Thursday, July 24, 2014
When I read Youth is Wasted it was an overcast day. The rains have been coming and going just like the sun. The world around me felt like it was amberized and everything was slowly coming to a still. It’s the perfect day for contemplation and to reflect on what’s been going on with my life.
This has been a busy year for me: my girlfriend of almost five years--three of which we lived together—broke up with me, I've finally come to terms with my sexual/gender identity, and one of my best friends is moving to Oregon.
There’s another thing that’s been bugging me too: I moved from Ohio to California to be with my girlfriend--now ex--and I've been living in a state that’s so far away from home and my family, but it had one big purpose: to be with my girlfriend. Now that that’s gone, what do I do now to fill that one big purpose? That question has been hovering over my head for a while now. It’s a frightening thing to experience and deal with but there’s an air of excitement that comes with it too.
I brought all these feelings and thoughts and reflections to my reading of Youth is Wasted; and I’m glad it did.
Reading Youth is Wasted while having all these ongoing made the stories hit closer home—more than usual. Whether it’s dealing with the aftermath of a break-up,” Expectations” and” I Don’t Love Anyone”, or facing a lonely winter existence in “Because I Have To” or feeling like a perpetual fuck-up and trying to figure out who you are, “Abbey’s Road” and “Who Are You, Jesus?” All these stories hit me hard because I've been in most of these situations or have felt what Sciver’s characters felt or have known someone like them. It was also nice seeing the things I've felt and dealt with through someone else; made me feel a less alone. Reading Youth is Wasted was also a somewhat a cathartic read and made me to further contemplate everything I've been through recently.
And all this works because Sciver is great at creating believable characters and situations to put them in. There’s nothing that feels forced or pigeon-holed, every part has its place and it’s all tightly put together. Now this is years of Sciver working on his form and with this collection we see him at his best—though he’s getting better and better with every release.
Sciver’s linework reminds me of Zak Sally’s linework. What I mean by that is not in a stylished-way but more in their ability to show their characters’ interior (emotions, state-of-mind) through their characters’ exterior (their physical bodies); we see their inner-conflicts and depressions and melancholia and the like slowly changing their physical appearance to the point they physically become their motions. We see it through how they talk and move through their space. There’s also a shaky quality to the line that makes it seem like Sciver’s characters are about to fall apart, that the smallest thing will completely tear them from the seams and their world will tumble down; and most of the time their world does tumble and Sciver doesn't pull the punches when it happens.
The best thing Sciver is good at is not his believable characters or situations, or his linework, but his ability to capture a place. In “Because I Have To”, I was sucked into world the of the protagonist, Grant, lives in. I could feel the late fall weather, the wind, the leaves being blown, I inhabited the space that Grant was in. Another example is “Expectations”, seeing that mid-western/southern aesthetic/winter reminded me of home. Sciver was able to suck me into that place and make seem so homely and lived in and familiar; that’s an amazing thing to do. Not a lot of cartoonists can capture a place or setting and fully engulf you in it.
I can honestly say this my comic of the year. I say that because of all the baggage and feelings I brought to it. Now, if I wasn't dealing with all these things would it be my comic of the year? I don't know and I don't really care. I'm just really happy that I read Youth is Wasted and that cartoonist's like Sciver exist and continues to create stories.
Thursday, May 8, 2014
Heads up: Quai d'Orsay (Weapons of Mass Diplomacy) was originally going to be reviewed by Ralf (who couldn't be bothered anymore;-), so I (Lawrence B Vossler) will finish it for him. The few paragraph summary was written by him and I'm leaving it untouched and will pick up after it.
Well, it's a street in Paris where the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs is located and has become a metonomy for the latter.
- Frankly, I'm not a francophile and don't know anything about the inner workings of French politics, so why should I care?
