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Monday, February 04, 2013

More From The Library

Some other recent readings.  CARTER FAMILY very good, FATALE pretty solid, DEMON KNIGHTS less so and recent Charles Burns inexplicable but intriguing 2/3 of the way through.

Frank M. Young and David Lasky create this 192-page comic book biography of the Carter Family, one of the earliest successful country music acts starting with their first recordings in 1927. This is one of those "I'll try pretty much anything that's comics" reads, I can't imagine that I'd read a prose biography of the family, or watch a documentary about them. I'm not a huge country music fan, although there is some stuff I like directly influenced by this specific early branch of the genre.

Anyway, it's a really good book. It took me a while to get started on it, since it's "written in the Southern dialect of the time", which means a lot of phonetic spellings of odd pronunciations of common words. You get used to that after a few pages, and you get an interesting story of young A. P. Carter growing up in rural Virginia, and how his love of music led to his marriage and a successful family singing career during the Great Depression. The characters are very engaging and the stories are well selected.

Also a very good looking book, with great art by Lasky, an appropriately flat slightly muted colour palate and a nice design that even uses the endpapers to good effect. The book also includes a CD with a 1939 radio recording of several songs by the Carter Family.

One bit of advice if you're going to read it and don't know much about the history of the group, don't read the two-page text preface before reading the full comic. It gives away a few later events which would have been more effective if they came by surprise.

This collects the first five issues of the on-going comic by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips. It starts off with a hardboiled crime feel, but slowly develops into a horror comic with a hardboiled veneer. They kind of give away the nature of the horror early on, with octopus tentacles on the cover and a full page even more explicitly Lovecraftian image before the story, so that doesn't really get a chance to be as surprising a revelation as it might have been. I haven't been a huge fan of the previous Phillips/Brubaker collaborations I've tried, only mildly liking CRIMINAL, but this was a decent quick read, with some interesting stuff in the structure and surprising twists in the plot. I might check out later volumes someday.

This is one of DC's "New 52" books from their recent re-launch, collecting the first seven issues of the series by Paul Cornell, Diogenes Neves, Oclair Albert and others (noticed Albert is mentioned on the cover, but not in the interior credits, so I had to look up that he's the primary inker on the series. Another quality proofreading job there). It's middle ages sword & sorcery starring Jack Kirby's creation Etrigan the Demon and his alter ego Jason Blood, plus some other DC characters, some pre-existing (Vandal Savage, Madame Xanadu) and I believe some original.

It's pretty readable but mediocre.  The artwork is a little too busy for my taste, but I can tell what's going on most of the time, which is sadly not the case too frequently. The only characters I came in with any fondness for, Etrigan and Blood, don't really resemble any prior version I've read, certainly not the Kirby originals. The plot could use some tightening up, it didn't really feel like seven issues of story, with a lot of set up for future stuff, and the ending really needed to be set up better. The scripting is a lot better than the plotting, but even that seems a bit off at times. I don't think I'll be back for more.

These are the first two books in a trilogy by Charles Burns, published in 2010 and 2012, with the third volume, SUGAR SKULL, still to be come. I'm pretty much completely clueless about what's actually going on in these books, whether we're seeing our lead character Doug at different points in his life, or seeing his memories, or seeing his dreams, or something else.. Maybe it'll all make sense in the end. In the meantime, it's all as gorgeous as you'd expect from Burns, and the writing is intriguing even if it's not explaining anything.

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