A massively overdue collection of Online Commentaries and Diversions, now on a weekly (or so) basis:
Review: the Absolute on The Amateurs by Conor Stechschulte. "Where The Amateursand Stechschulte truly shine are the moments of calm reflection that heighten the tension between episodes of violence and dismemberment. The butchers continually discuss their predicament, shifting between sorrow, fear, rage, and exhaustion." – Marie Anellothe Absolute
Review: Comics Worth Reading recommends An Age of License by Lucy Knisley. "Like the best travelogues, An Age of License shows you what it would be like to visit a place while reminding you that you can never have the same experience. If you liked her last book, Relish: My Life in the Kitchen, you should definitely check this out — there are some food mentions you’ll appreciate, but where Relish focused on past events, An Age of License gives more insight into the person Lucy Knisley is now." – Johanna Draper Carlson, Comics Worth Reading
Review: The Irish Times discusses how The Love Bunglers by Jaime Hernandez exemplifies the strengths of the graphic novel format. "As ever with Hernandez, it’s funny, complex, unsettling and beautifully drawn. It’s also a reminder that a graphic novel can do things that a novel told in straightforward prose simply can’t." – Anna Carey, The Irish Times
"That's the fascinating paradox of John Severin's war comics, and of Kurtzman's war comics in general. A story like "Night Patrol!" may have all the details of the soldier's uniforms correct, portray their formations precisely and even be photo-referenced from the landscape of the region in which these men hike. But what really stands out here (maybe my favorite piece in the book due to its noir feel) is the sense that the men are trapped by their surroundings and their job, oppressed by the desolate landscape, unfeeling sky and cold rain that conspire to make their lives miserable." – Jason Sacks, Comics Bulletin
Review: The Comics Alternative examines the political and historical contexts of Wallace Wood's Cannon. "For anyone familiar with spy fiction, the stories serialized in this collection are fairly standard, often serving as political mirrors that reflect the disillusionment felt by soldiers and veterans exiting the Vietnam War. In the course of the book, Cannon fights South American insurgents (led by Hitler in disguise, of course), domestic terrorists, right-wing militias, emasculated conmen, and neo-Nazis (but not the ones led by Hitler in disguise)." – Kenneth Kimbrough, The Comics Alternative
Check out this amazing video on S. Clay Wilson, with highlights from the upcoming Pirates in the Heartland: The Mythology of S. Clay Wilson Vol. 1:
Review: Comics Bulletin on Mickey Mouse Outwits the Phantom Blot by Floyd Gottfredson. "This is a gorgeous, surprising, wonderful package of stories full of thrills, surprises and a heady level of quality cartooning. The twists and turns that the masterful Floyd Gottfredson delivers are wonders to behold. If you think that Mickey is just a boring corporate icon, you need to read his battles with the Phantom Blot." – Jason Sacks, Comics Bulletin
Review: Comics Bulletin on M.K. Brown's collected works in Stranger than Life. "Brown is one of those rare cartoonists who's been able to follow her own muse for most of her career, and while some of the material presented in this book has the sort of off-center approach that many of the bestNew Yorker cartoonists take (as in the excerpts above), other pieces are more freeform, more of what seems like a reflection of Brown's unique inner life; all bulbous people drifting through life, doing faintly ridiculous things for pretty much no good reason." – Jason Sacks, Comics Bulletin
Review:Comics Alliance looks at Inio Asano's Nijigahara Holograph and it's legacy of violence. "Nijigahara Holograph manages to do many things very well. It's a sprawling story that never loses its focus on characters. It's symbolically laden without being heavy handed...It carries a palpable dread that will haunt you well after you put it down." – Kevin Church, Comics Alliance
Review: HTML Giant on Cosplayers by Dash Shaw. "This comic looks to both examine and excise our notions of otaku, nerds, geeks, and the like. Cosplayers will strike a chord with anyone who turns to reading as an escape, be they lit-nerd, comic geek, messageboard troll, or a little mixture of all of the above." – HTML Giant
The terrific meltdown in the grocery line of Online Commentaries & Diversions:
