Wednesday's New Things: Being Bad at Comic Books

Saga #24 by Brian K. Vaughn and Fiona Staples

I'm bad at comic books. Over the past year or so, I've lost track of three or four series I really love; East of West, Uber, and, most criminally of all, ("If Star Wars was any good," sez the sign at my favorite comic shop in the state of Illinois, "it would be...) Saga. I'm not completely sure how this happened, although before I was limiting my purchases I was buying enough that I didn't have quite the time to read all of it. It's also possible that, as I was considering new purchasing strategies, I let some of these series fall of because they would be better in trade (something that I maintain will be most true for East of West, which is so deeply built up and weird that it can be hard to follow from month to month). Saga, though, is so good, so well paced, that it deserves that monthly $3.50-- one of these days, I'll just walk into my comic shop and by the lot that I'm missing. Maybe that day is today. 


These Boom Pen&Ink books are like the IDW artists editions, in that they take established content and break them down into the process pieces that preceded their publication, but they're significantly less involved, and therefore cheaper, and they draw from material in the publisher's home stable. Vanesa Del Ray is a serious talent, my favorite new artist from last year, who toiled away on this more than decent but sort of hard to track crime noir. As is often true, it'll be interesting to see her art separated from what we generally understand to be the "writerly" and utilitarian (speech bubbles, narration, and so on) aspects of comics making.  

Set to Sea by Drew Weing

I've been following Drew Weing's wonderful and charming The Creepy Case Files of Margo Maloo for a spell, and, from the previewSet to Sea seems of a similar bent, although more Melville than Sendak. What unites the kids in the first with the shanghaied poet in the second is the understanding that the world is just a little bit stranger than we might be inclined to believe. The form is slightly different, though, with every page in Set to Sea functioning as an individual panel, shortening the story but also giving Weing a large canvas to explore the blocky and scratchy world he's drawn. 

Showa: A History of Japan (1944-1953) by Shigeru Mizuki 

This is the third volume of Shigeru Mizuki's history of Japan's showa period, which has seemed to be generally pretty well received. History comics, and non-fiction comics in general, are hard to pull off, which is one of the reason why I think that cartoonists have often pursued memoir instead of my straight non-fiction genres. Memoir allows folks to easily balance a work's words and pictures, and is more readily open to dialogue, while historical comics or comics journalism seems to fall more easily into looking and feeling like illustrated prose. From all accounts, the Showa volumes so far seem to work, perhaps because they are part memoir. The mix of illustrated realism and stylized drawing also probably helps, giving the pictures weight enough so that they hang with the words. 

The Leaning Girl by Francois Schuiten and Benoit Peeters, translated by Stephen D. Smith

This is the first of a series of Franco-Belgian comics series called The Obscure Cities, some of which have seen print in America and some of which have not. It's a fun concept, set on a counter-Earth where folks live in city states defined by architectural style, and where sometimes weird things happen.  What I like about projects like this one is that someone, in this case it seems like its the publisher and translator Stephen D. Smith, cares enough about these works to make sure that they see release in English. That's the best kind of endorsement. What I like about this particular project, at least in theory, is that design is specifically, rather than loosely, tied to definition of place, something that will be fun to tease out if I ever decide to pick them up. 

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