MAJOR BACKLOG: Goliath, Afrika, Marzi, The Blue Dragon, The Bulletproof Coffin Disinterred #1-2, Mondo #1, Fatale #1-3, Rachel Rising #1-6
A whole bunch of comics have been piling up in my office, eying me, giving me guilt trips about not writing their reviews. So let me just plow through a few of them in capsule.
Goliath has a solid concept: Goliath doesn’t actually want to fight. He’s tricked into it by his captain, who has sold the Philistine king on the idea of ending the war with the Israelites by menacing them with a champion they dare not face. And it’s good for some solid laughs, especially in the beginning.
But author Tom Gauld doesn’t account enough for the fact that we all know how the story ends, so there’s no suspense, and in the absence of suspense he needs to work harder to keep things entertaining. Goliath sits around and does nothing waiting for the Israelites to respond to his challenge, and, um, that’s a little boring? The Goliath story offers so many juicy thematic possibilities, and as far as I can tell he doesn’t pick them up. The whole book never advances beyond its concept.
PDF preview here.
Belgian author/artist Hermann shows why he’s a comic-book legend in Europe with Afrika, first published in 2007 but newly translated into English for Dark Horse. It’s an impeccably told, beautifully painted tale about a park ranger and reporter in Africa who accidentally witness a government massacre and must go on the run.
Well-told, beautifully painted—and yet kind of anachronistic. Even for a Belgian born in 1938, 2007 seems too late to still be telling stories about white heroes against an African backdrop. That feels like something we were doing in 1967 and should have outgrown by now.
You’d think the story of a young girl’s perspective on the fall of Communism in 1980s Poland would be pretty gripping, right? It should have been, but about two-thirds of Marzi needed to be edited out. It seems like memoirist Marzena Sowa included every single last little detail she could remember about her childhood, and while some of these could have served to establish an atmosphere, all of them together crush her story under the weight of their triviality. I was angry at this book when I first got it, for having so little regard for its audience’s experience; now I just think of it as a wasted opportunity by a first-time author with a great personal story to tell and no editor to help her tell it well.
I’ve discussed why I don’t think comics translate to movies nearly as well as people expect them to; The Blue Dragon is an object lesson in how you can’t just translate any old dialogue to the comic book page either. Robert Lepage is apparently some kind of theater deity in Canada, but his talky dialogue just sits there, completely static and clunky, when it’s packed into comic book panels and dialogue bubbles, even though Fred Jourdain’s watercolor art is breathtakingly gorgeous. Too gorgeous, in fact, to pay attention to characters’ facial expressions. Play dialogue is designed for audiences that can’t see faces, but it seems perverse to translate that limitation to comics.
So far, rather than trying to continue the meta-story of the original Bulletproof Coffin limited series, in The Bulletproof Coffin Disinterred David Hine and Shaky Kane seem happy to tell weird little tales patterned on forgotten genres from the 1950s. Since said tales are so far a blast, I’m going with it.
When Ted McKeever’s last series META4 launched, I had no idea where it was going and remained in the dark right up until the end, when it made a half turn and became one of my favorite comics of 2011. Mondo is starting more conventionally (which says something about McKeever, given that it’s about a radioactive superchicken/man), and now more than ever I’m willing to hang on and see what he has in mind.
Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips, whose work I’ve loved in Criminal and liked okay in Incognito, take their signature noir style over to horror with Fatale. I haven’t figured it out yet, to be honest, and I think I’d recommend waiting for the trade to see if they can pull it all together in the end. There are multiple threads of story from different eras, and three issues in it’s still not at all clear how they relate to one another.
Another where I’d wait for the trade, fortunately due out in just a couple of weeks!—not because Terry Moore is unclear at all about what he’s doing but because he takes awhile to unfold his plot. But that plot is engrossing and hardly anyone does facial expression better. In fact, aspiring comic artists must check out his recent one-shots How to Draw Women and How to Draw Expressions (both available through his store, click on “Related Books”). Both give indispensable advice in areas where comics are too often lacking.