Monday, August 4, 2008

Mini-Reviews!

With this last Mini-Reviews! it was an indie themed one, and I promised that there would be a second part to it, in which I reviewed three more indie works, so let's take a look.

True Story Swear To God by Tom Beland

This is Image Comics' archival version collecting all 16 of the indie issues. The story is autobiographical, as Tom Beland meets and falls in love with a Puerto Rican woman and moves to San Juan to be with her, leaving behind all his family in Napa Valley. It's a sweet love story made dramatic by all the obstacles that they face in day to day life. Beland's cartoony style is rough but effective, and his narration is constant and full of "telling" rather than "showing". Most of this comic book series is Tom's narration and it strikes me as almost amateurish in comparison to Craig Thompson's narration from Blankets, who used the narration effectively to "show". I can't say I didn't like True Story Swear To God, but after reading all this fine indie stuff before, I was a little underwhelmed.

Too Cool To Be Forgotten by Alex Robinson

This is a shorter work from Robinson, author of Tricked, but nonetheless incredible at displaying Robinson's gifts at dialogue, panel layout and pushing the medium like usual. Andy Wicks, fortysomething, goes under hypnosis to quit smoking but is accidentally sent backwards in time to high school, forced to relive a week with the same knowledge as a fortysomething. A lot of this comic is Andy commenting on being a teenager and the social subtleties. Robinson is an amazing writer, able to craft realistic dialogue and realistic interactions and realistic characters. He draws people as people, rather than smooth perfect beauties a la Jaime Hernandez or Pia Guerra, which fits into his genre of realism. Too Cool To Be Forgotten also features one of the most heartbreaking climaxes I've ever read in a comic book, and one that I won't ever forget. This is highly recommended.

Zot! The Black And White Collection by Scott McCloud

I had no idea Scott McCloud did anything other than webcomics and his famous comic book theory tomes. Apparently, he wrote and drew an entire comic book series that's mostly collected in this huge almost 600 pages doorstopper. Zot! is the story of Zot, a superhero from an idealized future alternate Earth who visits our Earth and courts Jenny, a fifteen year old girl. The black and white issues are in two parts: the superhero stuff and then the Earth based stories about ordinary people. Published in the eighties, Zot! is McCloud's synthesis of American alternative comics and the huge manga style. For me, this was a fairly routine superhero story at first, with interesting panel layouts and different views on what superhero comics can do. Then, the story radically shifts to more personal stories and that's where it flies. I was absolutely riveted by the final eight issues and was heartbroken by at least two. McCloud's extensive and illuminating commentary are just as entertaining as the comics themselves. For anybody interested in the history of alternative comics or American manga, this is a good place to start. Highly recommended.

That's it for now. In keeping with the indie theme, the next big thing I'm reading is Jaime Hernandez' Locas, a hardcover collecting most of his stories from Love and Rockets. Watch for the review.

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