December 22, 2009

Fahrenheit 451 by Bradbury/Hamilton (Hill/Wang, 2009)

I've seen a mixed bag of classic novels illustrated in comic book form. The fact that Bradbury lent his voice to the introduction of this graphic novel speaks volumes--especially if you look at his skepticism of Truffaut's film adaptation of the same. Hamilton gives the novel a timeless quality that says this could be in the now, or it could be yet to come. In an age where we step closer to the wall culture (absorbed by the screens and interactive appliances) that Bradbury describes--Fahrenheit 451 is certainly a novel that speaks to our times--a prophecy if you will--and Hamilton translates the novel into images (often times tongue-in-cheek) brilliantly.

The Homecoming by Bradbury/McKean (Collins Design, 2006)

A fan of Bradbury and McKean both I had high expectations for this illustrated novel. Probably too high. In many ways McKeans artwork is similar to that I remember in my boyhood copy of Bradbury's "The Halloween Tree." And with "The Homecoming" it's neither McKean or Bradbury who fail to shine. It's still a great story. And McKeans illustrations are top notch. I think my greater disappointment is with the typography. Unlike standard graphic novel forms--the type is set more like a children's book, and the font style is forced upon the reader. What happens then is a disconnect between story and artwork.

December 21, 2009

Batman: The Killing Joke (Moore/Bolland, DC, 1988)

Written by Alan Moore (Watchmen, V for Vendetta) and drawn by Brian Bolland (Judge Dredd), Batman: The Killing Joke presents the complex psychological relationship between Batman and the Joker. The graphic novel also gives some insight into the origin of the Joker. Like Batman, it is life's tragic twists and turns that deliver a former engineer on the down-and-outs into a situation which will spawn his new persona. In this novel we get a sense of the capacity for violence by both Batman and The Joker. Recommended reading for Batman fans along with Arkham Asylum: Serious House on Serious Earth (Morrison/McKean, DC, 1989)

December 20, 2009

Children of Men (Alfonso Cuarón, 2006)

In the novel "Children of Men" PD James leans on the issue of spiritual bankruptcy and apathy with men today as a possible cause for our future demise. For her, man’s conduct in the sight of God, has been so atrocious that God may punish man by rendering them infertile. In the scenario the only one who will lift man out of this condition is God, by some miraculous act.

Alfonso Cuarón takes a very different approach. Seeing the fallen condition of man as intellectual, yes, but also overtly political.

Alfonso Cuarón is quoted as saying, “There's nothing more beautiful than elusiveness in cinema.” In this politically charged film he weaves issues “elusively” under the surface of the main story line. While immigration and infertility are spoken of in the foreground; assisted suicide, pollution, religious freedom, loneliness and mental health are all issues the flow through the background of this film.

Cuarón also provides visual cues linking to famous new events such as 9/11, Abu Graib, Guantanimo and the death of Princess Di.

Both book and film are powerful in their own rights. Both call us to re-examine what it means to be human. What it means to be both children of men; and children of God.

Control (Anton Corbijn, 2007)

"This is a crisis I knew how to face. Destroying the balance I'd kept."

Through the eyes of many Ian Curtis represents the dark voice of Joy Division--the band who took its name from the legion of women forced to provide pleasure to Nazi soldiers during the second world war.

Curtis' lyrics place one in an arena of loneliness and abandon. Questioning the life God has given him. And wondering when God will reach down and pull him out of the misery of relationships, financial condition, depression and disease.

Rather than wait for God...Ian sought his own way out. His wrestling for control (as the movie is aptly titled) over.

The movie places things askew to some degree as it is seen through the lens of his wife and their relationship, which was turbulent at best.

An understanding of the music and the back story of Joy Division and New Order (the band which emerged out of the ashes of Ian's death) helps provide balance to this flick.

A movie that fans will find of some interest.

December 12, 2009

The 9/11 Report by Sid Jacobson & Ernie Colon (Hill and Wang, 2006)

This offering comes from two men with comic experience. Sid Jacobsen once served as managing editor at Harvey Comics, he created comic characters such as Richie Rich, and later worked at Marvel. Ernie Colon worked at Harvey, Marvel and DC with comics such as Green Lantern, Wonder Woman and The Flash.