• Review:nbsp;Cosplayers by Dash Shaw "It's a clever idea, and Shaw brings surprising insight to the very short stories. He uses different panel configurations and color palettes to break each story up into scenes, as if they were movies themselves, and his deft linework makes it all look easy." –Bridgid Alverson, Robot 6
• Review: Locust Moon on New School by Dash Shaw "...golly-gee wide-eyed comic classicism mixed with an antiquated, old-testament use of language and heavy moral seriousness, all in service of a surprisingly traditional and very relatably human story of a young kid's worship, envy and disillusionment with his older brother. Like so many of Shaw's comics, it's a wild experiment that works." -Josh, Locust Moon Comics
• Review: "Shaw is messing with the conventions of the comic strip narrative in a radical way, and that disruption is his true subject...…New School is a broad-ranging fantasia with the emotional template of a blockbuster film, where personal issues of love and loss are overshadowed by grandiose abstractions of good and evil." –Carter Scholz, The Comics Journal
• Plug: Thirteen Minutes lists New School as one of the top 10 comics of 2013 "Aside from the rich family dynamics and subtle sci-fi exploration of the new, New School is largely a paradigmatic tale about willfully crafting a cultural sense of identity. It's the best work so far from a daring creator who just gets better and better with each successive project." -Justin Giampaoli, Thirteen Minutes
• Review:Comics Bulletin lists New School by Dash Shaw on the Top 10 of Comics of 2013. "Dash Shaw expands the vocabulary of comics with his poetic approach to his graphic novel…New School is the most beguilingly fascinating, smartly innovative, deliberately off-putting work of comics art that I've read in several years. It's a masterpiece of innovation." –Jason Sacks, Comics Bulletin
• Review: Booklist Online looks at New School. "More enigmatic than Shaw's previous work, New School is a spectacular display of his graphic artistry... Stunning enough to be suitable for framing." -Ray Olson
• Review:Darling Dork on New School by Dash Shaw. "New School's title could be seen a call for a new breed of comics, a breed that takes only the bare minimum required from the past as it strides boldly toward the future. The New School is here, and Dash Shaw may just be its headmaster." –Nate Derr
• Review: On Jaime Hernandez's latest graphic novel "To experience Maggie's story is to watch a modern comic-book master explore the potential of his craft, and The Love Bunglersrepresents a high point for both the character and her creator." –Oliver Sava, A.V. Club
• Review: Broken Frontier on The Love Bunglers. "Even if you haven't shared the accumulated history of Maggie and Ray over the past 30 years, this is a universal story of literally breathtaking power...It might seem counter-intuitive to suggest that you jump in at what might be the end of it all, but once you've been through this story with the characters, you'll want to immerse yourself in the hundreds of pages that led them there. And your life - in comics and beyond - will be immeasurably richer" –Tom Murphy, Broken Frontier
• Review: Starred Review for Nijigahara Holograph by Inio Asano "Equal parts beautiful and highly disturbing, this story of love and loss, obsession and vengeance, is sometimes too opaque to be easily understood, but it has the kind of depth and layers that encourage multiple readings"–Publishers Weekly
• Review: Sarah Horrocks on Nijigahara Holograph< by Inio Asano. "Life in Nijigahara Holograph is depicted through the management of trauma and memory. Adults become adults by what precious things they are stripped of as children, and how well they function as adults is down to just how well they can deny those memories…That the horrors we are exposed to or create as children are perhaps unfairly navigatory in the horrible lives we end up living. The fragility of children in a horrible world, and how it predisposes them to perpetuate an eternal hell from which there is no salvation. Wire Seaon 4, ya." –Sarah Horrocks, Mercurial Blonde (1 of 2), Mercurial Blonde (2 of 2)
• Review:< \Nijigahara Holograph by Inio Asano "If David Lynch were a Japanese manga artist rather than an American film director, this is the sort of story one imagines he would tell in his hypothetical medium." –J. Caleb Mozzocoo, Robot6
• Review: Suvudu, Random House's blog on Nijigahara Holograph"Nijigahara Holograph has the same strong focus on character [as Asano's previous works], but with much more emphasis on the creepy and violently destructive…The complex, multi-layered storytelling rewards attention...I was left thinking about isolation and the need to belong and how much childhood traumas could shape the adults they became." –Johanna Draper Carlson, Suvudu
