Comic Book Month wraps up today, though as with all good comics, it's just a matter of waiting for the next issue! As a final treat, here are a few personal recommendations from some of the comics fans who work at Auckland Libraries: Michelle and Blair from the 2014 Comic Book Month team; Baruk, creator of our new Comics NZ blog (check it out); Stanley from Collections, and myself! Enjoy!
Adamtine by Hannah Berry
This is the first horror-themed graphic novel I have read. Although I admire the artists' skill, the violent gore scenes typical of this genre are a bit much for me. But I do enjoy a good scare, and with this graphic novel I wasn’t disappointed. It is horror with a difference, with the artwork creating a sense of foreboding and darkness. In fact, I have become a big Hannah Berry fan. The artwork is clever and emotive, supporting a captivating, frightening story line that really does keep you guessing. This is a graphic novel requiring more than one read, with each reading revealing more of its mysteries – most of which are hidden in plain sight. It is definitely a thinking person’s graphic novel... oh, and beware the last page!
-- Michelle, Titirangi Library
Faction 1 ed. by Damon Keen, Amie Maxwell
Quite simply, I liked this enough to buy my own copy, and that doesn't happen often. Especially not when it is also available for free (legal) download!
Faction 1 is a Kiwi comic anthology, from 14 very different writers/artists. One of the joys of anthologies is the unlikely juxtaposition of very different styles, and Faction does not disappoint. The artwork moves eclectically from Ned Wenlock's bold primary colours, through Damon Keen's delicate shading or Ralphi's yellowish-greenish-brownish and Karl Wills's detailed black-on-white, to Mark Holland's lush, painterly style. The stories very well matched the artistic styles used to tell them.
Faction was created through crowdfunding, and it is nice to see contributors named on the back page (dammit, I missed my chance at fame!). The Faction website has links to individual artist websites, and a free subscription to the (digital) anthology. Auckland Libraries also holds Faction 2 and Faction 3.
If you like anthologies, you may also enjoy Syncopated, an anthology of non-fiction picto-essays. Or not.
And if I sound like a fanboy, that's because I am.
-- Baruk, Digital Services
Shaolin Burning by Ant Sang
Full of graphic martial arts action and mayhem, Shaolin Burning is a thrilling and fast-paced adventure through Qing dynasty China. The plot centres on Deadly Plum Blossum’s journey to challenge The Monk Who Doubts, who has been terrorising China. Events like the destruction of the Shaolin Temple, and the legend of the five surviving elders place this in a time of kung-fu legends and martial arts monks.
The illustrations of BroTown’s Ant Sang skillfully capture the chaos of the combat; the parries and thrusts of the sword, feints and blows of the fighters come through in the black and white shading and ink, and deftly illustrate the action.
I found the characters a highlight. They are unique and intense figures with legendary pasts, and equally awesome names. I also like the subtle humour that runs through the book, with skillful plays on words, quirky names like The Benevolent Laughing Monkey Palm Gang, and the tiger-costumed group The Killer Tongs. Still, the themes running through this work – the need to control desire, the perils of revenge and the sacredness of life – make it more than just an entertaining read.
-- Stanley, Collections
The Sandman (The Absolute Sandman Vol. 1) by Neil Gaiman
Widely considered one of the greatest comic book series of all time, The Sandman tells the story of Morpheus, Lord of Dreams, as he escapes from captivity and seeks to rebuild his realm. Along the way, Morpheus is forced to deal with the enormous changes within both himself and his realm. The Sandman is a wildly imaginative series that manages to be as effortlessly entertaining as it is thought-provoking. Its dark, adult story set the tone for DC Comics’ fledgling Vertigo imprint. The Sandman is a story about stories, and should be read by anyone who loves them.
(This Absolute Edition format collects issues #1-20 of THE SANDMAN and features completely new coloring on the first 18 issues, as well as a host of never-before-seen extra material. It is the first of four volumes.)
-- Blair, Central City Library
Corto Maltese: The Ballad of the Salt Sea by Hugo Pratt
I was turned on to Corto Maltese long ago when I went to live in his home country of Italy, where the fumetti (Italian for comics) about the sailor with the pierced ear had attained cult status. Fumetti means puffs of smoke, that being what Italians saw where we saw speech bubbles or word balloons, as well as all around themselves. Everyone smoked, and everyone read comics, and Corto Maltese was everyone's favourite. The art work is brilliant -- the scene where an underwater Corto is drawn with squiggly refracted lines which grow ever more boldly abstract as the panels progress leave me in awe -- and the rhythm is intense and filmic. So are the characters. Corto casts a spell over everyone, men and women, in that Humphrey Bogart kind of way.
“Who knows why you make me think of that Arola’s Tango I heard in the Parda Flora Cabaret in Buenos Aires?” “Maybe there was someone there who looked like me?” “No! It’s precisely because you don’t resemble anyone that I would have wanted to meet you anywhere”. Are those tears on Corto’s chiselled face?
The original drawings were all in black and white, while this edition uses colourised drawings which, as with colourised movies, somewhat detracts from the artistry. But Pratt is such a genius that they are still great. If you like comics, you owe yourself a sail with Corto.
-- Karen, Books in the City