Marble Season (2013)

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It’s hard to even know where to start with Marble Season. From the first few pages, it feels like Peanuts mixed with Love and Rockets. Beto writes it with a child’s wonderment–the graphic novel is set in the late sixties, with lots of pop culture references and inferred growing pains–and draws it with something similar. He even uses off panel or white backgrounds to keep the too adult things out of the book. There are no adults in Season, something he makes clear when one of the characters hears a parent yelling in that old “Peanuts” television fashion.

Season follows Huey, the second of three brothers, as he makes new friends, discovers new comics, debates Bozo versus Jimmy Olsen. It’s set during a school year, but Beto never shows the kids at school. Huey’s his stand-in, which I guess makes Huey’s younger brother, Jaime; it’s not actually important to Season. There’s a list of all the pop culture references? Those aren’t important either. Beto knows what he’s doing, which is sort of creating this entire world (there’s a huge Latino against white subtext, not to mention the girls being ready for boys and the boys still wanting to be stupid), which makes it very hard to discuss Season concisely.

The book is meticulously crafted, subplots running gently through it–their payoffs usually left understated or just unsaid. It’s a brilliant piece of work. My inability to discuss it shouldn’t imply it’s too complex, it’s just too perfect.

CREDITS

Writer, artist and letterer, Gilbert Hernandez; publisher, Drawn and Quarterly.

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The Wild Kingdom (2010)

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I’ve read Huizenga before, but apparently having read his Ganges series does not prepare one for The Wild Kingdom. While Ganges–Huizenga’s everyman–appears, he pretty much shows up, goes to the post office and then goes home. His last appearance as the protagonist is maybe halfway through the book.

Then Huizenga spends the rest of the time doing a very deliberate and cultivated riff. There’s some progressive, narrative logic to it, but he’s riffing. There’s a bunch of stuff about modern America, about commercials, about technology fetishes (I’d love to see Huizenga do illustrated coverage of an Apple press conference), about war, about religion, about everything one can think of. Except, maybe, protagonist Glenn Ganges.

What’s so great about it being a structured riff is how many places Huizenga can lead the reader. He’s not taking the book places, he’s taking the reader some very specific places. A great deal of the book is spent going over, on a sort of realistic “natural” level, everything Ganges encountered in the traditional narrative part of the book. It’s all very lovely and exquisite. The artwork is fantastic, which I expected, but I didn’t expect Huizenga to have such a fluid narrative style. It reminds me, though it’s completely unlike it, early Love and Rockets collections.

The conclusion is something of a wonder too. Huizenga’s lovely pacing gives the ending a peaceful feel, even though the conclusion is a momentous tragedy.

I don’t often say things are must reads, but Wild Kingdom is one.

CREDITS

Writer, artist, colorist and letterer, Kevin Huizenga; publisher, Drawn & Quarterly.

Palookaville 6 (November 1994)

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I think this must be the first issue where Seth doesn’t feel the need to show his protagonist nude from the waist down. He did it in every previous issue at some point or another.

Honestly, I can’t remember anything from this issue and I just finished reading it a minute ago.

It ends with an extremely trite reflection on memory and I now wonder if it ever occurred to Seth his readers might be familiar with Proust and his madelines. Oddly, it never occurred to me Seth might not be familiar with him.

The more I read Palookaville, the less likable I find Seth–the character. He’s an annoying, pretentious hipster. Maybe my biggest problem is the job thing.

Seth never mentions working. He just magically has enough money to travel on jaunts. His character seems to spend his entire day doing nothing.

And he’s terrible to his girlfriend.

CREDITS

It’s A Good Life If You Don’t Weaken, Part Three; writer, artist, colorist and letterer, Seth; publisher, Drawn & Quarterly.

Palookaville 5 (May 1994)

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This issue continues the story started in the previous one. Well, no, it doesn’t. Not exactly.

Seth seems incapable of resolving a cliffhanger, so this issue spends about half its pages just being another story about Seth, the character, following the last issue. There’s nothing to make it a chapter in the same story. Even the approach to the art changes.

