Everyone’s A Critic
• Domingos Isabelinho reviews Asterios Polyp. Well, OK, he doesn’t really, but really more of a commenting on the various reviews the books have received so far. Still, it’s an entertaining read.
• Ng Suat Tong has, with the help of folks like Frank Santoro, Noah Berlatsky and others, has put together a list of the “Best Online Comics Criticism” of 2009: “These writers have helped make comics a slightly more interesting place to inhabit for readers like myself, ensuring that the conversation doesn’t end the moment a comic is consumed or half-digested by the reader.”
Some familiar, as well as unexpected names, dot the list. Additional commentary is promised to follow.
• One thing I haven’t linked to, but really should have, is Andrew Weiss’ great “Nobody’s Favorites” series, where he looks at utterly forgettable comic book characters. His latest take on DC’s two-issue adaptation of Robotech.
• If that’s not enough Wolk for you (and how can it possibly be?), he also reviewed Binky Brown Meets the Holy Virgin Mary for Barnes and Noble’s Web site.
• Stephen Weiner on Alec: The Years Have Pants: “[It] should be treated like the wines that Campbell comes to appreciate: slowly sipped and savored.”
• Craig Fischer takes a long, hard look at Alan Moore’s new Dodgem Logic magazine.
• Matt Brady read Al Columbia’s Pim & Francie and now has trouble getting to sleep.
• Finally Katherine Dacey provides an in-depth examination of the first six volumes of 20th Century Boys.
• Chris Butcher is biting our style doing a round-up of the 10 manga that changed comics, and if you’re interested at all in examining how we got from there to here you should definitely read it. Here’s part one and two and three, with more to come soon. (by the way, I’m totally kidding about the style biting.)
• Martyn Pedler looks at Peter Milligan and Chris Bachalo’s Shade the Changing Man for Bookslut. That’s a series that doesn’t get nearly enough attention IMHO.
• Nina Stone reviews the first volume of the Luna Brothers’ The Sword and makes me feel kind of dirty.
• Scott Cederlund says Footnotes in Gaza “may be Sacco’s most fascinating work to date.” (btw, nice site upgrade Scott.)
• Shaenon Garrity reviews Acme Novelty Library #19 for reals this time and offers a rather interesting critique that I’m not entirely sure I agree with (the supporting cast in the ongoing Rusty Brown story seems to negate her central thesis). Still, it’s worth reading.
• Paul Gravett reviews the Danish anthology From Wonderland With Love, which is good because more people need to know about this book.
• PWCW has their annual critics poll up if that sort of thing floats your boat.
• Jeff Lester offers his thoughts on recent issues of Blackest Night and Fantastic Four.
• And finally, since Last Gasp is re-releasing it, Katherine Dacey offers a revamped version of her original review of Town of Evening Calm, Country of Cherry Blossoms, which is — and I’m not joking — one of my favorite pieces of comics criticism.
• Abhay Khosla wraps up his five-part series on the recent Blue Beetle run over at Savage Critics, and asks questions that perhaps cannot be answered:
Looking back, the list of nerdy crap that I have been a dorky spazz-wad for is very, very long– but why does that stuff work on me? What does all that dopey shit have in common? Is there a grand unified field theory of dorkism that can explain why certain ideas, images, idiocies, why they’re capable of burrowing under the skins of sloppy nerds such as myself? And can that theory explain why that material consumes not just my attention, but more and more attention globally at a time when attention is such a precious commodity?
• Speaking of The Comics Journal, here are a few links of note: Steven Grant derides the Spirit Pop-Up Book; Robert Stanley Martin reviews David B’s Nocturnal Conspiracies; and some idiot blathers on and on about Pluto and 20th Century Boys. Under what rock did they find that moron?
I haven’t done this in awhile, so let’s highlight some of the more interesting posts from the past week or so — or at least what was intersting to me:
• The folks at the Hooded Utilitarian recently wrapped up a lengthy roundtable discussion on Dan Clowes’ Ghost World.
