Saturday, January 16, 2010

Rapunzel's Revenge by a heapa Hales


Popular YA writer Shannon Hale decided to turn her attention to sequential art by penning a script with her husband, Dean Hale, which was later drawn by Nathan Hale (no relation). The book did well enough to warrant a sequel (Calamity Jack, out this month).

I didn't have any clear expectations coming into this, but I was impressed immediately. For a lady with no known comics-writing experience, she's adept. She knew how to use the panels, everything was paced well, etc. (She talks about switching forms here, but I got bored and just barely finished the first paragraph.) So that's a good start. I don't know how much of this success can be attributed to Dean or Nathan, but Shannon's the famous one here and no doubt it was on the strength of her name that this project happened at all, so good job, Shannon.

And I love the concept. I love recreations of old tales, and Rapunzel as a fantasy western works well.

It's a superheroish power fantasy for girls with a bit of romance thrown in. Only --- since the girl's the hero, this time, she also gets to be the one dumb in love. Role reversals all around.

Now, they end gets a bit dicey with a handful of unearned outs, but overall, this is a great book and one I recommend checking out. It could be a good gateway work for younger kids --- especially girls? --- who haven't ever really tried comics on for size.

It's fun and harmless and nice to have around.

Review done.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Best book of 2009: Shaun Tan 's The Arrival

(note: books are eligible for this designation the year i the indie snob first read them; publication is irrelevant)

The Arrival by Shaun Tan.


This was the first comic I read last year and I knew then it had a good chance at being the best of the year. And so it was.

I know, I know, I know. The book came out a few years ago so everyone and their parakeet has already sung its praises, but this book really can't be praised too much.

One observation I do want to make in passing is something I learned at Comic Con:

Comics without words have an easier time getting accepted as Respectable. And as The Arrival meets that category I feel I should comment.

(First, let me insist I have nothing against worded comics --- although last year's winner of this prize was also wordless. And so while I might seem to be knocking worded comics, I assure you I am not.)

Wordless comics more purely explore the strengths of the comics medium. Words --- they're not baggage, but --- they are not inherent to What Comics Is. Comics Are Pictures Ordered.

And so, I think, when outsiders view a wordless comic, they can finally see just What Comics Is.

That explains them.

But I also rejoice in the purity of a perfectly crafted comic that can stand without words.

But The Arrival is more than that. It's story makes the lack of words thematically significant. If we understood the characters' words, that would eat into our empathy. Which is remarkable, when you think about it. Yet here, in this book, it is absolutely true.

Well done, Mr Tan.

Best Comic of the Year
2008: The Blot by Tom Neely
2009: The Arrival by Shaun Tan

Friday, January 8, 2010

War Is Boring


The images are tough to read, but David Axe's War Is Boring is worth the effort.