Thursday, April 19, 2018

Reader's Diary #1797- Cheah Sinann: The Bicycle

Cheah Sinann's The Bicycle tells of an unlikely friendship between a Japanese soldier named Toshiro Iwakura and a street kid named Ah Cheng during the Japanese occupation of Singapore during the second World War.

Not much educated on this topic, the setting was quite interesting to me. I especially enjoyed hearing about the use of bicycles during the war.

However the real point of the story is, of course, a hopeful message about finding decency in unexpected times and people. This is well done, though a bit quick. The dialogue comes across as stilted and a tad too formal, but I was able to quickly adjust.

The art looks to be assisted by computer painting for shading, but is nonetheless a pretty unique style with simple, thickly inked lines.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Reader's Diary #1796- Malik Sajad: Munnu

Malik Sajad's Munnu: A Boy from Kashmir is probably my favourite loosely autobiographical graphic novel set in the violent backdrop of Kashmir circa 1980s to the present and that features anthropomorphisized deer. If I was forced to choose.

Yeah, it's a fascinating book, especially to this white western reader who should probably not relate to any of it though Sajad excels at demonstrating a child's capacity to have universal experiences (curiosity about sex, mischief making, idolizing an older sibling, not being taken serious due to his age, and so on) even if the daily political turmoil is something I could barely fathom. Several times I had to remind myself that this was not in fact a distant past.

Considering the microscope Kashmiri people were and are under by the Indian government and military, I am in awe of Sajad's bravery in speaking honestly and with unflattering opinions.

Even the art is great. While not the first to use animals as a symbolic representation of people, his style stands out. Based on German woodcuts, the panels very much have a print-like quality and the angular deer strike are very cool design that especially works when crowds are shown, the deer almost fitting one another like puzzle pieces and effectively showing them at such times as a united whole.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Reader's Diary #1795- Simon Hanselmann: One More Year

Whoo-boy. Not having been familiar with Simon Hanselmann's work before I was not prepared for this collection of degenerate characters. Most have depression and/or addictions, neither of which makes one a degenerate of course, but their level of selfishness and judgmental attitudes certainly does.

The characters in One More Year are not all created equal. On the absolutely no sympathy from me side is a character known as Werewolf Jones. On the other end are Booger and Owl who I judge only for hanging around with the others. In between are a witch named Megg and her lover, a cat named Mogg.

There are a lot of drugs and genitals. Again, some of that's fine, too. We're all adults after all. I'd be lying if I didn't say some of it wasn't funny. I have a dark sense of humor. There's a fine line, however, between dark and shock and I have far less tolerance at my age for shock for the sake of shock. My 14 year old self would have loved it.

Monday, April 16, 2018

Reader's Diary #1794- Taqralik Partridge: Fifteen Lakota Visitors

I first encountered Taqralik Patridge with her short story "Igloolik" a couple of years back. Having loved that story, I was not surprised to hear that another of her short stories, "Fifteen Lakota Visitors" has been shortlisted for the 2018 CBC Short Story Prize.

This story, initially told by a dying girl, involves a perhaps surprising bond between her Inuit family and a family of Lakota. As the cultures are so distinct and from such different locales, even the girl herself is a bit perplexed. Nonetheless, it's a strong and beautiful relationship that begins to make more sense. It also provides some much needed comfort.

Besides the warm message, the writing is also incredibly strong in the voice and with a powerful switch in perspective near the end.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Reader's Diary #1793- Sina Grace: Nothing Lasts Forever

My introduction to Sina Grace came with his run on Marvel's Iceman. I adored his writing but wasn't overly enthused with the artwork (which Grace did not do). It was enough that I wanted to explore his work further, bringing me to last year's Nothing Last Forever, one of his memoir comics.

I'm not sure if it's an accurate depiction (is there such a thing?) but he comes across as a mildly neurotic but endearing, funny guy. He suffers from writer's block and depression and wants to find true love, or at least a definition that works for him. When he's on a high, he name drops and appreciates his blessings, when he's low he worries about his career, aging gracefully, his appearance, and his health.

Is it self-obsessed? Well, yes,  it's a memoir after all. But his earnest attempts to be honest, flattering or unflattering as that may be, makes it all tolerable. Of course, it helps that his life is interesting and unconventional to those of us not in the arts.

In a brief note at the front Grace states that as a journal entry the sketches are bit purposefully rough. It's still quite good. My only issue is that the text often appears to have been done with a dull pencil and sometimes difficult to read.

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Reader's Diary #1792- Gabby Rivera (writer), Joe Quinones (artist) America The Life and Times of America Chavez 1

I wanted to like America, Marvel's first queer Latina superhero to have her own solo series, more than I did. I won't say I didn't like it all, but my verdict is still out.

It took a bit too long to get a sense of either the character or the plot and there was a lot that felt only beginning to come together toward the end of this collection. Often, too, it felt like a parade of cameos just slowed things down, shoehorned in to establish America as a legit Marvel superhero.

However, once I started to see some real development in America (self-doubt underneath all that boldness) and her backstory/mythology expanded, it was enough that I've decided I'll probably read more down the road.

As for the art, I've enjoyed Joe Quinones work before and didn't mind it here, but given the more sci-fi/supernatural direction the story seems to touch upon, I'm not sure if a more experimental artist wouldn't have been a better fit, or maybe someone who plays homage to the more "out there" art of Steve Ditko.

Friday, April 13, 2018

Reader's Diary #1791- Eleanor Davis: You and A Bike and a Road

The title of Eleanor Davis's long distance cycling memoir is interesting. Rather than Me and A Bike and a Road, she's chosen to give it the second person You. As a daily journal, you'd expect the first person perspective, as a graphic novel you'd expect the perspective to keep changing. I suppose the title grounds the stories for readers, makes them empathize with Eleanor from the get go as she attempts a solo bicycle trip the from the Pacific to the Atlantic across the lower US states.

Personally, I don't feel I needed the push to envision myself in her place. I enjoy long distance bike trips and would prefer doing them on my own. I've not been brave enough yet to overnight on such a trip and as Eleanor was also a rookie on the beginning of her trip I can definitely relate to her nervousness and excitement and the reflections she makes about her mistakes. She also provides glimpses into her politics (especially as she notes excessive border controls) and I was happy to see we were kindred spirits in that regard as well.

Not that our experiences would be totally interchangeable. As a woman, she faced additional perils I would not. She also rides through a lot of desert land. That said, if I was to take on such an excursion from my current home, I'd have to face much longer distances before seeing another community and I'd be out of cell phone range for much of that should I run into trouble.

But, even without an interest in biking, I think other readers might appreciate the writing. The daily journaling, the focus on inner thoughts and astute observations of landscapes, flora and fauna, and people, is all quite calming (and captures much of what I enjoy about biking).

Davis's art here is sketchy; quick with simple, sometimes exaggerated lines. There are some hints at her real skill at drawing in her perspectives and so on, but I don't think it was meant to be a carefully crafted piece of art rather than honest, in-the-moment interpretations.