9.01.2006

Graphic Novel(s) Of The Month

Once again, it was impossible to decide between two works that were so strong and struck such deep chords with me, so I'm offering up a duo for Graphic Novel(s) Of The Month. These works are completely different in style, tone, and creative teams, and serve as shining examples of the diversity possible in the medium today.

The Left Bank Gang (Fantagraphics): Yet another work by Norwegian upstart Jason. Yet another one of Jason's works in full color. And yet another work that proves his work deserving of wider exposure and a wider following. The premise alone should be enough to interest you. Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ezra Pound, and James Joyce are all hanging out in 1920's Paris one day... and they decide to rob a bank. What follows is a brilliant character study into the minds, motivations, and capabilities of these four artisans, who all happen to be comic book writers and artists in the melee of Jason's fictitious anthropomorphic Parisian heist. His ostensibly fun and cartoony style hides psychological complexity and a range of emotion so fierce that it surprises you. The storytelling is layered in such a way that we're presented with a Pulp Fiction-Memento-Crash-type set of intertwined stories that take on deeper meaning every time another layer is peeled, revealed, and absorbed by the reader. Artistically, Jason is becoming even more of a powerhouse; his pencil work is slowly taking on a more detailed, intricate, and refined quality. I've talked to people who seem somehow intimidated by the "European" look and feel of Jason's books and are reluctant to give them a spin. That's just bullshit. This is many things and would appeal to anyone who is a fan of the trials and tribulations of people in the comic book industry, writers or artists (in any industry), fans of the authors portrayed, fans of heist movies, adventure books, animal books, or even love stories. In short, if you're human you should be reading Jason's work. It evokes a wide range of emotional beats inherent to the human spirit and common to all. Grade A+.

The 9/11 Report: A Graphic Adaptation (Hill & Wang): It's difficult for me to "review" this book in that it depicts a graphic retelling of the findings of the 9/11 Commission; it depicts real events. In his introduction, Commission Chair Thomas H. Kein essentially says that 9/11 was one of the most tragic and important days in American History. The Commission sought a way to make it easily accessible to all, a forum that was easily digestible, and that would seek to "energize and engage" citizens of the country to push for the much needed reform and change that may prevent such future horrors. The fact that they turned to the comic book medium is a true testament to the power of the industry. The book chronicles the years leading up to the event, a play by play of significant events that day, and progress (or lack thereof) made toward the reforms and recommendations that the Commission offered, complete with a scorecard full of C's, D's, and F's that grades the US Government's bureaucratic crawl toward change. Artistically, they chose solid veterans to render the panel to panel depiction of events. Writer Sid Jacobson was Editor-in-Chief at Harvey Comics and held the position of Executive Editor at Marvel. He created Richie Rich, *that's* how long he's been in the industry. Ernie Colon is no stranger to the drawing board, having worked at every major company and been the creative force behind Green Lantern, Wonder Woman, Blackhawk, and The Flash at DC during the 1960's Silver Age revival. Perhaps it's best summed up by Stan Lee: "Never before have I seen a non-fiction book as beautifully and compellingly written and illustrated as The 9/11 Report: A Graphic Adaptation. I cannot recommend it too highly. It will surely set the standard for all future works of contemporary history, graphic or otherwise, and should be required reading in every home, school, and library." I'm pondering ways to get this book into the hands of every single person that I know. Grade A+

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