Daniel Stope is a well-intentioned young man from the country who has dreams of becoming a professional artist. Of course, one of the best places to foster, as well as dash, such ambitions is going to an art school. In can be honey or vinegar, depending upon numerous factors. Jamie Coe explores the honey and vinegar of art school in his debut graphic novel, “Art Schooled,” published by Nobrow Press.
Tag Archives: Graphic Novel Reviews
Welcome to hipsterville. If there is something that is both scary and fascinating to observe (like a train wreck) it is the activity of a hipster. Charles Burns completes his ode to the lives of hipsters gone terribly wrong in the final part of his Nitnit trilogy, “Sugar Skull.” Outside of a Stephen King novel, this new book by Burns offers up plenty to be creeped out over. Think of it as “Carrie” for the Gen X set.
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.
Michael Cho laughed with recognition when I compared his character, Corinna Park, with Truman Capote’s Holly Golightly. Granted, it is by no means an exact match but the two are kindred spirits in many ways. There is something very appealing and relatable about Corinna Park. In Cho’s debut graphic novel, “Shoplifter,” we observe a young woman’s struggle to find her place in the world. We appreciate that struggle as well as the increasingly disconnected world we live in. You can read my review here.
Cho is an illustrator, cartoonist, and writer whose previously published work includes “Back Alleys and Urban Landscapes,” a collection of sketches depicting Toronto’s cityscape. Born in South Korea, he has lived in Canada since he was six.
Seth, author of “Palookaville,” has said, “Michael Cho’s ‘Shoplifter,’ his first graphic novel, is a joy to behold–so beautiful it will make all other cartoonists weep with envy.”
In this interview, Cho speaks to the impatience of youth and life in the big city for young people. This is part of an unfolding story. Cho is looking forward to pursuing this narrative further with other characters. “Shoplifter” is the first of five graphic novels with intertwined themes.
“Shoplifter” has two-color illustrations throughout and is available as of September 2, 2014. It is published by Pantheon, a division of Random House. To pre-order, visit Random House right here.
The fresh face of youth, complete with a cute smirk, is such a fleeting thing. Meet Corinna Park. She thought she’d take the big city by storm, have wildly witty friends, and knock out her first novel by sundown. In the graphic novel, “Shoplifter,” Michael Cho guides us through the life of a new generation’s Holly Golightly.
VINCENT is an inviting look at Vincent Van Gogh, the epitome of the tortured artist. In this new graphic novel by Dutch illustrator Barbara Stok, we have a new look at this icon. Published by SelfMadeHero, as part of their exciting new Art Masters series, we find in these 144 pages another way to appreciate Van Gogh’s life and art and even get some clarity regarding the myth surrounding Van Gogh. The most infamous moment during his life is, of course, the cutting off of part of his ear. Popular belief has it as his strange way of proving his love for a local woman. However, we find here that is not the case.
How do we connect? We do it, or try to do it, in a variety a ways. It’s not always easy but it’s far better than its opposite, to disconnect. I aspire to connect with you. I make this preface because I am genuinely inspired by my latest subject for review, Joel Craig’s graphic memoir, WELCOME TO NURSING HELLo.
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:
What Isabel Greenberg does with her debut graphic novel, “The Encyclopedia of Early Earth,” is tap into the joy and spirit of storytelling. She does this with a good-hearted determination and a well-reasoned integrity. You don’t get the sense that she’s out to conquer the world of comics as much as you feel that this is someone who has a bunch of stories she’d like to share. It’s no small feat to inspire this good feeling for the reader. And she does it leaving you wanting more.
Stories. Stories. And more stories. That is what you will find here. The unifying theme, or perhaps just a jumping off point, is the search to better understand a most enigmatic couple of young lovers. We know next to nothing about them, not even their names. All we really know is that they’re from opposite ends of the poles, he north, she south, and that a strange force keeps them from actually touching. Greenberg couldn’t give a fig about their individual backgrounds and there’s no need for that. Will you know these two any better if you were to have proper names, family trees, and extensive profiles? No, all of that can get in the way. As counterintuitve as it may seem to nix such details, it’s all for the sake of…the story. In fact, if you need a name for our main character, you can just call him The Storyteller.
These two have concluded they are soulmates. But what about the fact they can’t actually touch due to this electromagnetic force field between them? Well, that’s where some stories can help make sense of it all. Our storyteller recounts to his true love the journey he’s been on. And so our young man begins with a fantastical origin story for himself. As a baby, he was found by three sisters who all wanted to be his mother. Therefore, a medicine man cast a spell and split the infant into three separate selves. But the process was slightly uneven and a little tiny piece of the infant’s soul flew away. Later, when the boy comes of age, all three selves become one again, except for that missing piece of soul still at large. Ah, those are the sort of details that Greenberg is into and all the better for it.
Greenberg’s artwork is very inviting. She makes very good use of her influences, particularly David B, and produces her own exuberant, youthful, and distinctive style. Her stories and art revel in irreverence, whimsy, and a touch of subversion. While this book is pretty suitable for all ages, there is a good dose of existential rumination that will appeal to teen and adult readers.
This book is not about those star-crossed lovers we began with, really. It’s about them but it’s far more, as the title implies, an exploration of Early Earth. And, more to point, this is a good old-fashioned book about the meaning of life, as expressed through myth. Greenberg touches upon as much myth and legend as she possibly can. She has created a dazzling collection of stories that will recall various cultures, beliefs, and forms of entertainment. And it’s all coming to you with a contemporary vibe that may call up for you everything from “Adventure Time” to “Game of Thrones.”