Friday, December 14, 2018

Reader's Diary #1985- Luke W. Molver: Shaka Rising

Usually when I think of a graphic novel as being uneven or inconsistent, I mean the art is good but the story is not or the other way around. In the case of Luke W. Molver's Shaka Rising, I feel the art is uneven and the story is uneven, both have their good and bad points.

In terms of the story, I was quite drawn to the plot of the Zulu warrior and his rise to the top. There were age-old, world-wide themes of ambition and jealousy that in reminding me of Shakespeare and the Bible made me reflect upon how we're all very much the same, warts and all. But then, the South African setting and Zulu culture elements made it so unique.

Those were the story's positives. Then the dialogue was so stiff and preachy. If it was in a film we'd mock it as Oscar bait. Every single line was meant to be profound as if important people can never have a goofy moment of relaxation.

The art? I quite liked the choice of colours, but they were applied with a computer-aided spray paint technique that I've never enjoyed. And body movements and positions looked rigid.

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Reader's Diary #1984- Jerome Ruillier, translated by Helge Dascher: The Strange

In many ways, Jerome Ruillier's graphic novel The Strange was what I'd been hoping to get out of Duncan Tonatiuh's The Strange. While both deal with the troubles faced by undocumented immigrants, I felt like I really got more a sense of the character and situation in Ruillier's. For one, it's longer. I'm a fan of short stories, even flash fiction; I'm not against brevity per se and think a lot can be accomplished in a short space, but Tonatiuh's needed expansion and Ruillier's delivered.

Ruillier's approach was to take the perspectives of many characters, the immigrant (the "strange") as well as those he'd encountered in his new country. If there's any truth to the old adage, three sides to every story: yours, mine, and the truth, Ruillier takes it even further with yours, yours, yours, yours, mine, and the truth. The result is a complex and more complete, empathetic picture.

As with Tonatiuh's book, however, I would have liked more at the beginning to help explain the person's motivation for leaving, but I didn't find myself dwelling on it as much this time around.

The art is quite interesting and I would guess that it's polarizing. It looks rough, rushed, almost amateurish at times, though you can also tell it's a stylistic choice rather than any lack of ability on Ruillier's part. But the use of animals, as in Maus, fits the themes of culture clashes well.

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Reader's Diary #1983- Duncan Tonatiuh: Undocumented A Worker's Fight

Most ratings and reviews of Duncan Tonatiuh's Undocumented: A Worker's Fight have been so favorable that I'd really had my hopes up for this one. Especially with the current prejudices against immigrants, I thought it could be a very timely, important story.

I'll grant that the art is quite good and interesting, the tale itself is so rushed it's underdeveloped. It begins with Juan's life in Mexico before sneaking across the US border. Finally in the US he is beaten and mistreated and taken advantage of, especially being underpaid. I really felt the need for more in the first half. There was such an opportunity to humanize this person that was blown. If life is that bad in the US, why go? What was his original motivation? I think we needed to see how bleak and desperate his life was in Mexico to fully appreciate the full story.

Likewise, I liked the characters voice and got some sense of his personality, but it was too short to really connect. It felt like a pamphlet.

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Reader's Diary #1982- Cassandra Clare (writer), Cassandra Jean (artist): The Mortal Instruments 1

I'd heard of Cassandra Clare's Mortal Instruments series before but not read it. However, I wouldn't say that a familiarization is necessary to enjoy the graphic novel adaptation. (Perhaps if you did enjoy the originals it would even work against your enjoyment?)

I liked the fantastical blend of religion (angels and demons) and other mythology (vampires, fairies, werewolves, etc) and the art, very manga-ish with exaggerated swirls which complemented the goth-feel.

I did wish a bit more time was spent exploring the whole "fish out of water" trope with Clary the protagonist adjusting rather quickly to a sudden bizarre world around her, but the trade off was a fast paced story with mystery and danger.

Monday, December 10, 2018

Reader's Diary #1981- Mabry Hall: Rudolph

I'm not sure who caught the Saturday Night Live episode this weekend hosted by Jason Momoa but there was a darkly comedic sketch starring Pete Davidson as Rudolph. Mabry Hall's flash fiction piece "Rudolph" is similar to tone to that but with a bit more noir feeling.

It's entertaining, well-written, and though it has a cliffhanger ending still feels complete in and of itself.

Sunday, December 09, 2018

Reader's Diary #1980- Wilfrid Lupano (writer), Gregory Panaccione (artist): A Sea of Love

Like Mel Tregonning's Small Things which I read just a month back, Wilfrid Lupano and Gregory Panaccione's A Sea of Love is another gorgeous wordless graphic novel.

This one is about a man separated from his wife from being lost at sea. It's more mature than Small Things but not risque or inappropriate by any means. It's amusing, has adventure, and there's a sweet love story to boot. The married couple seem a bit stereotypical in their gender roles at first, though the wife has a bit of an adventure of her own and seems to overcome her domestic, doting role somewhat. (She reminded me a little of Lady Jane Franklin, actually.)

But where the books shines is the art. The characters are exaggerated caricatures that reminded me of old French animation, while the backdrops are immaculately rendered in heavy, atmospheric water colours. Maybe these two styles should clash, but they wind up balancing out the story.

Saturday, December 08, 2018

Reader's Diary #1979- Cherie Priest (writer), Tara O'Connor (illustrator): Agony House

Just recently marked the 26th Literary Review's Bad Writing in Sex Award and as always these were a real treat to behold. So bad they're at the very least entertaining. But of course, it doesn't have to take a sex scene to come on a piece so spectacularly bad that it haunts you. There are plenty of books that I didn't enjoy this year but none had the distinction of having a memorably bad passage... until now.

He wasn't paying a lick of attention. He was too wrapped up in the chase, following his nose like a cartoon bird on a cereal box.

It's meant, I suppose, to be a funny simile, but man, is it ever corny and awkward. And it's particularly so since she seems to go out of her way to avoid referencing the actual character or the cereal. Yet elsewhere she name drops McDonald's and Wendy's. Would mentioning Toucan Sam and Froot Loops been that difficult? Not that it would have been a great sentence even with it, but it's just laughably bad this way.

To be fair though, the rest of the book isn't terrible to this extreme. I did find friendships rushed to the point of implausibility and the book's plot could have used some work (the worst for me was that it took a character the entire book to read a comic that, had she read it at any normal speed, could have probably solved the whole predictable mystery remarkably fast). But there were some aspects I liked; the comic parts themselves were well done and I enjoyed how they connected to the textual story, I enjoyed the New Orleans setting, and there were hints at least of weightier themes (gentrification, police racism, and so on).