• Review:The Blighted Eye, edited by Glenn Bray "...it is a strange and wondrous feast. Behold its glory!...Just try and stay away from this book of temptation, I dare you!" –Librarie D&Q
• Review:The EC Comics Slipcase Vol. 1"They are now considered some of the finest comic books ever published...Publisher Fantagraphics is finally making these comics affordable in a series of high-quality slipcase editions."-Mark Frauenfelder Wink Books "The greatest comic books ever published," He continued on Boing Boing
• Review:Sucker Bait & Zero Hour "These collections show comics in a pure, unadulterated form. Before the Superhero frenzy, before '60s cynicism, and just before the Comics Code Authority started trimming all the gory and sexy fun from the pages with their seal of approval." - Under the Radar
• Review:Zero Hour and Other Stories by Jack Kamen, Ray Bradbury and Al Fieldstein on Forbidden Planet. "…the moral reminder (hey, this is the 50s) that in the end crime doesn't pay and that everyone will get their just deserts...Throughout all of these short tales though Kamen's artwork is gorgeous - the lurid, leering expression of the villainous man, the seductive and yet somehow simultaneously vicious glance of the scheming femme fatale...It's very much of its time though - not just the style of storytelling, but of that early post-war society that it came from." –Joe Gordon, Forbidden Planet International
• Review:Zero Hour and Other Stories "Kamen excelled at drawing 'ordinary,' domestic scenes, and this ability was effectively juxtaposed in a number of creepy stories here, including a trio of Ray Bradbury adaptations...The focus, though, is on the stories themselves, and that is as it should be. Once again Fantagraphics has released a quality collection from an outstanding talent. It is to be hoped that these compilations just keep coming." -David Maine, Spectrum Culture
• Review:The Comics Journal Library Vol. 8: The EC Artists edited by Mike Dean and Gary Groth "This is a terrific book for anyone interested in the workings of the legendary EC Comics from behind the scenes...many of these interviews are obscure or long out of print, and are a trove of gossip and insight into the machinations of history's most notorious comics publisher." -David Maine, Spectrum Culture
• Review:Perfect Nonsenseby George Carlson "Prepare to be hurled deep into the past century to a vividly entrancing, pre-CG place of whimsy and wonder...Poring over the rich detail enlivening children's rhymes or his depiction of the Queen Mary ocean liner can be equally arresting and transporting." –Hays Davis, Under the Radar
• Review:Perfect Nonsenseby George Carlson "George Carlson shows himself to be the missing link between Lyonel Feininger and Dr. Seuss. He was not the sort of cartoonist who was broadly influential, but the sort whose work was known to a relative few and remembered by all of them…George Carlson takes us back to a visual environment where Disney doesn't exist, and thus his work has the fascination of the unfamiliar." –R. Fiore, The Comics Journal
• Review:Stranger Than Life by MK Brown is a staff pick at Last Gasp! "Holy shit, can she draw funny...MK Brown's art is terrific, her writing is unique, and this book makes me want to be struck by lightning while reading it, so I can die happy." –Kristine, Last Gasp
• Review:Stranger Than Life by MK Brown on TCJ: "Even if it wasn't one of those rare books where the writer of the afterword denounces the work of the writer of the foreword, Stranger Than Life would be guaranteed to be unlike anything else on your bookshelf, where it ought to be." –R. Fiore, The Comics Journal
• Review:Pretty in Ink by Trina Robbins "...her latest oversized, lushly illustrated offering is the most beautiful of the bunch. "Pretty in Ink" is encyclopedic in scope, if not scale, as Robbins summarizes lengthy careers with poetic succinctness..."-Jake Austen, Chicago Tribune
• Review:Castle Waiting by Linda Medley is listed on the LitReactor's 10 Most Unconventional Comics to Read. "Decidedly feminist and surprisingly light despite the inherent darkness of many fairy tales, Castle Waiting gives readers a rare and impressive glimpse into a collection of unusual characters and stories that will delight....It's frequently insightful, surprising, and is wonderfully dense and layered, not to mention literally long" -Kelly Thompson, LitReactor
