Books  |  Reviews

Comic Book & Graphic Novel Round-Up (7/20/11)

July 20, 2011  |  12:00pm

Each week, Paste reviews the most intriguing comic books, graphic novels, graphic memoirs and other illustrated books.

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Murder By High Tide by Maurice Tillieux, translated by Kim Thompson
Fantagraphics, 2011
Grade: 8.1

Peter Jackson and Steven Spielberg’s Tintin movie comes out in December. Expect a number of Franco-Belgian comics to pop up on whatever bookstore shelves still exist between now and then. Murder By High Tide introduces Maurice Tillieux’s private detective Gil Jordan to America, collecting two 1950s stories from an acclaimed series that has never before been translated into English. Tillieux isn’t quite Herges, but he’s adept at writing and drawing suspenseful detective stories with brief flurries of action. Jordan is a Parisian private eye who solves mysterious crimes with the help of his secretary Miss Midge and his comic relief sidekicks Crackerjack and Inspector Crouton. “Murder By High Tide” (aka “La voiture immergee”) is the better of the two stories, with such exotic locales as an old Templar castle, a dangerous sea-swept strait, and dusty, cluttered back alleys in Paris and London. The humor’s a bit off, and the all-business Jordan is a little dry, but Tillieux’s plotting and deft hand at action, figures, and environments make Murder By High Tide a thrilling read. (GM)


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Wandering Son, book 1, by Shimura Takako, translated by Matt Thorn
Fantagraphics, 2011
Grade: 7.6

I’m generally skeptical about manga, as I assume most American comics
readers my age are. It seems too big a world to jump into, too focused
on cuteness, too difficult to understand, but Fantagraphics is always
a good place to start if you’re worried about trying something new.
The venerable comics publisher is a stamp of quality, a guarantee that
the vetting process has been serious and that, at very least, the book
you hold in your hands will have been beautifully printed. Wandering
Son, book 1
, bears all that out. The story of a boy who wants to be a
girl and a girl who wants to be a boy opens (from the back side, of
course) with a series of gorgeously subtle watercolor pages before it
transitions to one-color work. It’s a lovely, tactile-y rich object,
but it’s also a sweet book in terms of content. Shimura is famous for
LGBT-friendly comics in Japan, and Wandering Son has been a big hit
there. Matt Thorn’s translation reads smoothly for the most part,
although some explanatory notes would be helpful for the novice manga
reader. The timeline is a bit jumpy, and how believable the story is
may be in question, but the characters are pleasant to spend time
with, the art is emotive and expressive (embarrassment comes up a
lot), and there is a gentleness to the whole project that is welcome.(HB)


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The Raven by Lou Reed and Lorenzo Mattotti
Fantagraphics Books, 2011
Grade: 8.4

Edgar Allen Poe’s “The Raven” is barely a hundred lines long, but Lou Reed’s been towing every last one for over a decade now. First came the 2000 musical, POEtry. A double album soon followed. Brought straight to your chamber door from the ever-awesome Fantagraphics, we finally have The Raven graphic novel. Personally commissioned by Reed, legendary illustrator Lorenzo Mattotti (Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Stigmata) has sketched some remarkably vivid scenes for what amounts to the definitive bard of Baltimore project from New York City’s own poet laureate. “Not exactly the boy next door,” quoth Reed in his song Edgar Allen Poe. Likewise, Mattotti’s abstract scribblings here aren’t always matched to Reed’s meter. Going back to Poe’s “Lenore”, however, there’s a certain fantasma that certainly abides a looser pictorial. And no matter how far out Reed goes himself, there’s at least some essence of that original midnight’s narrative gently rapping. Hardcovered, with a jacket by Grammy-nominated designer Jesse LeDoux, the whole presentation is indeed first-class. If Reed’s rehashing of Frank Wedekind’s Lulu proves even half as good for Metallica, perhaps we’ll all be eating crow. (Logan K. Young)


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Darkwing Duck #14 by Ian Brill and James Silvani
Boom!, 2011
Grade: 6.3

The release of last weekend’s new Winnie the Pooh feature welcomed back a rarity in kids movies: a breezy, unironic splurge into childhood escapism. There’s definitely a place for all ages shenanigans with baby booming culture references and parenthood ennui nudges, but sometimes its better to leave the fourth wall unbroken and let talking animals do their thing. Though Disney/Marvel is well on its way to absorbing back its properties, Boom! has done a standup job reintroducing a host of whimsical animated icons to the comic page. Darkwing Duck will bring a smile to any Gen Y’ers who remember the stacked Disney Afternoon from the early 90’s. A goofy parody of Silver Age daring-do heroes, Darkwing might even find the comic book a more appropriate home than the television screen. His latest issue finds the-terror-that-flaps-in-the night running for mayor and squaring off against a rampaging kitten in a mechanical suit (“I can haz destruction?”). While efficient, this chapter lacks the progressive stylization and passion that tends to make these boomerang titles really shine. The novel promise of some superduck political intrigue is bisected by a mandatory brawl that seems like it belongs in a separate arc. James Silvani hands in some capable house-style pencils, but his textured cover shows that he’s capable of much, much more. Though I’m overjoyed to see these characters back in the limelight, a dogmatic loyalty to their former incarnations isn’t necessarily in their best interest — check out Roger Langridge’s dynamic take on the The Muppets for further proof. (SE)


If you have a comic or graphic novel you would like to submit for review, contact your friendly neighborhood Paste Comics Team at comics@pastemagazine.com>

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