July 2007

Jeff VanderMeer


In Which We Get Rid of Our Backlog

Some new, some old, all reviewed in rapid fashion for your summer delectation...

Graphic Novels

Set vaguely in the 1890s or early 1900s, The Black Diamond Detective Agency by Eddie Campbell (First Second) opens with a train explosion, followed by the attempt to discover who set the bomb and what was in a missing safe. Ranging from small towns to Chicago, the narrative is compelling, original, and resonates with our world today. The art shares the subtlety of watercolors but is more muscular, the color palate subdued and yet dynamic. The playful packaging, complete with a cover that could be an old-time poster, doesn't hurt.

God the Dyslexic Dog by Brian & Philip Phillipson with art by Alex Nino, released in 2006, exemplifies the strengths of the graphic novel format. There is no way in hell that this insane idea -- re-imagining creation, life, and the cosmos from the point of view of dogs -- would ever have made a good novel. Nor would it have made a good movie. As a graphic novel, though, especially with Nino's art, the results are mindblowing, revelatory, and often satirical. No synopsis I can give you would really convey the wonderful strangeness of God the Dyslexic Dog.

I'm late in finding Blurred Vision #1 and #2, but I'm glad I found them, along with another offering from Blurred Books, The Unbearable Cuteness of Being. Mix your Dada with your Surrealism and give it all a modern updating and you have an idea of all three of these titles. The Blurred Vision series combines all kinds of styles and approaches, often in a hallucinatory way. "Transgressive" is a word that also comes to mind. The Unbearable Cuteness of Being consists of odd color collages that come across as updated Max Ernst. For trippy and cool, you could do a lot worse than pick up any of these volumes.

The Adventures of Rabbit and Bear Paws: The Sugar Bush by Chad Solomon and Christopher Myer is set in eighteenth century North America. Rabbit and Bear Paws get into all kinds of trouble, including a run-in with British troops. Sometimes (oddly? intentionally?) reminiscent of the Asterix graphic novels, The Sugar Bush is good, solid fun, with plenty to hold the attention of children and teens. It's also created by the Anishinabek Nation, and represents authentic Native American customs and traditions, which makes it doubly worth seeking out.

Finally, two nonfiction volumes -- Alan Moore's Exit Interview by Bill Baker and Blue Beetle Companion by Christopher Irving -- couldn't provide more disparate views of the comics industry. Baker provides a fine interview with one of the major figures working in the field, covering topics from Moore's assessment of the comics field and his own career, to his future projects, and Moore's views on spirituality. It's fascinating material. Blue Beetle Companion, on the other hand, is a more prosaic but still interesting retrospective of the Blue Beetle from 1939 to the present. It's a workmanlike effort, covering all of the bases, but probably of most interest to hardcore fans.

The Black Diamond Detective Agency, Eddie Campbell
First Second
ISBN 1596431423
138 Pages

God the Dyslexic Dog, Brian and Philip Phillipson
Bliss on Tap Publishing
ISBN 0976376857
250 Pages

Blurred Vision #1, #2
Blurred Books
ISBN 09771612-1-8 / 0977161226
100 / 112 Pages

The Unbearable Cuteness of Being by Ken Brown
Blurred Books
ISBN 097716120X
100 Pages

Adventures of Rabbit and Bear Paws: Sugar Bush
Little Bear Spirit Productions
ISBN 0973990503
32 Pages

Alan Moore's Exit Interview by Bill Baker
Airwave Publishing LLC
ISBN 9780972480598
80 Pages

Blue Beetle Companion by Christopher Irving
TwoMorrows Publishing
ISBN 9781893905702
126 Pages

Single Issue Comics

A Special Moment of Respect for the 2007 release of Zed No. 8: Brotherhood of Metal by Michel Gagne, available from www.ZEDcomic.com. If you don't know by now, Zed's a space alien who gets into trouble/has adventures that seem whimsical enough due to his cute nature, but some really strange things happen in these comics. In this case, there's an invasion by a space fleet, rendered in Gagne's lovely art style. Odd, beautiful, and fun.

Wormwood Gentleman Corpse, Nos. 5, 6, and 7 by Ben Templesmith represent more of the same in this ongoing series (the first four installments collected in graphic novel form). Which is to say, more tentacular horrors, more fungal horrors, more gentleman corpse cleverisms, and more of that stunning Templesmith art. I think the storylines are beginning to blur into one another, but it's still wonderful to look at.

Impaler, No. 3, by William Harms, Nick Postic, and Nick Marinkovich offers more of the gritty noir vampiric goodness of the first two installments. I'm not a big fan of vampire comics, but this one has a great pseudo-realistic art style with lots of action, intrigue, and creepiness in the plotline. Artwise, the two-page single panels are particularly excellent. Far superior to most of what's out there in this subgenre.

Finally, Raise the Dead and Savage Tales from Dynamite Entertainment both give readers good pulpy entertainment. Raise the Dead isn't as emotionally involving as something like The Walking Dead, but it has its moments, along with some strong artwork. Savage Tales veers between the obnoxiously standard big-breasted warrior women stuff for hormone-raging teen boys and more complex and beautifully illustrated material, like the Atlantis story in the first issue.


Zed No. 8: Brotherhood of Metal, Michel Gagne
Gagne International Press
 visit www.ZEDcomic.com
20 Pages

Wormwood Gentleman Corpse Nos. 5, 6, 7, Ben Templesmith
IDW Publishing
visit www.idwpublishing.com
30 Pages

Impaler #3, William Harms, Nick Postic, and Nick Marinkovich
Image Comics
visit www.imagecomics.com
30 Pages

Raise the Dead Nos. 1 and 2, Leah Moore and John Reppion
Dynamite Entertainment
visit www.dynamiteentertainment.com
30 Pages

Savage Tales No. 1, multiple authors
Dynamite Entertainment
visit www.dynamiteentertainment.com
40 Pages


Next Time

In August, I'm taking some time off, but look for an interview with Kim Deitch coming soon.

Contact Info

Send complaints, compliments, concerns, and rambling rants about how wrong I am to: vanderworld at hotmail.com. (I’ll assume you don’t mind being quoted in this column if you send me something, unless you tell me otherwise.)

Send materials for review to Bookslut and to me at POB 4248, Tallahassee, FL 32315.