NEW GRAPHIC NOVELS

NEW GRAPHIC NOVELS
Written and Drawn by Various
Published by Various


Reviewed by Marc Mason

Three new extremely high profile releases, two of which are still a couple of months away from hitting shelves…

It’s been two years since writer/artist Charles Burns delivered the first piece of his new graphic novel series X’ED OUT. I’d been wondering when we would finally get a follow-up, and the answer is this October in the form of THE HIVE (Pantheon. What’s it about? Well… that’s going to vary according to personal opinion. What I can tell you is this: THE HIVE is a tour-de-force of psychedelic storytelling, an astonishing piece of graphic literature that combines strange characters, even stranger situations and locales, and multi-leveled narratives in a way you have never seen before on the page. Burns’ work is utterly unique, and he has no fear about experimenting and trying to engage the reader in new ways. Perhaps his greatest gift is finding a way to make you find empathy for people and things that you would normally find off-putting or disgusting. Burns is one of the few talents who stands above the medium, and deservedly so. Easily one of the finest works you’ll see this year.

Comics’ classic cartooning couple, Aline and Robert Crumb, now have an omnibus-style book of their work with the publication this October of DRAWN TOGETHER (W.W. Norton). DRAWN TOGETHER features material pulled together from forty years of the duo’s partnership, and it offers plenty of insight into how they work, live, and eventually raise a daughter together. It isn’t always for the squeamish; there’s a level of brutal honesty on an emotional and sexual level that some readers will not be comfortable with. But it does make for an interesting archaeological document in how it takes you through different styles and eras and illuminates the alt-comix movement. Married couples in comics have come a long way; now it’s fairly common. But back in 1972 it was a big deal, and DRAWN TOGETHER will show you why.

Jessica Abel and Matt Madden offer up the second in their comics how-to series with MASTERING COMICS (First Second). Following DRAWING WORDS AND WRITING PICTURES, this “Comics 201” textbook takes you to a more advanced level, covering topics like narrative tools, making minicomics, lettering, and self-publishing. As with the first book, every chapter here is incredibly thorough; heavy with detail, and loaded with exercises for the student to tackle. If you’re new to the comics field, you’ll learn something here. If you’re a veteran in the field- you’ll learn something here. If you want to learn to color and don’t realize there are multiple ways and techniques to do it, you need this book. If you want to learn the difference between making webcomics and comics for print, you need this book. An absolutely indispensible book for learning the craft.



LIFE SUCKS

LIFE SUCKS
Written by Jessica Abel and Gabe Soria
Drawn by Warren Pleece
Published by
First Second

This is an advance review- this book in stores May 1, 2008

Dave Marshall’s life… well, it sucks. You see, Dave went looking for a job at the local convenience store and it turned out to be owned by a vampire who needed someone to work nights… forever. Plus, Dave was a vegetarian, and not so high on the idea of killing a person- that’d kinda be like eating a steak. Now he’s stuck in a dead-end job, with an undead life, and unlike the movies where vampires become goth princes, he’s still making minimum wage and getting nowhere with women. But when Rosa, a vamp-obsessed goth girl, walks into the store, Dave determines to change his luck… and the crappy nature of his death.

LIFE SUCKS is for any person who has ever made fun of goths, yet it is also an odd tribute to the kids in the scene at the same time. Much as with any subculture, there are genuine people and there are colossal poseurs, and no one here gets let off the hook. But much more so, the book is a wry examination of the literary lifestyles of vampires. We’re used to getting the romantic “Dracula” point of view, but Dave’s experience is much more relatable for the reader and for the other characters in the book. Yet there are other vampires in the story who do have existences more in line with the stereotypes, in particular his “brother” vampire Wes. Wes is a complete tool, rich, snotty, and able to pick up women at the drop of a hat- not only does Dave hate him, but you hate him immediately. He’s the kind of guy you know worked out at the Cobra Kai dojo before he was turned. So when the book becomes a lengthy showdown between the two, you get completely sucked in, waiting to see how Dave can possibly stand up to someone so much more powerful and who has so many advantages. It’s like THE VAMPIRE KID.

I adored the book, no question- it has great characters, a razor sharp sense of humor, and the dialogue is absolutely tasty. I’m a huge fan of Jessica Abel’s work, so this came as no surprise to me, but her writing partner Soria is obviously quite talented as well. And Warren Pleece turns in some of the best work I’ve seen from him in his wildly varied career. In short, this is another winner from First Second. Keep an eye out for it.

Marc Mason