Many of you know I’ve been reading a considerable number of graphic novels and comics the last few months. This isn’t because of some pretentious “a scholar must engage popular culture” blather. I just want to read things that’ll actually get finished and be fun. Novels have never quite made the cut, nor has non-fiction. I still read poetry all the time, but I want to learn how to tell a story myself. Hence, the current fascination.
Here’s some of what I’ve read and discovered, in brief & in no particular order:
- Vera Brosgol, “Anya’s Ghost” – gets the surliness, bitterness and self-delusion of teenagers right. Anya’s initial confrontation with the ghost had me both laughing and cringing: I knew (still know) people who would act that way in someone else’s home. My favorite character by far was Emily – yes, throughout the whole novel.
- Frank Miller, “Daredevil: Born Again” (h/t Michael Unterberger) – There are plenty of times I can’t stand Miller. The time he had Batman try to electrocute Superman with power lines stands out as a “why the hell did anyone think humanity was a good idea” moment. But Miller’s narrative doesn’t shy away from serious questions even while having a lot of ridiculous fun here. The question: Can someone exist who is nothing but just? (What if even his reputation for justice was taken away?) You’ll recognize the question as Glaucon’s, from Book II of the Republic. Miller’s surprising answer: if such a thing happened, there wouldn’t be a need for a redeemer, as the one put in such a situation would be the redeemer himself.
- Svetlana Chmakova, “Nightschool” – yes, it’s on the girly side. Yes, people were looking at me in Barnes and Noble as I read this. Is it good? Oh hell yeah. Chmakova’s story is less about creating a school with things like vampires and wizards, although it does that well. What it does even better is show how deeply family is rooted in us.
- Daniel Clowes, “Ghost World” – click the link for my full review.
- Adrian Tomine, “Scenes from an Impending Marriage,” “Shortcomings,” “Summer Blonde” – full review of these forthcoming. Suffice it to say that if you see his work, read it. Tumblr has some samples. I should warn you about the content. It is very adult and very complicated.
- Brian Michael Bendis, “Halo: Uprising,” “Ultimate Comics: Spider Man” - read all of “Uprising,” which I took to be a clever comment about adrenaline junkies (some of whom are a subset of gamers). The Marines in the series, the ones in the recognizable Halo armor, don’t strike the fatal blows to the alien enemy or make sacrifices of the sort our hero does. They get cool action scenes. Our hero is just a guy with a job and a bad lovelife who steps up big-time. I read 4 issues, I think, of “Ultimate Comics: Spider Man.” The story’s moments don’t lack impact. Perhaps the most telling part of Bendis’ vision is the hooting and hollering of parents over their kids getting into a charter school. No one said graphic novels and comic books couldn’t be a serious comment reminding us of the ugly realities we unintentionally create, why heroes and reforms are both necessary.