Holy Crap You Guys Major Backlog! (Part 1)

by on Jul.13, 2012, under Comics

I have an absolutely monstrous stack of comics and graphic hoo-hahs I’ve been neglecting, so I’m going to start trying to power through them a few at a time. More backlog mini-reviews to follow.

Journalism is a book for Joe Sacco completists and fans. While I heartily recommend becoming both of those things, it isn’t the first book of his I would buy if you’ve never read him before. It collects most of the short pieces he’s done on assignment for various magazines over the past 15 years or so.

The best of these are the ones that deal with the problems of poor, powerless groups we rarely hear about: Chechen refugees, African migrants stranded on Malta, and the dalits of rural India. Not coincidentally, these are also the longest three pieces in the book—Sacco is really at his best when he can pile up humanizing details and make the reader understand life from his subjects’ perspective. All three are further evidence that Sacoo is by far the most important creator of comics today.

Preview at the link above.

Matt Kindt likes his high concepts. His breakout book 3 Story was about a man who never stopped growing; his follow-up Revolver  was about a man who switches between realities each time he goes to sleep. His new series Mind Mgmt is structured more as a mystery than those other two: rather than taking his high concept and playing out its implications, he has a journalist main character trying to figure out the (probably high-concept) cause of bizarre events. A whole airplane of passengers and crew gets amnesia simultaneously; all the inhabitants of a Mexican town begin making pottery with motifs from Zanzibar. She is chased by shadowy, murderous agents as she tries to learn more.

Two issues have come out and I still have no idea where all this is heading. Kindt keeps hinting at a grand conspiracy manipulating history and perhaps reality itself. So far I’m liking it quite a bit, and we’ll see if the payoff can live up to the hints.

Preview here.

Speaking of hints and payoffs … J.M. DeMatteis’s Brooklyn Dreams  is like the textbook version of what John Gardner calls a yarn. It has an overtly conversational voice that keeps refusing to tell us things, promising revelations to come down the line. Meanwhile the story it is telling is about growing up as a teenager in Brooklyn, having a fairly shitty home life, slacking off in school, doing a few too many drugs. All perfectly fine subjects for a story, but all through it the narrator keeps telling us that the real shit is yet to come—and that shit, when it finally arrives, is so underwhelming it underwhelms all the good work that came before it.

Note to authors: don’t overpromise. If DeMatteis had foreshadowed less, I might have been more interested in his final epiphany.

Another mystery: in Sean Ford’s Only Skin, people keep disappearing from a small town. Mostly they vanish into the forest. A young woman returns to town with her 10-year-old brother to look for their father, one of the missing.

Ford takes his time with the story and the book’s big pages give plenty of space to his simple black-and-white drawings. The combined effect is a kind of languid, semi-ironic terror that I found very effective.

To give one example: he draws ghosts like the ones from Pac-Man, a hanging sheet with two holes for eyes. But he takes those ridiculous icons absolutely seriously as ghosts, capable of real menace.

I will also say that I did not see the villain coming, nor come close to guessing how the end would unfold. It’s a real pleasure to be surprised like that. The book sneaks up on you quietly. Highly recommended.

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