Farel Dalrymple has distinguished alienated youth to a high level with his comics. There is that distinctive deadpan stare from a young person confronting some great threat. We never know for sure what that young person is thinking. Are they afraid? Most likely. But putting on a good poker face will help. In “The Wrenchies,” Dalrymple’s much anticipated new graphic novel, he offers up another side of the Apocalypse filled with kids who are fighting the good fight. And then he takes it a step further, and step further after that, to deliver a robust and mature work for all to enjoy. This is Dalrymple’s moment, his skills coming together to say it all in one big book worthy of, you name it, Dr. Seuss, Ray Bradbury, the Beatles, the Ramones, really, name a creative genius you love and this book ranks right up there.
Tag Archives: First Second Books
Review: THE WRENCHIES by Farel Dalrymple
Filed under Comics, Farel Dalrymple, First Second, Small Press Expo, SPX
Review: ANDRE THE GIANT: LIFE AND LEGEND by Box Brown
Box Brown is the one cartoonist born to create a graphic novel in honor of pro wrestling and its greatest warrior: “Andre the Giant: Life and Legend,” published by First Second Books. As Brown describes in the introduction, he became hooked on the sports spectacle after a buddy brought some wrestling magazines to school in the fourth grade. Brown respectfully explains that there is a pact between the audience and the wrestlers to suspend disbelief. It is known by the voodoo-sounding term, “kayfabe.” For a brief time, you return to childhood and you let yourself believe that a man can fly.
Filed under Box Brown, Comics, First Second, Graphic Novel Reviews, graphic novels
Review: THE SHADOW HERO by Gene Yang and Sonny Liew
“The Shadow Hero” revels in Chinese culture and so much more, addressing universal issues like the dynamics of family. In the case of this fabulous story, we have a most fabulous mother who leads the way. When Hua, middle-aged and disillusioned, finds herself rescued by an actual fly-thru-the-air superhero, she finds a new lease on life. And that lease depends upon her turning her teenaged son, Hank, into a superhero if it’s the last thing she ever does. This is how Gene Yang’s new graphic novel, “The Shadow Hero,” opens up. For this story, Yang writes and hands over the drawing to Sonny Liew.
Filed under China, First Second, Gene Yang, Graphic Novel Reviews, graphic novels, Sonny Liew
Comic-Con 2014 Interview: Lucy Knisley
Lucy Knisley is a wonderfully observant cartoonist. There wasn’t anything quite like her comics journal, “French Milk,” when it was first published in 2007, and it has grown in stature ever since. It’s a fun read, first of all. It’s also a gentle push forward in what the comics medium is capable of. Knisley has created a number of other works with that same personal quality. Her more recent notable work is “Relish,” published by First Second in 2013. In this work, the narrative is tighter and the drawing more refined in keeping with the book’s structured theme. For this interview, there is some comparison of these two works and some thoughts on what lies ahead for comics.
We begin with thoughts on M.F. Fisher, a master at storytelling that made a fine mix of memoir and writing on food. Fisher’s first published book was “Serve it Forth,” in 1937. And, like the title implies, the pages within contain words that express an uncanny zest for life, and food. Nowadays, it seems like we’re all foodies. But only a few can claim to be standard-bearers to Fisher to any degree. I started thinking about that in terms of what Knisley is doing and that is where our conversation takes off.
You can find out more about Lucy Knisley by visiting her site here as well as visiting our friends at First Second Books right here.
Filed under Comic-Con, Comic-Con 2014, Comics, First Second, graphic novels, Lucy Knisley
Review: BOXERS & SAINTS by Gene Luen Yang, published by First Second
Like a lightning strike, Gene Luen Yang’s new graphic novel, “Boxers & Saints,” is charged with energy. It is pure comics in the sense that it is immersive, dynamic, and holds you with a powerfully consistent pace. Much in the way that Jeff Smith’s comics command the page, you enter a very animated and colorful world when you read the work of Gene Luen Yang. And speaking of colors, Lark Pien provides a palette with an artist’s sensitivity. This is a most remarkable hero’s journey that, at once, is familiar and quite different and specific.
