2 FROM NBM/PAPERCUTZ

TWO FROM NBM/PAPERCUTZ
Written and Drawn by Various
Published by NBM and Papercutz

Let’s take a look at a couple of new books from the folks at NBM and their Papercutz subsidiary, shall we?

I’ve been enjoying Papercutz’ resurrection of the CLASSICS ILLUSTRATED books, so I had high hopes when the latest edition, THE RAVEN AND OTHER POEMS by Edgar Allan Poe arrived in my mailbox. Seeing the name of Gahan Wilson attached as the artist only whetted my appetite even more. So I was rather surprised to put the book down upon finishing and realize that I felt somewhat disappointed by this effort. Certainly, Wilson’s illustration work is excellent; the problem comes in that this book feels like a cheat to its format. The CI brand is known for turning into comics some of the great works of literature; however, Wilson does not do this at all. Instead, he simply adds evocative illustrations alongside the text of Poe’s work. If the book weren’t part of CLASSICS ILLUSTRATED, I’d have had no problem with that; but because it is, I cannot give it my full endorsement- this is not really CLASSICS ILLUSTRATED as it is supposed to work. If you’re just looking for an accessible book of Poe’s work, this will work fine for you. But if you’re expecting a comic or graphic novel, you’ll be disappointed.

On the flip side comes a third installment from the Zenith Era of DUNGEON. “Back In Style” is written by the always amazing team of Joann Sfar and Lewis Trondheim and drawn by Boulet, and puts the focus squarely on Herbert the warrior duck. The Dungeon Keeper loses ownership of the facility, sending Herbert and Marvin on a mission back to the city of Herbert’s birth on a perilous mission… which is doubly more perilous since there is an order to behead Herbert if he ever sets foot in the town again. Throw in a funny love story, a powerful battle that finds Marvin up against impossible odds, and a fight to overthrow a Duke-dom, and you get one of the best DUNGEON books yet. The Zenith books have been my favorite in the series, though they are a bit lighter in spirit than the melancholy and emotionally more powerful efforts in the Twilight era. I’ve never done anything less than offer my maximum recommendation for any DUNGEON book, though, and I’m not about to stop now. These books are as good as comics gets.

Marc Mason

THE WIND IN THE WILLOWS

THE WIND IN THE WILLOWS
Written by Kenneth Grahame and Adapted by Michel Plessix
Translated by Joe Johnson
Published by
NBM/Papercutz

Mole, Rat, Mister Toad, and Badger find their way from the prose page (and the silver screen) in the new CLASSICS ILLUSTRATED series from Papercutz. This lengthy adaptation from French artist Michel Plessix is a visually stunning treat for any graphic novel reader, and will surely appeal to anyone who loves the book. But it isn’t without its problems.

Certainly, there’s no problem on the art side, as I mentioned above. Plessix has a very fine, detailed line, and his character work is incredibly distinctive. Also, his use of color is as good as anything you’ll find on the shelves right now. This is really a tour-de-force from the Frenchman, and it makes me want to see more of his work.

The downside is… well, it’s THE WIND IN THE WILLOWS. And frankly, WIND is an overrated, bloated book with uninteresting characters and a boring story. I have never been able to get through it in any sort of satisfying manner, because I just hate it. And as good as Plessix’ work is, he didn’t change any of that here for me. I went through the book page-by-page, but as far as a good reading experience? There are some things that even the most talented creators cannot pull off. So this book is truly for those who have fond memories of the original Grahame work.

Marc Mason

TALES FROM THE BROTHERS GRIMM

TALES FROM THE BROTHERS GRIMM
Adapted by Mazan, Cecile Chicault, and Philip Petit
Translated by Joe Johnson
Published by
NBM/Papercutz

Papercutz’ resurrection of the CLASSICS ILLUSTRATED line continues with his excellent volume presenting four excellent fairy tales from the masters of the genre. And much like Rick Geary’s excellent take on Dickens, these are intelligent, witty, and brilliantly executed.

Tale one is “Hansel and Gretel,” by Philip Petit, and it kicks the book into high gear immediately. His soft, lush line and strong command of the color palette are lovely to see, and he doesn’t skimp on telling the entire story detail. When most think of this one, they think of the witch and the gingerbread house; what they forget is the cruelty of the children’s mother. Petit, however, makes it as strong a plot point as any in the tale. Second up is “Learning How To Shudder,” adapted by Mazan, perhaps my favorite tale in the book. “Shudder” tells the story of a boy who doesn’t understand why he doesn’t feel fear; however, he doesn’t understand that means he’s brave or strong. Instead, he, and his family, see it as a character flaw. It’s a great story with a great point behind it, and Mazan’s art is gorgeous.

Story three is “The Devil and the Three Golden Hairs,” adapted by Cecile Chicault. Chicault’s adaptation is damned near flawless, and looks exceptional, but the story itself is somewhat lacking, as the protagonist achieves his goals through blind luck, not skill or worth. Finally, we have “The Valiant Little Tailor,” also adapted by Mazan, which has a somewhat similar problem as a story, but doesn’t suffer so much from it. Instead, the Tailor achieves his goals by relying on the stupidity of others… which means he’s not only a believable character, but also Presidential timbre.

I like that this book came early in the new CLASSICS series, as it would seem to indicate that there will be some nice variety; we don’t need the traditional list of boring classics covered immediately. Please, Papercutz- hold off on the Hawthorne, okay? Make more books like this: wonderfully drawn, exquisitely colored, and truly introducing new stories to a younger audience.

Marc Mason