8.01.2008

(Not Exactly A) Graphic Novel Of The Month

This month’s selection is not exactly a graphic novel per se, but hey, it’s my site and I can promote whatever I want!

Reich #1-4 (Sparkplug Comics): This gripping biographical work about Wilhelm Reich weaves together documented historical bits with some unconfirmed educated speculation, but is very forthcoming about which parts are which. I really admire the craft put into this by Elijah Brubaker; the visual personifications capture the distinct characteristics of quite a few characters. I also enjoyed how each issue’s format is slightly different, as if Brubaker is experimenting with different designs for the book; each successive issue is crisper and a more confident overall package as time goes on. I was aware of some buzz around the book from sources I personally find credible, so I finally decided to check it out when I found a full spread at the Sparkplug Comics booth during this year’s San Diego Con. I wonder if this book has been compared to Jason Lutes’ Berlin? There are some very superficial similarities, the tales are both set in pre-War Weimar era Germany, they touch upon social upheaval, clashing together academic thought, fascism, communism, and capitalism, as they’re converging in a precursor to what will ultimately occur on a more global stage. Those elements are largely background detail though, as Brubaker focuses in on WWI veteran Wilhelm Reich, his plunge into the field of psychoanalysis, and his particular obsession with a couple radical (at the time) sexual concepts. Reich is an engaging character, flawed in a pretty balanced way. For every brilliant concept posed or sound byte of truth he’s capable of, there seems to me many more radical concepts that are either useless or have some merit, but become lost in his aggressive delivery and presentation. He makes for a truly complex and multi-faceted character. You can clearly understand why Brubaker found Reich such an interesting subject to examine with this form of biography. Reich’s behavior seeps into his personal life, not only alienating his professional peers in academia (such as a well rendered Sigmund Freud) with a wash of paranoia and frustration, but creates distance between his wife, daughter, and many lovers along the way. Reich moves along at a brisk pace with open panels and layouts that seem to breathe, even though Brubaker presents many dense and challenging ideas that the reader can ponder long after the book has been put down. I’m glad I picked this up and will be on the lookout for future issues; it’s probably one of those purchases I would not have made if not for the convention. Consider me an instant fan. Grade A.

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