22 September 2013

Comics binge

Spent a lovely late-summer morning a few weeks ago sitting on the back deck, ignoring my constantly rearranged to-be-read shelf (publication date? alpha by author? how long I've had the book without getting around to reading it?), and enjoying a stack of comics. Ahhhhhh.

Saga, Volume 1, Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples: Sweet Jesus, is this title good. Vaughan's story, following a couple from opposite sides of a centuries-long war, searching for a safe place for themselves and their baby girl, has drive and heart and awesome cool stuff (obviously, I would love a Lying Cat). I'm totally in love in Staples's art. And in the immortal words of LeVar Burton, you don't have to take my word for it: it recently won the Hugo award for Best Graphic Story.

Tropic of the Sea, Satoshi Kon: Weird, sweet little manga about a sleepy seaside town where the Yashiro family has spent generations protecting mermaids' eggs in exchange for filled nets for the town's fisherman. The story's tension pulls between progress and tradition, the natural world and human prosperity, and keeps the central question--do the mermaids even exist? and even if they don't, is their metaphorical significance something worthy of preservation?--ambiguous for a satisfying chunk of the tale.

Criminal: The Last of the Innocents, Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips: Jeez, how did I not know noir comics were a thing? This arc is (very very) loosely based on the world of Archie comics, but it's got grit to spare, murder and betrayal and corruption, all the delightful trappings of one of my favorite genres. And the art, which alternates between highly stylized, brightly colored Teen Shenanigans (rather less wholesome than their inspiration) and a muted, neutral and shadowy palette for an adult world rotten to its core, is phenomenal. I'll definitely be seeking out more installments of this title--luckily, there are plenty.

Helter Skelter, Kyoko Okazaki: Whoa nelly, this one's not for the faint of heart! Helter Skelter centers on supermodel Liliko, less woman than construct, whose full-body plastic surgery is beginning to fail in grotesque ways, her mind disintegrating in tandem. The art is purposefully ugly, erotic without being at all sexy, and never bothers with subtlety, fearless and assaultive in a way that's exceedingly rare in the work of female authors. I loved it, even as it made my skin crawl. I've never read anything like it. And I'm really looking forward to experiencing more of her work--Vertical publishes Pink, about a call girl with a pet crocodile, this November.

(FTC disclaimer: I received free copies of Tropic of the Sea and Helter Skelter from Vertical, Inc., in exchange for honest reviews.)

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