatures.

If you’re interested in books about cartoonists (instead of those by them), TwoMorrows has a long-awaited new edition of their Modern Masters interview-and-sketchbook series. Cliff Chiang, current Wonder Woman artist but illustrator of so much more, is the subject of the 29th volume ($15.95), and since his work is gorgeous, I’m greatly anticipating learning more about his career and influences. (I’m not sure we both worked at DC Comics at the same time, but it was close, which gives me another point of curiosity; what will he say about his time there?)

More historically, MAD’s Greatest Artists: Dave Berg: Five Decades of The Lighter Side Of … (Running Press, $30) is a time capsule for anyone who read MAD magazine from the 1960s to the 1990s. Berg’s themed contributions were visually distinctive, often featuring a self-parody in a safari jacket and smoking a pipe, the suburban male confused by the modern world and dealing with it by making gentle, old-fashioned wisecracks about “Money”, “Women”, “Hobbies”, “Sex”, or other big topics. For all that they were safely comfortable gags, they were also immediately understandable and recognizable, an anchor in a magazine pushing boundaries elsewhere. This hardcover also includes photos, an interview with Berg (who passed away in 2002), tributes by other artists, and examples of his work in other areas.

Ok, if all that’s too expensive, try a periodical comic. Oni Press is taking The Bunker ($3.99) by Joshua Hale Fialkov and Joe Infurnari from digital to print with an over-sized first issue. Five friends just out of college bury a time capsule. When they later go to dig it up, they discover instead a bunker with letters from their future selves, talking about how their actions destroyed the world. It’s fascinating science fiction with a distinctly human component and recognizable characters I want to know more about.


One Response to “Good Comics at the Comic Shop February 12: Beautiful Darkness”

  1. James Schee Says:

    I’d recommend Charles Soule’s Letter 44 #4. A great sci-fi series as an incoming president learns that seven years earlier, NASA discovered an alien construction project in the asteroid belt. A crew of heroic astronauts was sent to investigate, and they’re nearing the conclusion of their epic journey.

    Good mystery of what the aliens are up to, but also a great look into how the astronauts have formed their own little society on board the ship.

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