• Review:Black Lung by Chris Wright on No Flying No Tights. "It's all very hazy and evoking something that's a step-sister of steampunk, or perhaps a drugged-out [new] Edward Gorey. Plunder, torture, lechery, drunkenness, mutilation, and madness throng this shocking story to the point that it becomes almost routine…the real point of Blacklung's existence is to let Chris Wright explore what he can do with his squirm-inducing, spooky cartooning style - each panel cross-hatched to infinity, with many blacked-out panels or even whole pages gone black for narrative effect, darkness setting in from all sides." –Emilia Packard, No Flying No Tights • Review:Cannon by Wallace Wood "I can't decide if it's the most amazing thing I've ever read or the most morally reprehensible thing I've ever read. In fact, it's amazing partly because it's so morally reprehensible. John Cannon is a more manly James Bond...Despite the rather warped sexual politics (which might have been more acceptable in the early 1970s, but still seem extreme for the time period), Cannon is a wildly entertaining strip, full of action and excitement." –Greg Burgas, Comic Book Resources
• Review: Sequential Crush takes a heartfelt look at Young Romance 2. "...What you'll discover after reading this volume is that the early Simon and Kirby romance stories are filled with young women who are steadfast in their dreams, and won't quit until they reach them... For me, the backgrounds are an education in our material past."–Jacque Nodell, Sequential Crush
• Review:Comics Worth Reading enjoys Young Romance 2 "...the impulses to risk everything for love or disobey parents who just don't understand are universal. The stories are dense - with intent, with events happening quickly, with full panels that establish setting background and costume, because all that is so important to getting caught up in these stories of women who only want to find love…It's a tribute to Jack Kirby's skill that the images, even when crammed into half the panel space, are so striking and evocative. The text, meanwhile, is full of flavor, setting a deeply emotional, almost melodramatic mood." -Johanna Draper Carlson, Comics Worth Reading
• Plug: Animation Magazine on Peanuts Every Sunday by Charles M. Schulz "You'll find very young versions of the gang and Snoopy in this edition, and it's quite fun to trace the origins of the more sophisticated characters we're more familiar with from later years and the animated specials...the whole reason to have this volume is to relive the joy of reading the Sunday morning funnies-and that's why the larger format is absolutely vital to the experience. Keep ‘em coming, folks!" –Ramin Zahed, Animation Magazine
• Plug: More kinds words about Charles M. Schulz's complete run of Peanuts "…the pleasure of spending time with Charlie Brown and friends isn't purely nostalgic. Schulz was like Emily Dickinson in comic strip form, boring to the core of human experience with just a handful of words and gestures." –John Warner, Chicago Tribune
• Review: Batter Up, Charlie Brown by Charles M. Schulz "Jacob Covey provides the beautiful book design, with a limited palette of spring-appropriate yellows and greens...no matter how humiliating the defeat, Charlie Brown always shows up to play, which is in large part what makes this particular loser such a loveable one."–J. Caleb Mozzocco, School Library Journal • Review: NPR on Charles M. Schulz and reading Peanuts. "Charlie Brown makes me feel better about myself. It's not your normal guilty pleasure read, I know. It's my escape from guilt, into pleasure. The thousands of strips are comforting in their vastness - the most solid books on my shelf that could shield me, momentarily, from the advancing troop of guilt." -Yiyun Li, NPR
• Review:Prison Pit Book Five by Johnny Ryan "Visceral and juvenile; hypersexualized violence and hyperimaginative pseudo-sci-fi-Prison Pit has it all...Over-the-top bananas. I quite enjoyed it. Your mileage may vary. You've been warned." -Jeremy Nilsen, Under the Radar
• Review:Prison Pit Book Five by Johnny Ryan "...despite all the gore, Ryan frequently is able to achieve a certain amount of sublime, horrible beauty, most notably in the way he transitions between scenes...here's a genuine sense of horror at the proceedings, as though the comic were some sort of test, not for the reader (it's much too entertaining and smartly paced) but for Ryan himself, gazing into the abyss perhaps to see what exactly will make him flinch... There's an artistry and legitimacy here that belies the notion that picking at scabs is an exercise in futility." –Chris Mautner, Robot 6
