Last month I asked my friends to write about books they loved (you can read all the essays here). This month, I invited them to write about their favorite graphic novels, and they selected some excellent titles. I hope you enjoy them! (Read all the Great Graphic Novel essays here.) -- Mark
Alan's War: The Memories of G.I. Alan Cope, by Emmanuel Guibert
As far as World War II stories go, Cope’s story is far from spectacular. Wonderfully so.
Expect none of the heroics or ego associated with traditional combat tales. Instead, welcome a sit down chat with a friend who will, frankly and intimately, carry you along through a soldier's attempt to find meaningful friendships and rich experience while navigating a tedious, banal, and rootless military career.
I know that may sound dreadful, but it is not.
Despite the limitless digital access that I have to folks, ideas and inspiration I find myself yearning for the same things Cope longed for 60+ years ago -- little bits of beauty and a good friend or two to share them with. This book is both beautiful and friendly. After a day of being hit from a million directions for hours on end with stimulus, it is soothing to retire into a world where aside from the rare letter, a man lives in simple engagement with his immediate and tactile environment and with his thoughts.
The translation from French is highly conversational and Guibert’s technique of painting the page with water and allowing ink to bleed through the wet fibers result in illustrations that are loose yet elegant, cloudy and clear at the same time. Like memory.
Here’s a video of Guibert crafting a portrait of Alan Cope.
[Cory also reviewed this in 2008! -- Mark]
Alan's War: The Memories of G.I. Alan Cope
My latest LA Times review is for William Gibson's new novel Agency, sequel to his outstanding 2014 novel "The Peripheral," which marked his return to explicitly futuristic science fiction after his amazing and audacious "Pattern Recognition" novels, which treated the recent past as though it was a speculative future setting.
In 1975, Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge seized power in Cambodia after expelling a US puppet regime, surviving a brutal US bombing campaign despite the massive asymmetry between the Cambodian forces and the US military. Tian Veasna was born three days after the Khmer Rouge took power, and spent his formative years in forced labor camps as his family were beaten, starved, tortured and murdered. Today, Veasna is a comics creator living in France, and in Year of the Rabbit, Veasna creates a coherent story out of his family's narratives, giving us a ground-level view of the horrors of the Pol Pot regime, whose campaign of genocide led to the deaths of more than a million people.
For years, Keith Ammann has maintained his blog, The Monsters Know What They're Doing, in which he carefully laid out the logical tactics that the monsters of Dungeons and Dragons would use in combat, based on their alignment, stats, and habitats, creating sophisticated advice for Dungeon Masters hoping to move their combat encounters from rote stab-stab-kill affairs into distinctive, memorable strategy-and-tactics affairs that created not just variety and challenges for players, but also depth and verisimilitude. Now, Ammann's work has been collected in the first of two planned volumes: The Monsters Know What They're Doing: Combat Tactics for Dungeon Masters is one of the most interesting, thoughtful, smart RPG sourcebooks I've ever read.
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