Graphic novel reviews

The Complete Peanuts
Charles Schulz
Fantagraphics Books

Central Library has invested in more of this excellent series of reprints of possibly the finest comic strip in the world. Each volume covers two years, and they’re currently up to the mid-’70s, which was the prime of Peanuts. Worth investigating for those of you only familiar with the strip in its comparatively anaemic ’80s and ’90s period.

Doctor Who: The Forgotten
Tony Lee & Pia Guerra
IDW Publishing 2009

I picked up this book because it has a handsome cover by Ben Templesmith, the artist behind 30 Days of Night whose distinctive pencil-plus-masses-of-Photoshop-layering style is much imitated. The best thing about the Doctor Who revival is that all of the people involved grew up with the series and obviously love it, displaying an affection for the work which isn’t something you can say about, for example, Two and a Half Men. This reprint of six issues of a comic book series has a complicated plot involving all ten incarnations of the Doctor and an obscene amount of in-jokes which I’m frankly ashamed to say that I got*. This detailed love for a series with a 46 year history makes for a detailed but rewarding read – provided you didn’t get out much when you were growing up.

Cecil and Jordan in New York Stories
Gabrielle Bell
Drawn & Quarterly 2009

This is a collection of Bell’s short stories, drawn in a pleasing variety of styles. Although often melancholy, the stories avoid the torpid self-obsession common with American semi-autobiographical cartoons. I mean, really, can’t some of them just get a blog? The title story, about a woman who transforms herself into a chair, was adapted by Michel Gondry into a segment of the film Tokyo!, which isn’t something that happens everyday.

How to Love
Various Artists
Actus Comics 2007

A powerful and varied collection of stories from Actus Tragicus, a collective of Israeli artists who regularly publish books which knock the spots off their Western equivalents. I have another book of theirs called Jetlag which is based on the short stories of Etgar Keret. There are six stories in How to Love which cover a variety of artistic and storytelling styles, from rotoscoped art to Herge clean line. The most interesting is a short story by Itzik Rennert which is told in paragraph-length chapters with an accompanying illustration on each page, and contains such classic lines as “He was surprised to realize that he simply had to see Matthias undress, now, right now, this instant, or else he would die. Shit, he thought. His Latent Period had ended”. Why can’t we do something like this in NZ?

* For example, when confronted by ex-companion Sarah Jane Smith, the Doctor says “Well, this is awkward… well, that is, it’s not Aberdeen awkward.” Famously (in Doctor Who circles, anyway), when they parted company in 1976, the Doctor accidentally dropped her off in Aberdeen instead of  South Croydon. Ha! …I guess you had to be there.
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