And we wrap up a look at the Elementals with the cover to issue #17:
Cover by Bill Willingham, 1987.
This was a fun little caper, with a mystery that grabs your attention, and a female protagonist who is interesting in her eccentricities and single-mindedness. Bee is just out of high school, a self-proclaimed artist, and somewhat of a snoop. She becomes intrigued by a photo artist whose oeuvre is realistic portraits of crime scenes…except that she thinks there’s more to his story than meets the eye. Despite some outlandish plot twists, I found myself caught up in the mystery. The ending was a little too “TV movie of the week” for my tastes, though. Also, the plot hinges heavily on a couple of newly-archaic technologies (1-hour photo development shops and pagers!) but for me, that actually added to the charm of the book.
Jason Little’s artwork elevated this graphic novel above the uneven plot, with beautiful, clean lines and expressive flat colors. It’s really a pretty package, and his accessible, cartoony style juxtaposes oddly against some of the story’s more gruesome images, but again, I think that works in its favor. Overall, a fun, light read.
Little’s latest graphic novel is Motel Art Improvement Service, featuring the same protagonist, Bee. While not bowled over by Follies, I liked it enough (and the premise of the new book is quirky enough) that I’ll probably give it try if I can grab a discounted copy.
(A version of this review originally appeared on my Ferret Press blog, February 2011.)
Welcome back to our spotlight on independent comic book covers. This week’s theme will be Bill Willingham’s seminal work, the Elementals:
Most of the issues in volume 1 of the series had wrap-around covers, as seen here. Given the team’s status as celebrities, this particular homage to the famous Beatles album cover fit in quite well with the book’s theme.
Wrapping up a look at some newer comics, here’s Undertow, from Image Comics:
“Atlantis is the world superpower, and Redum Anshargal is its worst enemy. If you want to break free of the system, he can offer you a place at his side, exploring the wild surface world in his watertight city barge The Deliverer. He and his hostage-protege Ukinnu Alal hunt the Amphibian, a legend that could be the key to an air-breathing life on land.”
Cover art by Artyom Trakhanov.
I was completely taken by surprise by Joe Casey’s re-imagining of several of Dark Horse’s superhero characters in this 9 issue mini-series, the pseudo-anthology Catalyst Comix:
Very inventive and bombastic; just a fun read all around. The wraparound cover to this issue was done by the inimitable Raphael Grampa.
This is a quickie review of an old Neil Gaiman graphic novel that I just recently got around to reading. Mr. Punch tells the tale of a man remembering his childhood, spent at a bleak seaside town where his grandfather operated an indoor arcade. Through hazy remembrances, he confronts dark family secrets, nightmares, and a mysterious Punch and Judy man. Now, as many of you already know, I’m a big Gaiman fan, however (and I know this may sound like blasphemy) I’m not the world’s biggest fan of Dave McKean’s art. I appreciate his work, but it doesn’t move me or speak to me as other artists’ work does. So this direct collaboration between the two was a mixed bag for me.
Overall, this was a well written, solid effort from Gaiman, but being one of his earlier books, it lacks some of the charm that his later works weave so well into the narrative. It did get me interested in the history and culture of Punch and Judy shows, though, and sent me off to do a bit of reading on the subject at Wikipedia.
Gaiman and McKean collaborate quite well together, as you would expect. Using puppets (instead of illustrations) to tell a story dealing with puppet shows makes sense, and McKean is eminently qualified for the job. The standout moments to me were the sequence where the author recalls a hazy memory of a conversation (which McKean depicts by placing the maquettes of the characters behind soft gauze), and the emotionally brutal confrontation between the protagonist’s grandfather and a “mermaid”.
If you’re a fan of either creator, you know what to expect and won’t be disappointed, but I found this particular outing a bit too dry and bleak for my tastes. Again, your mileage will vary.
(A version of this review appeared on my old Ferret Press blog, March 2011.)