• Tom Spurgeon continues his great holiday interview series with notable critics about the great comics of the closing decade. In backwards order: Kristy Valenti on Little Nemo: So Many Splendid Sundays; Bart Beaty on Persepolis; Frank Santoro on Multiforce and our own Sean Collins on Blankets.
• Tucker Stone examines the brouhaha surrounding the announcement of Marvel’s Girl’s Comics series and wonders what lies behind it: “When the Big Two companies make a fuss about something, and that fuss can in any way be perceived as a movement towards correcting a problem, the initial responses are certain to contain a healthy slice of contempt.”
• You’ve probably already seen it by now, but if you haven’t, let me point you towards Abhay Khosla’s rather Freudian review of Dark Reign: The List — X-Men #1:
The obvious conclusion to draw from DARK REIGN: THE LIST– X-MEN #1 is that at the close of 2009, a woman with an appetite for sex is apparently the very definition of fear and horror for Marvel comic creators and their audience.
I would diagnose such a belief as gynophobia.
• Tucker Stone and Joe McCulloch start talking about the week’s comics, realize they didn’t read anything that came out last week, and end up discussing how horrible it must be to be an ordinary citizen in Metropolis.
• Looking for a good graphic novel gift guide to get you through the holidays? Douglas Wolk has what you need.
• As Kevin pointed out yesterday, the new Comics Journal Web site is up and running — at least the beta version of it anyway. There’s lots of good stuff to pick through, but if you’ve got the time, let me point you towards Gavin Lees’ review of Ball Peen Hammer, Noah Berlatsky’s review of Little Fluffy Gigolo Pelu, Marc Sobel’s two part (of five) essay on Gilbert Hernandez’s Birdland, and R. Fiore’s riff on life in Metropolis pre-Superman.
• Joe McCulloch offers an amazing examination of an obscure manga anthology, titled, appropriately enough, Manga, and ends up critiquing the Western perception of the art form and how’s it’s altered over time. (read the first part here)
• Charles Hatfield, meanwhile, provides one of the best examinations of the work J.H. Williams I’ve seen yet.
• Think the AV Club’s “best of the decade” list was too mainstream-heavy? Check out Paste Magazine’s list.
• Forbidden Planet reviews and intriguing looking book entitled Badger: Then and Now.
• Tim Hodler reviewed a new biography of Herge for Bookforum magazine: “[It] fails to arrange the facts into a convincing, rounded portrait.”
• Sandy Bilus didn’t care for All and Sundry: “There simply wasn’t enough meaty comics content to really sink my teeth into.”
• Johanna Draper Carlson raves about the sixth volume of Oishinbo: “I’m loving this series about the wonders of food, cooking, and eating, and this installment is the best yet.”
• J. Caleb Mozzocco reviews the first issue of The Order of Dagonet: “While it’s a great concept, and it’s laid out quite effectively in the first issue of what’s to be an ongoing series, I have some reservations about the execution.”
• The Comics Comics crew are having another cage match, although this time they’re calling it a round table, about Al Columbia’s Pim & Francie book.
• Curt Purcell continues his examination of the Blackest Night event, this time looking at some of the tie-in books.
• Ng Suat Tong examines the pleasures of owning original art and how that can change our appreciation for a particular cartoonist.
• Also at HU, Noah Berlatsky looks at the psychosexual underpinnings of the superhero genre, and how it’s shifted over time.
• NPR’s Glen Weldon talks about why Neil Gaiman’s Sandman series matters: “[It] remains one of the most literate, imaginative and intricately plotted accomplishments in long-form comics storytelling out there.”
• Sandy Bilus recommends Town of Evening Calm, Country of Cherry Blossoms: “The book never feels preachy, but it certainly forces the reader to focus on this issue and raises his or her level of understanding about what the people of Hiroshima have endured.”
• Joe McCulloch compares/contrasts the new Astro Boy movie with the original Tezuka manga.
