Sunday, August 7, 2011

GN Reviews

League of Extraordinary Gentlemen
The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Volume III: Century 1969. Alan Moore, Kevin O'Neill. Top Shelf. 80 pages. $9.95.
Moore is a synthesist, expropriating bits and pieces of characters, legends and life, then crafting amazing stories studded with premises, plots and undiscovered subtexts inspired by this “found” material. LOEG began as a relatively conventional super-group of fictional characters and now, freed of corporate restraints and ”the conventions of boys' adventure comics," (according to Moore), has morphed into a dense, meta-textural multi-era tale. This latest, possibly penultimate chapter mostly takes place in 1969 Swinging London, mixing occult, the music scene, criminals and, as always, politics, into a heady psychedelic brew. While you may not necessarily need the copious annotations provided online here ( and in other places the numerous appearances of fictional favorites, obscurities and real-life analogues deepen the enjoyment of this ripping yarn. Kudos also to the faithful and steadfast Kevin O’Neill whose startling art is more than equal to Moore’s relentlessly clever script.

Seeds. Ross Mackintosh. Com.x. 80 pages. $10.99
There have been other graphic novels devoted to the terminal effects of this malignant disease on the family, most notably Harvey Pekar, Joyce Brabnner and Frank Stack’s Our Cancer Year. This one, Yorkshire designer Mackintosh’s first graphic novel, unambiguously recounts his father’s decline and demise in simple and relatable terms. It’s intimate and accessible, clearly told and honest. Powerful and palpable in ways that’s hard to fake, this sober story of the slow loss of a beloved parent and the effect on his grown-up son and other family members is an auspicious debut.

Blood Work: An Original Hollows Graphic Novel
Blood Work. Kim Harrison. Pedro Maia, Gemma Magno. Del Rey. 176 pages. $23.
I wasn’t familiar with the Hollows series, of which this is a supposedly freestanding chapter, and this untold tale is pretty inaccessible to the uninitiated, though I slogged through it, undeterred. The art is cutesy enough, perhaps, for its intended audience but ihe storytelling was flat and average, though the coloring and tones were pretty. Maybe devotees of this series, with its slender witches, succulent vampires, young-adult angst and sexual tension will find it appealing. I hope so, because I found it on the level of amateur fan fiction.

Sweet Tooth Vol. 3: Animal Armies
Sweet Tooth Vol. 3: Animal Armies. Jeff Lemire. Vertigo. 144 pages. $14.99. 
Rising star Jeff Lemire breathes fresh life into the reliable fantasy trope of post-apocalyptic survival in this yarn, collected from the monthly comic book. The drama, mystery and tragedy that befall its humans and human-animal hybrids is illustrated in a loose but evocative style by Canadian Lemire. He deftly avoids dopey melodrama and other predictable stuff as the story unfolds in a smart and engaging manner. The violence is never gratuitous and always shocking and integral to the plot in this surprisingly entertaining adult comic.

Fighting American (Simon, Joe)
Fighting American. Joe Simon, Jack Kirby. Titan Books. 200 pages. $19.95. 
Simon & Kirby spawned several putatively patriotic heroes in the mold of their original and most famous red-white-and-blue Avenger, Captain America. This chap started his superheroics fighting comic Commies during the postwar Red Scare. But after slack sales, the creative pair retooled their approach and the stolid patriotic icon (plus putative sidekick, Speedboy) then fought a variety of comically bizarre and zany adversaries with punny monikers like Yafata’s Moustache. This collection includes the character’s complete run as well as a previously unpublished tale, all lovingly restored. This may be a footnote to comics history but even less than stellar Simon & Kirby is worth a look.

Krazy Kat and The Art of George Herriman: A Celebration
Krazy Kat and the Art Of George Herriman. Craig Yoe. Abrams ComicArts. 176 pages. $29.95. Though some may best recall the character from King Features' beloved series of antic animated shorts produced by Gene Deitch in the early sixties, the funny feline enjoyed a very long run in newspapers. The gorgeous volume includes essays by comics historians and creators (including Calvin & Hobbes’ reclusive Bill Watterson and poet e.e. cummings) as well as generous servings of sketches, strips, original art and more.
 Originally published in the Miami Herald