Being a fan of wordless graphic novels like Shaun Tan’s The Arrival and Thomas Ott’s The Number, I was eager to experience Chinese artist Daishu Ma’s Leaf. Like those previous efforts, Leaf is rendered in meticulous black and white pencil sketches. Unlike those others, spot colors, namely blue and yellow, are used as a narrative device.
Leaf is about a single tree leaf that unexpectedly blows into the life of the book’s young, unnamed protagonist. Where thousands of similar leaves have surely blown by this young man before, unnoticed, this one has an inner yellow glow like no leaf he’s ever experienced. A fascination with his discovery sends him on a journey through the rather dystopian, labyrinthian world in which he lives as he tries to learn more about his pet leaf and then to try and recover it after it gets lost.
You’re never quite sure exactly what is going on in Leaf and the meaning of the story is definitely open to interpretation. Some may find this “openess” in the wordless narrative annoying, but I really enjoy this aspect of such books. Leaf is filled with hundreds of soft pencil illustrations and many of them have a very touching, lyrical quality that effectively captures human emotion, community, memory, and the innocence of youth (as well as the dreariness of the world of Leaf). The artwork and book production are really beautiful and there is a gentle quiet at the center of this work that perfectly mirrors the muffled quiet of fall. Read the rest
I thought Robert Crumb's unabridged graphic novel of the Book of Genesis was a herculean effort, but cartoonist R. Sikoryak has tackled an even more arduous task: incorporating the complete, unabridged iTune's user agreement into a graphic novel. Sikoryak is very good at drawing comics in the style of other cartoonists, and he uses this skill here to great effect. Take a gander:
Page 48 (after Chester Gould)
Page 46 (after Hergé)
Page 42 (after Otto Mesmer)
Page 41 (after Rube Goldberg)
Unbelievable! You can buy hardcopies here: THE UNABRIDGED GRAPHIC ADAPTATION: ITUNES TERMS AND CONDITIONS, PART A & PART B | THE UNABRIDGED GRAPHIC ADAPTATION: ITUNES TERMS AND CONDITIONS, PART C & PART D Read the rest
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