• Review:Ed Piskor's NY Times Best Selling "Hip Hop Family Tree is the story of a very different kind of mash-up counterculture emerging from the empty lots of the Bronx, where commercial pop and jerry-rigged sound systems turned an economic wasteland into a space for creativity, pride, and the birth of a new culture…With Hip Hop Family Tree, Piskor fully embraces the role of graphic historian that he began to fulfill in his earlier work on the Beats and the history of hacking…" –Jared Gardner, Public Books
• Review: "Julia Gfrörer is a talented young cartoonist whose delicate linework brings to her gothic storytelling a fragile sensuality and somber humor. In her young career she has produced some splendid short work and mini-comics, but it is her debut novella, Black is the Color, that has brought her the attention she deserves." -Jared Gardner, Public Books • Review: FPI is excited about the upcoming How To Be Happy "Eleanor Davis is, without question, a major young creator...the constant is an incredible storytelling sense even when really pushing page layout, couple this with bravery, honesty, passion in what she makes and you have a star in the making." -Richard Bruton, Forbidden Planet International
• Plug: Ruben Bolling plugs our new Walt Disney's Donald Duck: Trail of the Unicorn collection by Carl Barks. "These Fantagraphics reprints of the Carl Barks Donald Duck/Uncle Scrooge comics are the gold standard for reprint publications -- which is an embarrassment of riches because the underlying material is the gold standard for cartooning. Some of the best comic book items ever produced, I can't 'Recommonday' them enough." –Ruben Bolling, Tom the Dancing Bug
• Review: Meat Cake by Dame Darcy is available to read digitally and people are loving it! "I was thrilled when I heard the first issue is now available for free on ComiXology. Grab it and enjoy the Victorian witches and that one lady who speaks via Pez messages. It's perfect. (Head to Fantagraphics to get it in print.)" -Whitney Matheson,USA Today
• Plug:Henry Speaks for Himself is mentioned on Gweek by Ruben Bolling on Gweek • Review:Dan DeCarlo "It turns out that DeCarlo was also a prolific cheesecake gag cartoonist, churning out dozens of drawings of buxom women that look like Betty and Veronica's older sisters. This Fantagraphics anthology is masterfully designed in two colors by Jacob Covey..." -Mark Frauenfelder, Wink Books
• Review: "[Barnaby] seems to float, as the best newspapers strips do, in some eternally mythic American moment." –Josh O'Neill, Locust Moon Comics
• Review:Nutsby Gahan Wilson is reviewed on Kitty Sneezes "a memoir-like piece about, ultimately, how scary childhood can be."
• Review: Heroes Online blog looks at VIP, edited by Jonathan Barli. "His madcap-often bawdy and even a little naughty- style was immediately recognizable and oft times laugh out loud funny... a career long retrospective of a comic genius that is long overdue. "–Andy Mansell, Heroes Online
• Review: From our friends across the pond about Janet Hamlin's books "Sketching Guantanamo is an extraordinary witnessing of history in the making. Hamlin's patient skill as a graphic artist seems to communicate the personality of her subjects far more deeply and expressively than any photographer could."–New Internationalist
"Brown's cartoons were a mainstay of National Lampoon during its salad days of the 1970s... Remarkably, this is the first comprehensive collection of her distinctively daffy work. Although the visual and conceptual non sequiturs of her singlepanel cartoons are clever and diverting, it's her comic strips where Brown's unique brilliance really shines...Brown's drawings, with their bulbous figures and ornate rendering, are every bit as unmistakable and memorable as her humor." –Gordon Flagg
Starred Review: "Anger, hopelessness, and betrayal run rampant-echoed by the eerie, ominous clouds of butterflies swarming the town-and fuel heartless violence. Though there are many moving pieces, the fluid time line; tight, stark, and realistic artwork; and clues carefully revealed through deliberately worded dialogue and purposeful character design work in perfect harmony to prevent ambiguity or confusion. Critically acclaimed Asano deftly twists this disturbingly compelling story, managing to shock the reader at every turn. Its intricacies are even more rewarding on the second read." –Eva Volin
[The Umpteen Millionaire Club is our series which puts forth book club discussion questions for Fantagraphics titles. The Comics Journal interns Keith Barbalato, Lucy Kiester, and Daniel Johnson put together this set of questions. As this is intended for those who have read the book and may contain spoilers, questions can be found behind the jump. - Ed.]