• Johanna Draper Carlson reviews the first volume of The Lizard Prince: “This manga, a romance in a magical fantasy setting, has enough humor to make it an enjoyable read for the young and young-thinking.”
• Tangognat on Vol. 5 of 2oth Century Boys: “Everytime I pick this series up I’m reminded again how great it is.”
• Tom Spurgeon once again beats everyone to the punch with a review of Joe Sacco’s new book, Footnotes in Gaza: The first good news to report … is that the cartoonist is in top form throughout.” He also has good things to say about Prison Pit.
• Christopher Allen offers 60 ways of looking at Watchmen.
• Critics critique critics — Robert Boyd reviews Bart Beaty’s Unpopular Culture: “This is a thought-provoking book, and I recommend it to anyone who is interested in comics-as-art.”
• David Welsh gets schooled in college manga.
• Rob Clough calls MK Reed’s new book, Cross Country “the most complex, ambitious and visually interesting of her comics.”
• Perhaps if I link to Sean Collins’ review of Refresh, Refresh, he’ll forgive me for accidentally (I swear) stealing the title of his review feature.
• Nina Stone enjoyed the first issue of Cinderella: From Fabletown With Love: “All the pieces of the story just started to fit together perfectly.”
• Grant Goggans declares The Art of Osamu Tezuka “very highly recommended.”
• Finally, Kristy Valenti looks at a 1999 graphic novel drawn by Mia Wolff and written by acclaimed sci-fi author Samuel Delany.
• David Welsh asks the people who know what sort of scary manga they’d recommend for Halloween reading. As expected, his panel comes up with a lot of good picks.
• Meanwhile, Ten-Cent Plague author David Hajdu reviews Robert Crumb’s adaptation of Genesis for the New York Times:
For all its narrative potency and raw beauty, Crumb’s “Book of Genesis” is missing something that just does not interest its illustrator: a sense of the sacred. What Genesis demonstrates in dramatic terms are beliefs in an orderly universe and the godlike nature of man. Crumb, a fearless anarchist and proud cynic, clearly believes in other things, and to hold those beliefs — they are kinds of beliefs, too — is his prerogative. Crumb, brilliantly, shows us the man in God, but not the God in man.
Over at Comics Comics, Dan Nadel calls BS on Hajdu’s review: “One wonders why an author would persist in writing about a subject he clearly disdains and isn’t interested in actually learning about, but I guess that’s between Hajdu and his own idea of the sacred.”
Go read the whole takedown; it’s fun.
• Eddie Campbell has been offering one great critique after another lately, first on
Asterios Polyp and David Mazzuchelli’s ability to convey a sense of place, and then on Rutu Modan’s Exit Wounds (“The impressive thing about Exit Wounds is that there is a keen organizing intelligence at work at every single level of it, from top to bottom.”
• Jeet Heer ruminates on the concept of the “proto-graphic novel,” i.e. graphic novels that were published before the term became ubiquitous.
• It’s a few days old, but this review of R. Crumb’s Genesis adaptation by Bill Kartalopoulos is still well worth your time.
• I don’t always link to Tucker Stone’s “Comics of the Weak” round-up, but this one’s worth noting, as he mimics the prose of “controversial French writer Michel Houllebecq,” which leads to bits like this one on Batman:
Gotham City has but two types of people-those who wreak violence, and those who have violence wreaked upon them. The first type are all men, for the most part, although the occasional lesbian is permitted participation, as long as she has previously received approval from whomever currently holds the title of most cruel. (Said participation is usually considered an important story point, further cementing the little respect or interest that these stories have for women–there are few other places in fiction where “the bitch can stay” is considered interesting or dynamic.
• We’ll start off by linking to Scott McCloud’s recent article on how creators would be wise to pay more attention to criticism, even horribly, dismissively negative criticism of their work:
For myself, I always consider reviews useful—even the hatchet jobs. It makes my heart sink a little when I hear other artists dismiss all reviews as irrelevant to their process. A common claim is that reviews tell us “only about the reviewer” and tell us “nothing about the work,” but I disagree. Yes, reviewers have biases. Yes, they miss the point sometimes. But there’s always some kind of information embedded in any reaction to any creative effort.
