Monday, July 24, 2006

books 28, 29, 31 and 32 or Catching Up

So, so behind in the reviews, as you can see. If any of you are still reading, that is. I sure am, as you can also see by the rapidly blooming sidebar.

Anyway, I’m going to try to get things moving here by giving you guys a few short reviews which will hopefully re-wrangle the flock (so fluffy, you guys) and get some comments going.

Inside Vineyland by Lauren Weinstein

A million, bajillion years ago, Weinstein submitted a comic to Topic Magazine called You Saved My Life, a just a lil’llion years ago, I saw it while doing some work interning at the big T. I liked it. It was black and white, squiggly and kinda evil. I’ve had her on the brain since.

After an as-usual satisfying trip to Rocketship to buy Squirrel Mother (see below), I decided I needed a little bit from the Vine to round out my purchases. I picked up IV after a cursory flip-through. It is a little old, copyright 1999, but comics are the Catherine Deneuve of books, n’est-ce pas?

IV is a lot of one and two pagers, less jokey than going for the jugular. One character, Robot, makes a double appearance in the only two longish stories, Robot Takes a Walk and Robot Quest for Love. Bad, bad things happen, but the Robot can’t quite get beyond want he wants to compute the rest. He can’t. Weinstein draws thoughts like no one else I have seen using an incredibly effective heads-on-writhing-strings method in these stories. Thought bubbles do appear elsewhere, but they are mean, as they should be.

Weinstein’s take on things could be easily dismissed as snark but only if the dismisser is a total asshole. There is something bubbling underneath the funny and that’s the way I like it. Plus, she is local.

Squirrel Mother by Megan Kelso

I wanted this so badly. I coveted the creamy cover and the stories within. I knew the collection contained The Pickle Fork, an amazing story that was in Kelso’s disinherited collection Scheherazade, so I had the best advance opinion of what else was going to be inside.

I don’t want to say this. I don’t.

Squirrel Mother
was a disappointment. The drawings are beautiful but the stories just didn’t get there for me. Something is missing, maybe a few need to be longer, or more developed, but I just didn’t latch onto the characters. The exception to this was the autobiographical Green River, about living during the reign of terror of the Green River serial killer, and the silly yet mournful series of stories concerning Alexander Hamilton, Publius, The Duel and Aide de Camp.
Next time, next time…

My Most Secret Desire by Julie Doucet will be written about somewhere else. I will keep you posted.

Astonishing Tales edited by Michael Chabon

Ugh. Usually I am a fan of these compilations by the McSweensters but this one was terribly boring with the exception of a few stories. I mean they have the usual sheen of quiet wackiness so loved by those folks, but- boo. Skip it, but read 7C by Jason Roberts if you can.

A History of Violence by John Wagner

The graphic novel with the best name ever is a little ugly, the drawings that is. Sadly, we never really get a feel for the main character, or his family, because we never really see him clearly. The dialogue is stilted and formulaic in some parts and merely serviceable in others. The good part is that you can breeze through the book in an hour or so, and then have something to compare to the film. I was mostly disappointed that the violence never transformed for me; it never showed me anything, which I think was Wagner's intention with this...

Nevertheless, I can see why the idea so captured Wagner, then David Cronenberg, who did an excellent job trimming the fat for the film, even if his subplots were just flapping in the winds like an old hoagie.

It is hard to find intelligent writing on violence, especially in comics. Any suggestions?

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