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Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Some library comics, including BLACK HOLE

So, I picked up a few comical bookish stuff from my local library lately, and been reading those. Here are a few disjointed thoughts.

Charles Burns' BLACK HOLE was a series that ran for a decade from Kitchen Sink and then Fantagraphics, finishing a while ago and then collected recently in one fat hardcover from Pantheon. I looked at the series a few times, having been a big fan of Burns' 1980s short story "Contagious" that ran in TABOO and directly inspired the story, using the same concept of a "Teen Plague" that causes odd mutations, but it always seemed a bit too hard to get into and too much trouble to hunt down back issues. So good to see a collection, and it's a really handsome and affordable book.

(as an aside, I really liked the stitched binding, which lets you see the page flat right up to the spine. Why is it Pantheon can publish a 400+ page book for $25 with this kind of binding while DC and Marvel publish $50 books with half the pages and awful binding which makes you struggle to read the lettering close to the spine?)

Anyway, I kind of liked most of the book, although I was a bit disappointed given the praise I'd heard for it. It opens a bit slow, but picks up after a bit, and has some really interesting artwork and dialogue. Although I have to say that I really didn't buy a lot of the character reactions to what was going on around them. The ending is a bit of a letdown as it seems to be one of those stories that just stops rather than ends, and I'm pretty sure we won't see a BLACK HOLE 2, so I get an "is that it?" feeling. It's a good book, and worth the time to read, but I was hoping for a bit more. Overall I liked the 4-page "Contagious" better (and was kind of disappointed they didn't find some way to incorporate it into the book).

Found my library had several of Alison Bechdel's collections of "Dykes to Watch Out For" that I didn't have, including some more recent stuff with her work around the time of the 2000 Bush (s)election and the attacks of 2001, so I've checked a few out and been going through them with deliberate speed, maybe a half-dozen strips a day. They really do go like popcorn and I could easily read a whole book in one sitting, but I find it makes a more lasting impression if I spread it out. Great stuff, however you read it, and I'm really looking forward to her upcoming FUN HOME graphic novel.

They also had a copy of one of the collections of Mike Carey's run on HELLBLAZER of a few years back. As I've mentioned before, I'm an old-school HELLBLAZER fan, not having much time for most of what was done after Delano and some early Ennis. Let me just say that this didn't change my mind, I couldn't finish a story in here.

As I mentioned a while back, my library also had the first four re-released volumes of BAREFOOT GEN by Keiji Nakazawa. Still in the middle of re-reading those, having just finished the second book. Should be getting to some of the stuff that was cut out of the older editions soon. Still a great comic, very haunting but with an odd under-current of hope coming from the weirdest places, and a really screwball sense of humour. I'm pretty happy with the new translation, some of the stuff I've compared has been a real improvement (though most of it is neutral). More when I finish the last book.

Also noticed the second volume of Osamu Tezuka's BLACK JACK: TWO-FISTED SURGEON on the shelves. That's really odd stuff, I'm still not sure how I feel about it. I'm a big fan of Tezuka's work that has grand narratives (PHOENIX, BUDDHA, ADOLF), much less of a fan of his more simple kids' stuff like ASTRO BOY, except as a diversion. It seems to me that BLACK JACK is firmly, maybe uncomfortably, mired right in the middle of those two styles of Tezuka narrative. I'm not sure that works at all, but I'm curious enough to try some more. I just wish that there were some longer stories, each one seems to end just as it's getting interesting.

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