I tend to agree with Mark-Oliver Frisch’s comment that most criticism is intended for the reader, not the artist, but still, that’s a really healthy attitude to have.
• Matthew Brady on Masayuki Ishikawa’s Moyasimon, volume 1: “Not only is it actually quirkily charming, the torrents of educational facts actually turn out to be pretty informative.” He’s also got a nice review of Ken Dahl’s Monsters.
• Let’s start off with Jeet Heer’s short piece on the cult of Nancy. It really is all about Nancy, isn’t it?
• Also at Comics Comics: Dash Shaw re-examines a panel he was on at TCAF on alternative and mainstream comics.
• The Hooded Utlilitarian blog, which never met a critical roundtable it didn’t like, is doing a series of posts on French comics. I like the name of the series.
• I would be remiss if I didn’t point to our new fellow Robot 6er Sean Collins’ review of Kazimir Strzepek’s ongoing fantasy series, The Mourning Star.
Let’s try to run through some of the more notable links of the past several days. My apologies if this is old news to you or I missed something.
• Kicking things off, I should note that the gang at the Hooded Utilitarian are offering an in-depth analysis of Neil Gaiman’s Sandman series. In order: Noah Berlatsky, Ng Suat Tong, Tom Crippen and Von Marlowe.
• Ken Parille looks at the work of his fellow blogmate Tim Hensley, specifically his Wally Gropius series: “I can’t think of another cartoonist who approaches space — and what we might call ‘spatial color’ — in such a rigorously strange way.”
• Abhay Khosla talks about comics by way of crime novels:
So: a year from now, if we’re unlucky and Vertigo Crime no longer exists, and some so-and-so is screeching that “None of youse fools on the internet people could have done better because we are geniuses who thought of EVERYTHING” … I would suggest that maybe one thing they could have done differently is launched their crime line with crime fiction…? Just a silly thought.
• Ng Suat Tong time again! This time he’s over at the Comics Reporter, talking about how mainstream (i.e. DC and Marvel) comics tend to mostly be writer-driven these days, and how few of these big-name writers fail to utilize the medium well, using Frank Miller and David Mazzucchelli’s Born Again saga as a comparison point.
If Bendis and Maleev’s take on Daredevil falters at times in its disregard for the formal properties of comics, it is also guilty of rolling out age old tropes for the “revival” of superhero titles. One is left with the impression that mainstream comics writing has not only stagnated but in all likelihood regressed in the last decade becoming competent yet mediocre.
Lots more good stuff at the link.
• Abhay Khosla declares the “3 Jacks” story from Daredevil #500 “pretty much the best Marvel comic of the year so far, right?”
• Jog looks at Jacques Tardi’s West Coast Blues and compares/contrasts its noirist tendencies to Darwyn Cooke’s recent Parker adaptation: “Both books contain framing images of Our Man on the road, a socio-economic subtext, and a dénouement that nod toward the inscrutability of these hard men and their achievements. You’d swear this was a response to Cooke’s book, if you didn’t know it was an English translation of a French album from 2005.”
Trying to play catch-up on some of the more notable reviews this week. My apologies if I missed anything.
• Bookforum has what I believe is the first review of Robert Crumb’s Genesis book, penned by Jeet Heer no less. The magazine also has a review of Asterios Polyp by Dan Nadel and a look at “oddball manga” by Jog.
• Wowzers, the mighty Ng Suat Tong is blogging over at the Hooded Utilitarian! His first post (which looks to be part of an ongoing series0 is spent looking at the critics’ various responses to Dash Shaw’s Bottomless Belly Button.
• David Welsh is still crazy about Astral Project.
• Rob Clough looks at two new books from Sparkplug — Neptune and Sausage Hand.