Great question. For one, Quai d'Orsay won the Grand Prize for best album at the Angouleme Comics Festival in 2013, which alone is reason enough to pick it up (More precisely, it was the second part of the original French version. SelfMadeHero are publishing it as a one-volume edition). But more importantly, you can replace "Quai d'Orsay" with "Harry S. Truman Building" or "King Charles Street" or wherever else your respective Foreign Ministry or actually any other political office is located since the machinations behind politics Lanzac describes here are universal.
Lanzac is the pseudonym of an assistant of former French foreign secretary (and then prime minister) Villepin, who famously led the coalition of nations who were against the war the US began against Iraq in 2003. - Ralf
Quai d'Orsay explores the beginnings and built up to the coalition through the eyes of various characters and we read about their contributions to the coalition. Quai d'Orsay is also one hell of a funny comic; it's a comic that relies heavily on comedy.
Quai d'Orsay relies heavily on dialogue. There are times where the word bubbles just fill the page and panels and it overtakes the characters and readers. Just like the break-neck pacing the comic moves in, the dialogue comes at us at an even faster speed. Terse and hard-hitting, Lanzac's dialogue feels like it could fit into a crime/hard-boiled novel. The image below shows us how overwhelming and fast the dialogue can come at you. Blain does a smart job by taking borders away from the panels, this allows the character and dialogue to breath and move around without restriction. The borderless panel also gives it a stream-of-consciousness feel to it, that we're moving from one flow of thought to the next with De Vorms, and it gives us a sneak peek into his thought process. Even when the dialogue is within the panels, it feels like it's going to burst through the panel borders and overwhelm the page.
Though we're being pushed forward at break-neck speed throughout the comic, Lanzac and Blain know that this speed can make burn a reader out. Lanzac and Blain take little detours or have character moments that allows us to breath and take in what we just read and explore the characters more. The image below Lanzac and Blain do a beautiful job exploring an aspect of De Vorm we rarely see. Lanzac and Blain take a step-back from the chaos that surrounds Quai d'Orsay. When De Vorms meets up with Jeffrey (Colin Powell) they have a somewhat terse conversion about what's going on their lives and the politics around them. Right away we see that De Vorms & Jeffrey lose their defensive postures and they're comforted by each other. Though this page is used to show what type of relationship De Vorms has with Jeffrey (which is important later on), it's also used as a breathing space between the chaos and insanity. Lanzac and Blain uses close-up shots to show how intimate these men are and to drive how comfortable they are around each other. It works beautifully and allows us, the readers, to relax with them.
As a teenage I used to watch a show called Fist of the North Star. The main protagonist, Kenshiro, uses a move called Hokuto Hyakuretsu-ken (which translates to Hundred Cracking Fist of the North Star). It's a technique which "consists of numerous rapid punches that result in the illusion of several arms appearing at the same time" that Kenshiro uses to obliterate his enemy. When in Hokuto Hyakuretsu-ken mode, Kenshiro releases a battle cry which goes like, “AH-TATATATATA!" and finishes off with a “You are already dead." The funny thing is that throughout Quai d'Orsay Villepin is portrayed in almost an exact way Kenshiro is during Hokuto Hyakuretsu-ken. It makes me wonder if either Lanzac or Blain or both were influenced by Fist of the North Star and this is their take on Hokuto Hyakurestu-ken. Which would make sense because when De Vorms goes into that mode, he usually gets the final word. In a way, he's figuratively obliterating everyone with his knowledge, and shows them time and time again that he's one to three steps ahead of everyone. Then again, this just could be ramblings of a mind-addled reviewer whose spent too much of his life reading and watching Fist of the North Star. Influenced or not, Lanzac and Blain have created a stunning comic that shows us the complex world of French and international foreign politics through a Pythonesque view. - Lawrence B Vossler
Sunday, April 20, 2014
Eurocomics USA Invasion's Facebook page. Of the larger publishers Dark Horse seems to have jumped onto the bandwagon too. They gave us translations of Blacksad, Milo Manara stories and Jeremiah to name a few. The last one there is by Hermann, of which Dark Horse has recently announced they will also translate "Blood Ties", "Manhattan Beach 1957" and "The Girl From Ipanema" and publish these stories in one book aptly titled "Trilogy USA". These stories are a little older, which makes it all the more surprising they also announced Hermann's latest "Station 16", that saw a French released in January 2014. I really enjoyed reading Station 16 in Dutch, so I decided I'd write a review right away to get you all excited for the Dark Horse release in October.
