Saturday, February 16, 2008


original versions published 11/13/07 in The Miami Herald

Alice in Sunderland. Bryan Talbot. Dark Horse. 328 pages.

"Sprawling" and "rollicking" may not be terms often used to describe historical works, but this one, actually labeled "an entertainment" by Talbot, the Grand Master of modern British comics, certainly sprawls and rollicks. Ostensibly a history of the Sunderland region, an area overflowing with cultural, political and religious significance, Talbot, the relentless genius behind "The Adventures of Luther Arkwright" and "The Tale of One Bad Rat," weaves in a dazzling array of contrasting and complimentary threads, including biographical revelations of Lewis Carroll and guest appearances by comics guru Scott McCloud, English vaudeville stars and several variations of the author himself throughout this multimedia tour de force. It's no wonder that even crusty punters like Warren Ellis and Alan Moore bow to the brilliance of Talbot. If you're already a fan, grab his gossipy collection of out-of-school tales, "The Naked Artist," illustrated by Hunt Emerson, a bawdy and scatological peek behind the curtains of comic conventions and other lunatic gatherings.

Ronald Reagan: A Graphic Biography. Andrew Helfer, Steve Buccellato, Joe Staton. Hill and Wang. 112 pages. Helfer, a veteran editor and the scripter of the graphic biography of Malcolm X, turns his attention to the near-mythical Reagan. The art of journeymen Buccellato and Staton ably supports the narrative as the future governor and president wends his way through show business and politics. Partisans of either stripe might find the story lacking, but Helfer is solidly supported by research and biographies, and the facts of the articulate and charismatic Reagan's life are well-documented and interestingly portrayed.

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