Tuesday, April 27, 2010

A Trio of Graphic Novel Reviews

Dear Reader,

I am writing to let you know that I have recently written, count 'em, three reviews about, count 'em, three graphic novels. Enclosed are the three links, together with quotations of the first sentence of each of my reviews and maybe a few other juicy little morsels.

Give It Up! and Other Short Stories by Franz Kafka, illustrated by Peter Kuper.
"This was my introduction to Kafka... I, too, can't believe it." I really, really have been meaning to get to it -- to The Castle or The Trial or even something by Alan Bennett. I certainly don't want to waste my life (though I do read a little Joyce now and then) so I will jump to attention soon. But really, what drew me to this collection was the magnificent art. As for the stories...I don't want to be disrespectful towards a master writer so I will reserve primary judgment for now.

The TOON Treasury of Classic Children's Comics, edited by Art Spiegelman and Françoise Mouly
"As any jackass who's read a few graphic novels knows, comics have been through some rough times." A nice smartass, attention-grabbing opening sentence if you ask me, though perhaps I ranted on a bit too long about comics in general at the expense of the task at hand. I also included a poem, "Ode to the Disney Ducks" by Carl Barks.

Whiteout, written by Greg Rucka and illustrated by Steve Lieber
is a fun, nothing-special thriller -- that just so happens to be set at the bottom of the motha-f****** Earth!
" Could I really add anything to that, even if I wanted to? Yes, obviously; read the goddamn review!

Though I called them so, really none of the three qualify as a graphic novel in the purest sense of the term. Give It Up! is a collection of adapted short stories, The TOON Treasury is a collection of tales taken from old children's comic books, and Whiteout is simply a reprint of the four issues of the original miniseries originally published in 1998. So "graphic novel" is a loose and sometimes silly term. Wikipedia, in its article on graphic novels, has a section, "Criticism of the term," that features quotes from a number of notable comics figure. My favorite comes from Alan Moore -- as outspoken as ever, yet right on the money:
It's a marketing term ... that I never had any sympathy with. The term 'comic' does just as well for me. ... The problem is that 'graphic novel' just came to mean 'expensive comic book' and so what you'd get is people like DC Comics or Marvel Comics — because 'graphic novels' were getting some attention, they'd stick six issues of whatever worthless piece of crap they happened to be publishing lately under a glossy cover and call it The She-Hulk Graphic Novel....

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