Station 16 is an abandoned outpost on Nova Zembla, a Russian island in the Arctic Sea. During the Cold War (1955-1990) the Russians used Nova Zembla to perform nuclear tests intensively. Not just random tests, no... tests with the power 4,000 times more powerful than the bombs that were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki to end World War II. This Tsar Bomba had the power of 50 megatons, compared to 15 kilotons for Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The heaviest bomb the USA used was the Castle Bravo in 1954 with a weight of 'just' 15 megaton. There's a lot more information about Nova Zembla, nuclear bombs and the Cold War in the back of Station 16. The purpose for this is to illustrate how Yves H. (Hermann's son and author of Station 16) got the idea for the story of this forgotten piece of Russian polar region.
Now on with the book, but before that, to get you into the mood, check out the book's video trailer.
This book by Hermann and Yves H. is one very special book. Yves H. is a writer here that knows how to draw you into the story and piles mystery upon mystery. Page by page you are wondering what is going on and what the given clues will lead to. What will the men (and you as a reader) discover. Piling up clues and mysteries like this could lead to an unsatisfactory ending. Not here though... the end is well... it's... I'll tell you it's quite scary and horrific!
Hermann also does a pretty good job here. He knows how to set the scene with his beautiful paintings. Hermann creates these drawings that leave you anguished. The vast empty spaces, a nuclear explosion, a snowstorm, hungry for human flesh polar bears, jars that contain human parts, blood etc. etc. There is just too much to applaud. I'm not sure if this is his best work, but it's still pretty damned good.
Dark Horse have a winner on their hands! Station 16 is a book you will cherish. A book like this doesn't come around very often. It's based off of historical events, but it adds some twisted mysteries that in the end will leave you anguished and horrified. Highly recommended!
Station 16 will be published by Dark Horse in October 2014 | $24.99 | ISBN: 9781616554811
Monday, April 14, 2014
|Edition : Oversized Deluxe Edition|
120 pages - 10 x 13 inches - Color
$34.95 - £19.99
Benito Mambo's release date is April 30 2014. So when that date comes, buy it here!
And thus starts Benito's adventure as a Mambo dancer. Right away Durieux shows us a peek of the world that Benito inhabits. A world that's very restricting and exhausting and filled with "adulthood". Benito wants nothing to do with that world and because of that, he is thrown into a pit to die. Within the pit Bentio is visited by his unknown savior:
As you can tell Benito Mambo is fill with outlandish caricatures and situations. Actually, almost every page, every panel is filled with outlandish characters and situations. Durieux almost never gives us time to relax and keeps us moving from joke to another, one crazy situation to another, one outlandish character to another. One would think that Durieux would run out of jokes/situations/characters but he doesn't and he keeps bombarding us with them. This bombardment never overwhelms the reader; it's actually quite essential to the story. It matches the almost breakneck speed of Benito's journey and quick-draw dialogue of the characters.
Durieux can really build up to a joke. Something that might seem as throw away comes back with a hilarious fury. When Durieux is not building a a joke, he can pull off amazing six to nine panel gags that leave you laughing for a while. Each joke and gag feeds of each other and builds on top of each other, so by the end you have multiple jokes going on, each running off each other; it's amazing to read.
Benito Mambo is also filled with just beautiful single splash pages. Durieux masterfully builds up to these splash pages that when the reader comes across it, POW! You're taken aback by its beauty and color. This level of beauty is something we see regularly throughout Benito Mambo especially with the vivid and at lush colors that Durieux uses. Durieux's colors beautifully capture the everyday absurdity that these characters go through.
