Depending on who you ask, Philip Pullman’s The Golden Compass could be a masterpiece or a dangerous book that shouldn’t be in the hands of children. The former opinion seems to have won out over the years, and now on the 20th anniversary of its original publication, we’re treated to a delightful graphic novel adaptation.
The story is set in a world similar to ours but slightly different, where every person has a personal “daemon”: their soul in the form of an animal. Lyra, a plucky young girl living in Oxford, gets caught up in a globe-trotting adventure after her friend Roger is kidnapped. One of the best aspects of the story is getting to explore Pullman’s expansive fantasy world. The graphic novel really shines at visualizing that world in full color. Illustrator Clement Oubrerie uses a somewhat muted look for most of the book, which helps to place the story in a world outside our own. A couple minor changes have been made to the story, most notably occasionally allowing us to see events that are only referred to in the book. This will likely help new readers understand the story better since it actually clarifies a few things that are vague in the beginning of the book. The book itself comes in both paperback and hardcover editions. I opted for the paperback because it’s about half the price and very sturdy, with a heavy gloss cover with front and back flaps. Read the rest
It seems as though Lord of the Flies-like tales are all the rage in comics these days. Here on Wink we've reviewed several books that feature kids gone wild, namely The Wrenchies and Beautiful Darkness, and there are others. Adding its own unique spin to this trope is The Divine, a graphic novel of magical realism. Inspired by actual events, The Divine follows the fated exploits of Mark, an ex US army military explosives expert who's trying to make a go at domestic bliss, but having a hard time finding a decent job to support his wife and baby on the way. He wants anything but to accept an offer made by a meat-headed former military buddy, Jason. But the job Jason dangles before him – a quick and dirty mine explosives job in the obscure (fictitious) Southeast Asian country of Quanlom – offers too big of a payday to turn down. It seems so easy. Get in, get out, collect the fat paycheck, live happily ever after. The door to hell has well-oiled hinges and easily swings for those who push.That hell breaks loose the moment Mark steps foot on the matted jungle floors of Quanlom. And we feel like we're right there with him. The art in this book, so gorgeously rendered by twin Israeli artists Asaf and Tomer Hanuka, masterfully uses saturated blocks of color to create a very dense and intense feeling that can be claustrophobic one minute and explosively expansive the next. Read the rest
Some call this the greatest graphic novel ever. I tend to agree. Written and drawn by a young Hayao Miyazaki between 1982 and 1994, his final Japanese manga reached 1,100 pages. The current English translation consists of an oversized 2-volume hardcover boxed set (or a smaller format 7 volume paperback set). The story takes place in a post-apocalyptic earth and is rife with concern for the environment as well as feral fantasy creatures. Miyazaki would later animate it into his first feature length film by the same name. The obsessive detail in each drawing sucks you into a complete immersion into his world. Like all Miyazaki creations, it is lyrical, uplifting yet slightly dark, with villains who have redeeming qualities, and vice versa. It’s suitable for young adults.
Nausicaä of the Valley of Wind Vol. 1 by Hayao Miyazaki VIZ Media 2004, 136 pages, 7.1 x 10.1 x 0.5 inches (paperback) $9 Buy one on Amazon
Imagine walking down a street in Paris one morning, stumbling upon a rubbish heap, plucking out a cardboard box from the debris, and finding pages of song lyrics, a war medal and a diary written 100 years ago inside the box. This really happened to French artist Barroux, and his tribute to the unknown man behind the diary is the graphic novel, Line of Fire: Diary of an Unknown Soldier (August, September 1914).
Through charcoal drawings, Barroux illustrates the diary's entries from early August, 1914 until the writing abruptly ends one month later. The haunting, dark sketches show the full range of emotions and experiences of this anonymous French soldier just days into the start of the Great War. Renderings depicting fear, sadness, lonesomeness, and hope accompany the brief diary entries. Pages with the soldier's handwriting are also sprinkled throughout the book. Although the name of this soldier remains a mystery, he was a real man that had to say goodbye to a real family and walk into the forests not knowing what lay ahead. Line of Fire is a way to remember that this brave man existed.
Further information about clues from the diary, the multi-media adaptation of Line of Fire and the background of the artist Barroux can be found here. – Carole Rosner
Line of Fire: Diary of an Unknown Soldier (August, September 1914) by Unknown (author), Barroux (illustrator) and Sarah Ardizzone (translator) Phoenix Yard Books 2014, 96 pages, 7.2 x 9.8 x 0.5 inches (paperback) $13 Buy one on Amazon
When I was a teen, I really wanted to like Greek mythology, but the complexity of the pantheon and some of the absurdities of the stories lost me rather than sucked me in. I quickly became confused and bored. Over the years, I've gained a greater appreciation and understanding of classical mythology, but I haven't gone back to try and relearn everything I couldn't retain in school. Until now, thanks to George O'Conner's impressive Olympians box set.
