How much power does a single man, let alone a single leaf, have in the industrial world? In this wordless, all-ages graphic novel, our protagonist discovers a leaf that radiates a vibrant light. He returns to a detailed metropolis – depicted in somber grays and blues – and searches for answers. During his quest, he stumbles upon a man who knows what’s really happening in the city’s labyrinthine ducts; a woman who spends her life studying and classifying obsolete flora; and the truth about the ever-dwindling environment. Leaf is a graphically stunning story that unfolds with a dream-like pace. Shaded in pencil and punctuated by spot colors, drawn in a delicate but concretely realized tonal approach reminiscent of Shaun Tan’s The Arrival and Chris Van Allsburg’s Jumanji, Chinese cartoonist Daishu Ma’s first foray onto American shelves is ultimately a hopeful vision of the coexistence of the urban and natural worlds. Full-color illustrations throughout.
Wandering around Page 45 – Nottingham’s best comic book shop – I came across this intriguing effort and typically curiosity got the better of me and my wallet. The best bit about this cover (unless you have a foliage fetish) is that there is a leaf-shaped hole allowing us to see the title on the page behind. I mention this because it made me feel like a kid again being fascinated by a hole in the cover and on the strength of that and my natural curiosity like the man in the book, the sale was already a done deal.
Stories with no words are always thought-provoking beasts, body and facial expressions become more of an art than just an accompanying depiction to underline words. Whether subtle or blatant each person will, according to their own experiences and thoughts open the story up to unique interpretations of the nuances within the main framework of the tale.
The pencil drawings are wonderfully realised, mixing different sizes and detailing throughout its pages. The limited use of colour really brings out the features in each illustration and creates a vivid feel of something magical that is taken for granted in real life. The imagined world is both grounded in reality but also has a distinct fantastical influence so the reader is both familiar but also intrigued by the setting. Continue reading “Leaf – Daishu Ma”
Combined for the first time here are Maus I: A Survivor’s Tale and Maus II – the complete story of Vladek Spiegelman and his wife, living and surviving in Hitler’s Europe. By addressing the horror of the Holocaust through cartoons, the author captures the everyday reality of fear and is able to explore the guilt, relief and extraordinary sensation of survival – and how the children of survivors are in their own way affected by the trials of their parents. A contemporary classic of immeasurable significance.
it’s easy to get lost in the horrifying statistics of the Holocaust but this personal account makes for a powerful and poignant view on one of histories most tragic events. Hindsight of the inevitable makes this book doubly sad, reading of those incomprehensible actions of past that can only be relived with a sense of helplessness and inevitability.
Presented in black and white, the art fits in with the footage and photos from that time, an almost unreal, colourless world which makes it easier to digest than most literature concerning the Holocaust. Characters are represented as animals and the inevitable questions are raised over what exactly these animals say about each race, naturally simplistic generalisations are easy to fall into but there is surprising depth to be pondered upon.
Spiegelman opts to introduce us to the events through the tried and tested story within a story approach, which works well up to a point, its strength lies in allowing the reader to form an understanding of how events in World war II have affected and irrevocably changed Vladek Speigelman. Viewing his idiosyncracies with this hindsight makes for more depth of character which is a welcome aside from the obvious barbarism.
The family dynamic is fascinating, with hardship running through the past and guilt issues in the present, it is understandable how the family is like they are. I didn’t expect to find them irritating but the foibles are repetitive and not in the least endearing, there is even a mention of racism which is interesting after the experiences of war. Perhaps the author being of a younger generation struggles to understand the atrocities and concepts in the US now at (relative) peace. Continue reading “The Complete Maus – Art Spiegelman”
So the day began with nothing to look forward to.
Shaun Tan is a wonderfully evocative author and artist who never fails to make you feel with his books. Here he captures the melancholy sensation that we all have from time to time, of confusion in our lives and the inevitability of less than good things happening.
Life is a bind and we all know it but this idea is vividly realised through the combination of words and art in this perfectly formed book. its elegant look at an everyday life is something I found myself nodding along to throughout.
The story is of a girl in the thrall of these often inexplicably wistful emotions, the message is about not being alone in feeling this way, you are never alone in your isolation…how many of us go through the day like this, shut off in our own heads when to be human is to experience these things and as such perhaps it is best to embrace the feelings and turn it into something wonderful like Tan has masterfully done.
The artwork makes the bizarre seem commonplace. This imagined world is a strange, weird and scary place, a cold corner like our world, but one of wonder mirroring that which we don’t see for we are so wrapped up in our own worries. It’s a clever idea, perhaps our viewpoints should always be to look at the beauty and the wonderful things – even the mundane is fantastic sometimes – and experience everything anew everyday and really believe life is bigger than we are. Continue reading “The Red Tree – Shaun Tan”
Graphic novels/comic books are an underrated medium but one stand out comic series has been re-released in the last few years makes everything all right with the world again. Bringing together as it does an important anti-war message as well as a compelling storyline.
War serials in comics – the British comics at least – have a rich history stories which usually featured one hero running through a hail of bullets whilst everyone was being cut down and saving the day.
Charley’s War though is refreshingly different, not only bringing the insanity and horrors of war to the fore but also framing a moving and action packed story in the world of static trench warfare.
Appearing in Battle Picture Weekly, the story follows Charley Bourne a 16 year old who lied to get into the army and subsequently arrives at the trenches not long before the Battle of the Somme is due to start, what follows is a powerfully poignant tale of growing up, of life, death, friendship, bitterness and questions of why?
Although the subject matter is no doubt grim, it is offset not only with the legendary camaraderie of the troops abut also with some clever and wonderfully moving plot devices to stop you warying from the inhumanity of the conflict. One of which are the letters exchanged between Charley and his family, which start out all care free like he is on an adventure and having fun. Later when the realities of war kick in and he changes and grows harder to the carnage around him, we see the frivolities of family life back home and how the letters from the front keep the upbeat tone as the world goes to hell around him, it’s an admirable and touching thing he does, adding a lot of depth to his character. Continue reading “Charley’s War – Pat Mills & Joe Colquhoun”
On what has mine eye been caughtest this week? Well for one, this little treasure and at 20 pence, it is probably the best bargain I got since The Dream of Geronticus which I managed to get for free.
I had never heard of Joan Aiken until I checked her bibliography then it turned out I have heard of (but never read) her after all, sometimes I despair of my memory.
Alan Lee, most famous these days for his Tolkien illustrations amongst other things does the art so quality is assured on both words and pictures.
Set in an English seaside town circa 1500 AD, a young chap Seppy wants to learn to be the best fiddler in the world. After a mysterious encounter he learns that the moon will grant his wish, however there is a price to pay for his gift.
The story itself is classic kids fare, with magic, curses, bits of repetition and not being particularly complex. Having said that though, it is inventive and fun and does draw you in from the first page. Continue reading “The Moon’s Revenge – Joan Aiken”