Even with this problem, Benito Mambo is still worth your time. It brings to the table a magical fable about mambo dancing, humor and individuality through a absurdest filter. Benito Mambo is a great spring read and a comic that will you leaving smiling for the entire day.
Thursday, April 3, 2014
We all want to change something in the world, whether it be within our family or on a more macro level or both, for better or worse. In Genesis Edmondson, Sampson & Wordie explore the that issue and how far a person is willing to push themselves to do so. Edmondson, Sampson & Wordie also use this to investigate and explore what would happen if someone was given absolute power to do so and how creative and destructive it can become to the world and to one's self.
Right from page one we're given a good amount of information about our main character, Adam. Adam is a child of creativity, he creates and transforms his ordinary blocks into something more substantial, more tangible. We're also given that his parents instilled in him the need to change the world, to leave his mark, they were building him up to be something more than the rest. As Adam gets older, he uses his creativity and his need to make to change the world through building a church and becoming a preacher. What better of a way to change the world around you by becoming a man of the holy word but things never work out the way you want them to.
As the story progresses Adam receives a special power that allows him to change the world, to make the world his own building blocks. Adams now has the ability to create whatever enters his mind and to change reality into his own. And what starts out as a something special becomes a nightmare.
Reading Genesis is like enter a surreal and dreamlike landscape that twists and turns and gets bent out-of-shape as we keep reading; always changing and surprising us. What we think we know as real gets questioned multiple times. The conscious and the subconscious invade Adam's waking life and twist his world into something beautiful and horrific. Whatever personal and open space the world had is now melded together. Adam's landscape becomes something out of a David Lynch and Cronenberg film.
|I love little touches like these. Sampson & Wordie are showing us a landscape|
that has become personified, that has changed into something
more insidious and personal.
|Again Sampson & Wordie show us a world in turmoil and a world|
personified through Adam's subconscious.
Sampson is an interesting artist because of the many different influences I pick up from her work; incidental or not. Looking at her line I see many different artists and cartoonists being brought to life: I see the loose, abstract line-work of Alberto Breccia during his later years as a cartoonist, the wild yet mathematically structured composition of Sergio Toppi, the sketchy and scratchy aesthetic of Egon Schiele backed by Sampson's eye and hand as an architecture. Sampson is able to bring all these different visuals and distill it into something unique that comes alive in Genesis.
Jason Wordie does a beautiful job matching those unique visuals with a very soft palette that gives the narrative and Sampson's artwork more emotion depth and feeling. Reading through some interviews with Sampson and Edmondson, I see that they asked for coloring to be influenced by Hiroshi Yoshida. This is a very interesting choice because looking through Yoshida's work, his use of color is a bit strange but it gives hie paintings and woodblocks a certain emotional feeling. It's through this idea that Wordie used to color Genesis and give it that same unique feeling that you would get from a Yoshida painting/woodblock. With all the destruction that takes place, there's a feeling of placidity that washes over the reader and I don't think that would have happened if Wordie used a different color palette.
|There's an odd calmness even in the most destructive scenes.|
Friday, March 21, 2014
Edition : Oversized Deluxe Edition
112 pages - 9.4 x 12.6 inches - Color
$49.95 - £29.99
The comic gets released on March 26. So when the 26 comes you can buy it here!
I was skeptical about it but that skepticism disappeared when I was a few pages in and found something new, something different than most the space operas I've read before. The Metabarons brought me a sense of excitement, wonder, and awe, it's also a series full of sadness, paranoia and betrayal. It took me to a whole different universe filled with technological cults, mysticism and esotericism. Showed me a unique anthropological look at the different cultures that inhabit the universe but filtered through the mystical symbolic madness of Jodorowsky.
Metabarons Genesis: Castaka starts off with Baron Berard of Castaka fighting his daughter's (Edna) husband for succession. Also, the beginning of Castaka take places between the pages 22-26 of The Metabarons and Das Pastoras does an amazing job taking those pages and re-imagines them into his own vision.
|Das Pastoras is amazing with facial expressions. He's able to portray a range of |
emotions through his characters' face.