This is a story about China being thrown into the modern age with all its bloody consequences. It is told in two volumes. The first volume is the main story focusing on the Boxer Rebellion as seen from the vantage point of a rebel leader, Little Bao. The second volume is a look at those Chinese citizens who accepted the Christian faith as seen from the vantage point of an average young woman with grand aspirations, Vibiana. You can place both books facing up and you have half a portrait of Bao and half a portrait of Vibiana that together provide a full picture to a complex story. These two characters never get to know each other. Their lives only briefly touch. The reader gets to see how they connect in a profound way.
“Boxers & Saints” takes graphic novels to a new level. It’s that good. While we hear endless theorizing on the potential of the comics medium and what has yet to be surveyed in this new art frontier, here we have a work that is grounded in the best comics tradition of precision and consistency and, as a bonus, seems to effortlessly break new ground. You have two stories, of different scope yet equal in their impact. They can be read separately but, together, prove to be a powerful whole. This is something of a first: two volumes, one ostensibly the main story at 325 pages; and the second volume that fills in some essential gaps as a parallel story. And, at 170 pages, it carries a similar impact as the first volume. I have not seen anything quite like this before. Maybe you have. But at such an exceptional level? No, I don’t think so.
The Boxer Rebellion (1899-1901) is the focus here. And while this is also a story of self-discovery, it is very much a valuable, and highly accessible, history lesson. Take a look at the Boxer Rebellion and you get a deeper sense of the heart and soul of China and where it’s coming from today. If not for this event, the superpowers of that time, on a path to take over China, would have had no motivation to pause and control their urge to plunder. Considering such a volatile topic, Yang manages to immerse himself in the subject and pluck out gems of wisdom.
The way Yang sees it, there’s something to be said for the Boxer rebels mirroring today’s geek culture. The Boxer youth learned about the Chinese gods through opera, which was the pop culture of the day. That is precisely what we see our main character, Little Bao, wrapped up in. He loves opera! He can’t read or write and is essentially ignorant, like all his peers in the village he lives in. However, he has a window into culture and the rest of the world. It is through regular viewing of these popular street performances that he learns about Chinese gods, much in the same way that comic books provide a window into the world of myth. And it is this passion that leads Little Bao to want to be like his heroes, similar to the passion demonstrated by today’s cosplay.
It’s that deep love of Chinese gods that gives Little Bao his sense of identity and the inner strength to fight for his country as a Boxer rebel leader against the “foreign devils” with their various interests and agendas. Christian indoctrination is the key point of conflict.
But things are never that simple. Once you’ve seen one imperialist, you’ve seen them all, but Yang asks the reader to consider another point of view. While any Chinese citizen who embraces the Westerner’s Christianity is looked upon by the Boxers as nothing but disloyal to the people’s cause, we read the story of one Chinese girl’s Christian faith in volume two. With as much sincerity as Little Bao, the girl only known as Four Girl finds her place in life. It’s not with her abusive family. It’s among the Christians. She joins the faith and becomes Vibiana.
There’s a fleeting moment early in volume one when Little Bao sees this girl and instantly senses some connection. He spots her while she is making a devilish grimace of her face. He has no idea what it all means and concludes that he is destined to see her again. It is one of many perfectly timed moments in this book. What Yang does to briefly connect these two precious lives coming from opposite ends is magical and powerful. Together, Little Bao and Vibiana provide us with a whole story, a face to China, and a window for the reader.
Below is a quick video recap:
“Boxers & Saints” is a two volume set published by First Second which you can visit here. And also be sure to visit Gene Luen Yang at his website here.
Filed under China, Comics, First Second, Graphic Novel Reviews, graphic novels, Young Adult