Inio Asano's Nijigahara Holograph cuts back and forth between two timelines, filling in details bit by bit: events ripple throughout a town and take their toll for years to come, resulting in violence and sexual guilt. A foreboding force circulates among a community following a woman's suicide. A group of students put a classmate, Arié, into a coma. As troubled new student Amahiko attempts to make friends at school, his life intertwines with the cycle of assault and death.
This week's comic shop shipment is slated to include the following new titles. Read on to see what comics-blog commentators and web-savvy comic shops are saying about them (more to be added as they appear), check out our previews at the links, and contact your local shop to confirm availability.
160-page full-color 7.6" x 10.45" softcover • $24.99 ISBN: 978-1-60699-733-8
Written and drawn by John Liney between 1946 and 1961, these stories prove Henry to be a combination of Dennis the Menace and Little Lulu, getting into and out of jams, in these marvelously antic, off-kilter, and occasionally downright surreal stories. Perfect for young and old alike.
Butterflies ominously proliferate as children whisper rumors of a mysterious creature lurking in the tunnel behind the school. To appease its wrath, they decide to offer it a sacrifice — a human one. But this is only the beginning of Nijigahara Holograph, which takes place in two separate timelines and involves the suicidal Amahiko; Kohta, the lovestruck bully; their teacher Miss Sakaki, whose heavily bandaged face remains a mystery; and many more brothers, sisters, parents, co-workers, teachers, aggressors and victims who are all inextricably linked to one another. Ten years later, all will have to face what they've done or suffered through — and maybe the end of the world.
Nijigahara Holograph — complex, challenging, and elliptical — was named one of the most anticipated new manga at Comic-Con International: San Diego. Hailed as a voice of the current generation in Japan, Inio Asano, whose Solanin was nominated for Eisner and Harvey awards (and was made into a feature film), delves into David Lynchian territory with this psychological horror story.
"Inio Asano is one of the best new manga creators, hands down." – Shaenon Garrity, About.com
"Inio Asano is one of the great emerging voices in manga… [Nijigahara Holograph] is guaranteed to be one of the books of the year, and should help cement Asano's reputation." – ComicsAlliance
"Asano is so young, and [his] ability to talk about human nature, and the distress of becoming an adult is equally painful and beautiful. [He] is in my opinion one of the best and more moving storytellers working nowadays." – Emma Rios (Pretty Deadly)
Even as butterflies ominously proliferate in town, the rumor of a mysterious creature lurking in the tunnel behind the school spreads among the children. When the body of Arié Kimura's mother is found by this tunnel's entrance, next to apparently human traces, the legend seems to be confirmed. Is the end of the world coming? In order to appease the wrath of the beast, the children decide to offer it a sacrifice: The unfortunate Arié, whom they believe to be the cause of the curse, is shoved into a well that leads to the Nijigahara tunnel — an act that in turns pushes Komatsuzaki, the budding thug who has carried a torch for Arié for a while already, entirely over the edge.
But this is only the beginning of the complex, challenging, obliquely told Nijigahara Holograph, which takes place in two separate timelines and involves the suicidal Suzuki; Higure, his stalkerish would-be girlfriend; their teacher Miss Sakaki, whose heavily bandaged face remains a mystery; and many more — brothers, sisters, parents, co-workers, teachers, aggressors and victims who are all inextricably linked to one another and all will eventually — ten years later — have to live with what they’ve done or suffered through.
Asano, whose Solanin was nominated for the 2009 Eisner and Harvey comics awards (and which was made into a feature film in 2010), delves into disturbing territory with this Lynchian horror story, told in his unnervingly crisp and detailed panels.
Inio Asano's Solanin was one of the most acclaimed manga to reach our shores in the previous decade (and a feature film back home in Japan), and anticipation is high for our English edition of Asano's Nijigahara Holograph (translated by Matt Thorn). Our advance copies arrived last week and Jen and Kristy got into a tug-of-war over who got the first one. There should be an adequate quantity of copies of this complex, gripping psychological/supernatural thriller to go around in February, but why risk it? Pre-order your copy now.