Comic Book & Graphic Novel Round-Up (10/17/12)

Books  |  Reviews
Comic Book & Graphic Novel Round-Up (10/17/12)

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

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The Carter Family: Don’t Forget This Song
by Frank M. Young and David Lasky

Abrams ComicArts, 2012
Rating: 7.5

Covering forty-plus years of history as it tracks the story of the Carter Family, one of the most influential bands in all of American music, this book manages to please a variety of audiences. The stop-and-start nature of the tale, which has moments of writerly significance but not too many, makes it rough around the edges but also natural-feeling, and not biopic-ready. At the same time, it illustrates the difficulties of accurate biography. To some extent, without the hand of the author there to shape it, Parson Weems style, the story just kind of starts and ends, with a bunch of stuff in between. And, of course, no mere book can capture the magic of the Carter Family’s sound, which is why this one includes a bonus CD of songs. Smart decision. Young and Lasky seem to work well together, and they do a lot with implication. The dialect in which the story is rendered feels accurate and it matches Lasky’s simplified figures, which mimic popular comic art of the time, down to the lettering. If you like this kind of thing already, it’ll leave you wanting more. (HB)

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Barack Hussein Obama
by Steven Weissman

Fantagraphics, 2012)
Rating: 8.1

With its gold foil stamp and red, white and blue partial jacket, Barack Hussein Obama could well be a semi-official graphic rendering of a presidency. What’s really interesting is that it kind of is, despite its descent into madness, with a bestial Hillary Clinton, a bird-possessed Obama and ever-increasing surrealism. This book is far more than just weird for the sake of weird. Weissman’s somewhat childlike style, rendered in four-panel stand-alone pages with minimal color in what appears to be a Moleskine notebook, first frustrates (that guy doesn’t even look like Obama! how is that supposed to be Hillary Clinton?), then eventually wears down your defenses. If you’ve compared photographs of our leaders from four years ago with the way they look today, you’ve no doubt been struck by how they’ve aged in that time, with the weight of the world constantly upon them and the awful horror of realism and situations in which there is no right answer. Weissman’s decision to show Clinton’s face expanding, her skin popping with veins, her visage becoming ever more monstrous may be cruel, but it’s weirdly accurate and sympathetic. If this book is a portrait of anything, it shows the grind and the way that hope and idealism erodes when faced with the everyday, and that is valuable. (HB)


Transfusion #1
by Steve Niles and menton3

IDW, 2012
Rating: 7.3

The Steve Niles comic formula doesn’t deviate all too often, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Take one part Universal Monster icon and divide it with one innovative twist and then multiply the dividend by an art direction that will make you want to slit your wrists, and you can bet that product will have Niles’ name on it. Transfusion wears its plot on its sleeve with the tagline ‘Vampires Versus Robots,’ and indeed there is plenty of that. That’s a bit of a reductionist description though; the story toys with narration, expectation and empathy in ways that I won’t spoil, but Niles weaves a conflicted web of ethics that makes it difficult to sort out if a hero actually exists in his new territorial wasteland. Fittingly, the color palette never quite makes it out of the grey spectrum. Artist menton3 dresses up like Niles’ former dance partners Ashley Wood and Ben Templesmith to hatch desolate vistas where dead trees pollute the horizon like varicose veins. There’s a physical topography to the art, with murky brush strokes scratching through the page. It’ll make you break out your Ministry records even if clear storytelling takes a backseat. The fight scenes especially suffer from a lack of movement and flow, requiring the reader to fill in some of the missing choreography. Then again, I can’t imagine any other artist painting a humanoid machine sucking an infant into its torso with such nihilistic depravity. Transfusion is more than the sum of its monster mash parts, blending survivalist horror with humanist conflict to great effect. If this complexity grows throughout the series, this title might even usurp Niles’ other bloodsucker tale, 30 Days of Night. (SE)

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Halloween Eve
by Brandon Montclare and Amy Reeder

Image Comics, 2012
Rating: 6.7

We tend to focus on writing more than art in our reviews. It’s not intentional. It’s easier to intelligently explain what something is about than what something looks like. It’d be a mistake to not discuss the art in any review of Halloween Eve, though. Amy Reeder’s work is lush and vibrant, popping with energy and bright colors. Eve is an adorably designed lead who looks like a Cameron Stewart drawing if he was influenced more by anime than Western cartoons. It doesn’t look like manga, per se, although the facial expressions and occasionally the eyes definitely have that feel. Reeder also takes a nice turn for the psychedelic when the story takes a detour into “Halloween Land”, with skewed angles and fanciful character designs, although she eventually settles into a repetitive and unimaginative purple-and-yellow checkboard terrain with a bare backdrop. Still, it’s an adorable aesthetic that never feels overly cartoonish or twee. Brandon Montclare’s story isn’t as charming, but it’s also not a disaster, just a fairly standard tale about a young cynic who learns the true meaning of a holiday through either supernatural intervention or some kind of hallucination. It feels a little too rushed—there’s barely space to develop Eve to any extent, much less her coworkers. (GM)

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