Graphic Novel Review: Land of the Sons

Land of the Sons coverLand of the Sons by Gipi. Fantagraphics, 2018. 9781683960775. 288pp.

Two boys eek out a living in a post-apocalyptic landscape under the tutelage of their father. Their father shows them no love, and at the beginning of the book, as they skin the dog they managed to kill in a fly-infested swamp, one of them considers skinning their father, too. They trade for food, they fish with dynamite, and are told not to touch the corpses they occasionally find. After the boys leave home, they encounter men much worse than their father.

Gipi’s black and white graphic novel is amazing in ways that snuck up on me. He draws the characters and their world in what at first glance looked like a bunch of black scribbles, but is in fact an expressive, brutal masterpiece. The boys harsh father clearly loves them, but is raising them to be uncaring and amoral because that’s the only way they’ll survive. He hasn’t taught them to read but keeps a journal. At one point Gipi even gives us a look at its pages, through the boys’ eyes, at text we can’t also read — an experience that reminded me of looking at art like Cy Twombly’s Untitled (NYC) (1968).)
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Graphic Novel Review: Girl Town

Girl Town CoverGirl Town by Carolyn Nowak. Top Shelf, 2018. 9781603094382. 156pp.

Not a graphic novel per se, but a collection of five excellent and entertaining comic stories of varied length that, together, are one of my favorite “graphic novels” of 2018.  Not many books have a first line this good (atop the first panel of the title story): “I have lived with Ashley and Jolene since we all got kicked out of astronaut school for being too good looking to be sent to space.” Three women make zines and clean houses while having a low-level conflict and friendship with the three women next door. The “I” of that sentence also harbors a serious crush on one of her neighbors that is oh-so-poorly expressed. It’s a great story, and like Vera Brosgol’s Anya’s Ghost, it’s drawn in purple.  “Radishes” is an emotional tale of friendship and shopping with tigers and a magical food stall. In “Diana’s Electric Tongue” the broken-hearted title character orders a sex robot (it also stores her secrets) and refuses to be embarrassed about/by it.

I left the library’s copy around the house and I hope that my teenage daughter secretly picked it up when I wasn’t looking. Now I’m off to track down some of the issues of Lumberjanes that Nowak illustrated, plus her comics/prose combo Buffy the Vampire Slayer: New School Nightmare, which was just published.

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Graphic Novel Review: little moments of love

catana comics coverlittle moments of love: a catana comics collection by Catana Chetwynd. Andrews McMeel, 2018. 9781449492977.

Catana Chetwynd’s comics about her relationship with her boyfriend John started out with a discussion of the mere-exposure effect!  That alone would have been enough to keep me reading, though there’s a lot more to love — the comics are sweet and silly and filled with butt jokes. And it looks like they’re at the heart of a merchandise empire that I envy — the strip below is available as a print on canvas.

catana comics image

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Graphic Novel Review: Out in the Open

Out in the Open coverOut in the Open by Javi Rey, based on the novel by Jesús Carrasco. Translated from Spanish by Lawrence Schimel.  SelfMadehero, 2018. 9781910593479.

A young boy flees his village in an attempt to escape the abuse and violence he suffers at the hands of his father and the local sheriff. Men pursue him across a dry wasteland, but luckily he meets a kind, old man who offers help. When the sheriff’s men catch up with them, the old man suffers.

The boy’s nightmares are terrifying. At their center is the demonic, red-faced sheriff, and the boy naked or helpless before him. (In the worst of his dreams, his father leaves him for the sheriff.)

The colors Rey uses for the desert scenes made me feel the heat and dryness, and perfectly set up the hope-filled final scene.

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Graphic Novel Review: Mami

mami_coverMami by Diigii Daguna. Peow Studio, 2018. 9789187325403. 64pp.

Detective Haiyan Nieto catches the thief, Goyong, who he’s been after for years. Goyong soon disappears, but only after making it clear that he wants to be found by his favorite detective.