The set contains six volumes, Zeus (King of the Gods), Athena (Warrior Goddess), Hera (Goddess of the Air, Sky, and Heavens), Poseidon (God of the Sea), Hades (Lord of the Dead), and Aphrodite (Goddess of Love). Each one runs 85 pages, and besides the origin story (and a few other key tales) for each god, there are also author notes, a summary of the key characters in each book, a recommended reading list, and even a series of discussion questions. The author and publisher definitely designed these books to be taught to young people and I would definitely recommend them to teachers, home schoolers, and students who want to learn of the “august residents of Mount Olympus” (as the back cover puts it) in a fun and resonant way. These books are really beautifully illustrated and produced. Most of the book covers include spot foil stamping. The Zeus cover is seriously cool, with the silver lightning in his hands actually flashing dramatically as you move the cover to catch the light. I dare you to hold this book in your hands and not want to move it around and make thunder sounds like a ten year old (OK, maybe that's just me). Read the rest
A dark noir rendering of the classic Italian children's novel, this tripped-out reimagining of Pinocchio comes from the fevered mind and hand of Winshluss. Pen name for Vincent Parannaud, Winshluss is the award-winning French artist and filmmaker perhaps best known for the animated feature, Persepolis, which won the Jury Prize at Cannes and was nominated for an Academy Award, Golden Globe, and Cannes' Palm d'Or, among others.
It's hard to express just how beautiful Pinocchio is. And how dark. Using pen and ink, watercolor and paint, and brilliantly style-checking Georges Méliès, Windsor McCay, Walt Kelly, Walt Disney, Zap! and decades of underground comic artists, Winshluss uses the basic tropes of Pinocchio (artificial boy, characters inside a whale, and Jiminy, here a cockroach) to frame and interweave several dark, often disturbing, tales. As the moods and motives of the narrative shift, so do the styles and colors of the art. Throughout, everything feels overcast, bone-damp, sooty, and rusted shut. This is a world overwhelmed with desperation and decay, death and naked human immorality.
In this telling of the tale, Pinocchio is not a puppet who becomes a boy, but a toy soldier built by Geppetto for servitude. And war. He and the book (with some exception) are speechless, and like a hapless Mr. Bill or Chauncey Gardner in Being There, Pinocchio becomes a sort of dumb foil for the dramas and characters interwoven throughout the book, at once comical and tragic. And unlike the original novel by Carlo Collodi, the main characters basically never interact, although Jiminy Cockroach lives inside of Pinocchio's hollow head and their interweaving stories impact each other (e.g. Read the rest
Tara Shultz, 20, of Yucaipa, CA along with her parents and friends are protesting the inclusion of four award-winning graphic novels that are taught in an English class at Crafton Hills College because they feel they are too violent and pornographic to be read by college students. On Thursday they assembled outside the campus administration building to express their outrage. The four graphic novels are Fun Home by Alison Bechdel; Y: The Last Man, Vol. 1 by Brian Vaughan; The Sandman, Vol. 2: The Doll’s House by Neil Gaiman; and Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi.
I expected Batman and Robin, not pornography,” Shultz told the Redland Daily Facts Newspaper. But Shultz was provided with complete information about which books would be covered in the class. Because Shultz did not pay attention to the syllabus, she and her parents and their friends now want to prohibit everyone from reading the books at the college.
From the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund:
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Shultz, who is working towards an Associate of Arts in English at the public community college, signed up for English 250: Fiction because it fulfills one part of her degree requirements. She was apparently aware that the specific focus of the class was graphic novels, but she told the newspaper that “I expected Batman and Robin, not pornography.” Shultz says that Associate Professor Ryan Bartlett, who has taught the course for three terms without any other complaints, failed to adequately warn students about the books’ content. Her father Greg Shultz said that “if they (had) put a disclaimer on this, we wouldn’t have taken the course.” Tara Shultz agreed, saying that Bartlett “should have stood up the first day of class and warned us.”
Of course, Shultz and her parents did have complete information about which books would be covered in the class – the school requires instructors (p.
Comics legend Scott McCloud returns to fiction with The Sculptor, the exceptional story of a struggling sculptor who makes a deal with Death for incredible artistic ability at the cost of his life in 200 days. The story is long and sprawling and details those last days as David tries to leave his mark on the art world. It’s epic and heartbreaking and sure to leave a lasting impression when you’re done.
McCloud has been a frontrunner of online publishing since releasing Reinventing Comics in 2000. It’s interesting then that his newest work is something I feel has to be experienced in print. The book is THICK, and on some level almost feels sculpted; the design of the thing from jacket to cover to page is presented as a complete work of art. This has to be important when you name your book The Sculptor. The book is beautifully built, and I actually prefer the blue hardcover illustrations of David and Meg over the full color dust jacket. Pages are colored mostly in blue, which is unique and serves to make the drawings look almost like a blueprint or an artistic sketch at times, underscoring the sculpting/art element of the story in a cool way. McCloud’s drawing is top notch; he uses the full power of comics, sometimes going for pages without a word of dialogue, letting the pictures tell the story. On several occasions I paused to study pages for longer than I normally would, just because there is so much going on in each panel. Read the rest
776 pages commemorating a quarter-century of Canada's outstanding, astounding indie comics press, including essays by Margaret Atwood, Jonathan Lethem and Lemony Snicket, and featuring seminal stories from Jillian Tamaki, Chris Ware, Adrian Tomine, and Art Spiegelman. Read the rest