Das Pastoras's artwork just shines throughout this comic. As you can see from the images above, he does an amazing job combining Richard Corben and Moebius into his own vision. Das Pastora's use of watercolors and his mastery of the anatomy brings the visuals and visual storytelling to another level in Metabarons Genesis: Castaka.
One problem I did have with Das Pastoras's art is the way he textures his colors. There are times where I felt the characters were colored in a way that they came off as clay figures than actual people and it threw off the rest of the coloring feeling of the comic. This is a artistic choice of Das Pastoras and a choice I really don't like but it doesn't lessen the comic.
Metabarons Genesis: Castaka brings me back to the way day I first read The Metabarons. I get transported away into a universe that's full of tragedies and hope, a universe and bloodline so fully realized, vast, and complex that with every re-reading I keep finding new things to discover and changes the way I see how comics can be done.
Thursday, March 6, 2014
As we open Rembrandt we are welcomed with a single splash page of an elephant inside of a ship's cargo. It's weary, beaten, alone and in complete darkness. Typex portrays this in a way that's reminiscent of woodblock carving.
This choice intensifies the feelings of the reader towards the elephant and of the elephant's loneliness and complete alienation from its environment. And serves as a foreshadowing of Rembrandt's journey: a man who was at the peak of popularity, now a shadow of himself.
In the next couple pages the elephant is rudely awakened and is viciously hauled out of the cargo.
Through this action we are rudely introduced into Rembrandt's world, Amsterdam 1642, but also introduced to Rembrandt himself; a man who knows how great he is and how great his skills are.
Typex does this all within nine pages; nine silent pages. There's no word bubbles, no thought bubbles, no narration boxes, just the images. It's a testament to Typex' skills as a cartoonist. And these nine pages are a great introduction to Rembrandt, in which Typex will flesh out and texturize throughout the comic.
After those nine pages, Typex begins the autobiography of Rembrandt and he tells the biography through vignettes. Rembrandt is not told linearly, but instead Typex hones in at special moments in Rembrandt's life. This is a smart move because it doesn't bore the reader in a linear path of: this happens and then this happens and then this happens and so on. It also allows Typex a level of flexibility to move his narrative pieces around and have a tighter control of pacing. Because the story shifts around from past to present to future a lot, it gives the story a level of mystery within the character motivations and actions. What may befuddle a reader at the beginning will get explained later on, giving the story a feeling that you're slowly peeling its skin.
Throughout the story Typex portrays a world and an artist that's at odds with itself; Typex doesn't hold back and isn't afraid to show the ugly side of Rembrandt and the world he occupies. A world and artist that is full of life and wonder and beauty, but isn't afraid to destroy that beauty and wonder and not think twice of it. These stark contrasts between the two serves as a way to ground the reader, but also fill us with a sense of awe and wonder.
Typex also has an eye for composition: every panel is filled with beautiful composition. You get a feeling that Typex meticulously placed every character and word bubbles within his panels. The eye for compositions gives the reader a sense of beauty and it also helps guide the reader to where Typex wants them to look at.
Throughout reading Rembrandt I was absolutely gobsmacked by Typex' ability to portray facial and bodily expressions. If you've read some of my past reviews, I love when cartoonists are able use their character's face and body to express their inner thoughts and feelings. Typex does this perfectly; from the exaggerated to the nuanced to everything in-between, Typex shows he can do it all.
Another thing that caught my eye was Typex' ability to draw and color skin; I was really taken by it. Typex is able draw skin as skin, but give it a little extra sense of flexibility, flabbiness and softness that's not present in real life. When I see his characters' skin I feel that I can stick my hand through the comic and play around with it; there's a malleability to it. I'm finding it hard to articulate how much I love Typex' skin. The only other cartoonist who can give me this feeling of skin is Nicolas De Crécy.