Daguna’s short graphic novel has on old school manga style, bright colors, a touch of romance, and enough pages about Pinoy food to send me out in search of a restaurant. (I still haven’t found a place in Seattle that serves Taho, but I will.)

Be sure to check out the other fantastic looking books by Peowstudio.

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Graphic Novel Review: Dementia 21

Dementia 21 coverDementia 21 by Shintaro Kago. Translator Rachel Matt Thorne. Fantagraphics, 2018.  9781683961062. 294pp. Includes an interview with Kago by Gary Groth, and a few piece of surreal, full-color art.

Seventeen strange and humorous tales about home health aide Yukie Sakai. She tries her best to earn good feedback scores while helping her elderly patients, but that’s not easy when they’re cursed, when the number of her patients multiplies endlessly, and when one old woman’s dementia and super powers combine to explode everyone she forgets. The tale of AI powered dentures was totally creepy, and it was followed by a purely funny story in which Yukie tries to care for an elderly giant hero, Redman, who once defended Earth from evil aliens. Recommended if you like manga in-jokes, and if you laugh at the same time you cringe.

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Graphic Novel Review: Piero

Piero by Baudoin. Translation and Introduction by Matt Madden. New York Review Comics, 2018. 9781681372969. 125pp.

Piero coverThis somewhat autobiographical graphic novel follows Baudoin (Momo) and his brother Pierre (Piero) as they develop their drawing talents. A fantastic moment early on, in which an alien needs dreams to fuel his spaceship, is followed by a powerful blast of energy from his gun to erase the memory of the alien’s visit. Later, after the brothers draw castles together, they fill the page with battling knights and huge explosions. Most of the time the brothers draw, hang out, and dream together.

The book is filled with beautifully rendered childhood moments, many of them about being lost in creativity. (There are also a few moments of palpable childhood terror.) The energy evident in the action-packed scenes seems to be lurk behind every panel.

Madden’s introduction makes me want to see more graphic albums by Baudoin done in brush work, which is apparently his trademark. This book was drawn with a Rotring pen, but it’s a beautiful example of what a gifted storyteller can accomplish with such a simple tool.

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Graphic Novel Review: Gideon Falls Volume 1

Gideon Falls Volume 1: The Black Barn by Jeff Lemire, Andrea Sorrentino, and Dave Stewart. Image, 2018. 9781534308527. Collects #1 – #6. Publisher’s Rating: M / Mature.

Gideon Falls Volume 1 coverGideon Falls is a quiet little town, but something is seriously wrong there. The new pastor seems to sense it even before he’s under suspicion for murder. Norton knows it’s evil incarnate, and he’s trying to figure it out by combing through the city’s garbage and cataloging his finds. But he’s just been released from the hospital, and his therapist is about ready to have him committed again. Some think a holy war is underway. At the center of everything is the terrifying image of a black barn.

Lemire has been one of my favorite comics creators since the publication of Essex County. Kudos to his writing, Andrea Sorrentino’s shadowy art, and Dave Stewart’s colors in this volume. I filled my teenage years with supernatural horror, and maybe that’s why graphic novels in this genre don’t usually hold much appeal for me — they rarely freak me out. This one did.

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Graphic Novel Review: The Lost Path

The Lost Path coverThe Lost Path by Amélie Fléchais & Jonathan Garnier, illustrated by Amélie Fléchais. Lion Forge / Cub House, 2017. 9781941302446. Published as an oversized hardcover, which the art deserves.

Three kids get lost in a forest with only a treasure map and their overactive imaginations. (One kids sees everything as robots.) There are many strange creatures including dancing porcupines, a giant sheep, and the coolest looking owl that’s ever been drawn.

As the book switches back and forth between color and black-and-white illustrations, and throughout it left me with the sense that I was missing something, but in a wonderful way that will have me re-reading it over and over. It’s magical, and will become one of those graphic novels that I give every kid I know.

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