December 7, 2009

Swallow Me Whole by Nate Powell (Top Shelf, 2008)

Nate Powell offers a riveting portrayal of a two adolescents wrestling with varying degrees of dementia. We are first introduced to the grandmother and her hallucinations. Then we find that Ruth and her brother Perry experience varying levels of hallucinations. What seem like innocent fantasies begin to interfere with life as Ruth and Perry enter their teens. Perry learns to cope with his hallucinations. Ruth does not. What seemed to be a magical tie between grandmother and granddaughter--evolves into a life-hindering issue for the young girl. Powell takes the reader into the mind of Ruth. The reader experiences the joy of the fantasies of the girl Ruth; and how the fairy-tale world is not so readily accepted as she steps towards adulthood. Powell as author and artists presents a moving story of dementia and its impacts on all those around.

December 6, 2009

air: Letters from Lost Countries by Wilson/Perker (Vertigo, 2009)

"Air" is an action thriller in comic form. The beautiful, mysterious sky waitress. The handsome, mysterious love interest/spy. A plot line that always has you guessing who is who. A graphic novel akin to "Bourne Identity."

"Night Fisher" by R. Kikuo Johnson (Fantagraphics, 2005)

Disaffection. Disconnection. Disassociation. There is a way things should be. We grow up under the care of parents. But sometimes parents face struggles--marriages, finances. We grow up under the umbrella of authorities--in our community, in our schools. But sometimes we rebel against these authorities. We learn to work the system. Success, at least the on paper variety, can be achieved even in light of disrespect for authority and alienation of one's self from the community they move in. In "Night Fisher" the kid who is set-up to succeed fails. The kid who by all means should fail...succeeds. What we expect to happen in this novel, is not what plays out. Youth long for role models, they long for affection and success. But reality is a far different coin. Powerful black-and-white illustrations present this compelling tale of Loren and Shane and those they associate with.

"Y: The Last Man - Book 1: Unmanned" Vaughan/Guerra/Marzan (Vertigo, 2002)

Interesting premise in the era of H1Ni. The premise: a plague that wipes out all people with a Y chromosome befalls mankind. All men die. All...that is...except one man and his male pet monkey. Why? That is the big question that is left unanswered in this first installment of "Y: The Last Man." It is interesting how the novel presents women, in their attempt to cope with life without men. Who will rule? Who will provide companionship? How will the race continue? All questions that emerge in this graphic novel. The artwork is fairly standard comic book form. The story is compelling enough to keep you reading. And certainly you will want to move on to Book 2 after reading this.

"Pride of Baghdad" by Brian K Vaughan & Niko Henrichon (2006, Vertigo)

This is a brilliant work. Henrichon's artwork is fantastic. Vaughan's story is riveting. This is a parable. A tale told about animals who relish in their captivity and once set free discover that the freedom they once long, is not as delightful as they might have fact freedom is fatal. This tale is based on a true story of several lions who escaped the Baghdad Zoo after the city was shelled by American infantry. The animals reluctantly step outside of the "comfort" of their cages and into life of newfound freedom on the streets of Baghdad. The story parallels that of the Iraqi people who grew comfortable under the reign of their keeper Saddam. They envisioned a life of freedom. America sought to free them of their tyrant ruler so that they could achieve this dream. But the realities of freedom prove much more of a burden then expected. And a certain longing for the life prior--even though a tyrant was ruling over them--returns. Powerful material on the pages of this graphic novel.

December 5, 2009

"Mijeong" by Byun Byung-Jun (NBM, 2003)

I have been absorbing a number of graphic novels lately. The artwork in Mijeong is amazing. A manhwa or Korean comic, loosely inspired by Wenders "Wings of Desire." The content, however, much darker...disturbing. Young girls selling their bodies for money to indulge in shopping. Old men who desire them. Kids who have lost touch...or just don't care. The suicide of an old man. The murder of a principal. The suicide of a young girl. Her sister and her friends debate over what to do with the body. I watched "River's Edge" recently. Similar vibe. Powerful drawings which portray a landscape without joy or hope.