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Tuesday, April 28, 2009

METRONOME by Bryan Talbot

For reasons that escape my understanding, Bryan Talbot's book METRONOME was released a year ago under the pen-name Veronique Tanaka. Talbot's authorship of the book was recently revealed by his publisher, apparently at least partly because it didn't sell quite as well as they would have hoped a Bryan Talbot book would. One benefit of this is that I got to hear about a new Bryan Talbot book and instead of waiting months or years for it to come out, I saw that my library already had copies and got it in my hands within a few days (I also found out that a comic he wrote, CHERUBS, which last I heard was going to come out as a serialized comic from Image wound up instead coming out as a book from Desperado while I wasn't looking. No such luck with the library on that one, so it'll take a little longer for me to get a copy of that. And I really should get that ART OF BRYAN TALBOT book).

Anyway, it's an odd little book in a lot of ways. Completely wordless, and for whatever reason printed sideways, even though each page is perfect square made of 16 identically sized square panels. You wouldn't guess from the art that this is Talbot's work, based on anything he's done before. The line work has a bit of a European look, the kind I associate with Herge's TINTIN. Some aspects of the storytelling show a Japanese influence, with a lot of scenes extended with very small transitions in time, as you might guess from the title carefully measured transitions.

More than either of those influences (both acknowledged through the fictitious back-cover blurb, and presumably part of the reason for "Tanaka's" identity as a French-Japanese woman), though, this felt a lot like it was taking pages from the playbook of an American artist, Chris Ware.  The structure of the story is built around the objects in a room, each slowly established over the first dozen pages, and then jumping back and forth in time to establish how those objects got there in the course of examining the relationship between the two unnamed characters, a composer and his girlfriend, who meet, hook up, move in together and ultimately break up in the course of the story. Ware's done a lot of that kind of stuff, using slow reveals of everyday objects and using objects as anchors to tell a story that makes unconventional jumps through time.

Overall it's not a bad book, though not nearly as groundbreaking as they'd seem to want you to believe based on back-cover text. Of course, that same text would want you to believe this is the "debut graphic novel by Veronique Tanaka", so it can't be taken seriously (and I can't help but wonder how seriously to take Jeff Smith's introduction, where he mentions meeting "Tanaka", if he was in on the ruse or if Talbot went to extraordinary lengths to perpetuate it). Well worth checking out, though I'm in no great hurry to buy a personal copy.

1 comment:

  1. And here we are again! I'm doing an interview with Bryan, and he's just mentioned Metronome, and the first link that came up on Google was this one. small world, all the same.

    Not that I didn't know what it was, of course, once I saw this, but I'd somehow managed to forget all about it before that.


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