Last issue, Seth had all these lovely illustrations. This issue, Palookaville goes back to being as indistinct as the first three issues. Seth’s opener is completely unrelated to the finale of the previous issue.

It’s like he assumed his readers wouldn’t have read the previous issue so he’s going to win them over again.

The issue becomes a laundry list of Seth’s rather uninteresting complaints. His single interesting observation is about himself. The Seth we met in the first issue is now, issue five Seth has decided, a tool.

CREDITS

It’s A Good Life If You Don’t Weaken, Part Two; writer, artist, colorist and letterer, Seth; publisher, Drawn & Quarterly.

Palookaville 4 (December 1993)

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Now here’s a good issue. It’s mostly about Seth–the character–looking for old New Yorker cartoons.

It’s about more–there’s stuff with his family, stuff with a friend–but the emphasis is on him looking for old New Yorker cartoons in general and this one artist in particular.

What’s really interesting about the issue is how much attention Seth–the creator–pays to the art here.

This issue is Palookaville‘s fourth and, while Seth’s definitely talented, I’ve never been impressed until now. In fact, he just gets more and more impressive as the issue goes forward.

The narrative approach is much different than the last clearly autobiographical issue (the first). Seth’s no longer trying to distance himself from the reader. Instead, he concentrates on explaining himself to him or her here, which isn’t compelling at all.

But the art and the search for the cartoonist makes up for it.

CREDITS

It’s A Good Life If You Don’t Weaken; writer, artist, colorist and letterer, Seth; publisher, Drawn & Quarterly.

Palookaville 3 (June 1993)

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I’ve read this story before. Young adult male falls in with older, unavailable woman, experiences a broken heart, realizes it’s all okay though.

I think I’ve even read it in an indie comic, maybe even another published by Drawn and Quarterly. In other words, Seth doesn’t have anything original going here.

It’s not bad though. It’s a banal rendition of the story, but not in any way poorly told or whatnot. Seth just doesn’t give it any distinctive qualities. He tells the issue the same way he told the previous two, a simple recounting of events. Even the dramatic moments have a boring quality to them.

But last issue he filled with people and their lives, providing texture. Here… it’s just the object of the protagonist’s affection who has a life. The protagonist’s parents, for example, are featureless.

It should have been a much better issue, based on the previous.

CREDITS

Beaches, Part 2; writer, artist, colorist and letterer, Seth; publisher, Drawn & Quarterly.

Palookaville 2 (September 1991)

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Seth’s second issue isn’t as clearly intended to be autobiographical as the first. The protagonist this issue is Greg. Interestingly, he and the other “cool” male character–there’s a few uncool male characters–both have long, girly hair. The character’s so asexual in his narration, it’s sort of impossible to gauge the gender until someone refers to him by name.

So I’m not sure if Seth’s trying to make his readers pay attention and not take things for granted–like I assumed in the first issue–or if he just thinks cool guys look like girls.

It’s a little hard, also, to tell when Seth’s being lazy with the art. He doesn’t cheap on the panel count–he has at least nine a page–but occasionally one will seem a little unfinished.

The story is gradual again, Greg works at a restaurant, Seth introduces the coworkers and situations.

It’s nice.

CREDITS

Beaches; writer, artist, colorist and letterer, Seth; publisher, Drawn & Quarterly.

Palookaville 1 (April 1991)

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For the first issue, Seth does something kind of strange–where most series use the first issue to invite the reader, Seth uses it to distance him or her. Unless the reader was an eighties art school hipster, there’s going to be an immediate disconnect as Seth, the protagonist, isn’t the standard lead.

The story, introduced by Seth (the creator) and then epilogued by him too, is about Seth (the character) getting beat up for being gay. Except he’s not gay. In fact, he’s only in the situation because his girlfriend abandoned him for the night.

Clearly, Seth (the character) needed to be more comfortable staying in.

The issue follows the night, so casually there’s no foreshadowing to the violence, and some of the day after.

It’s particularly interesting because even though Seth (the creator) tells the reader about the storytelling process–it’s clear he’s telling the story for himself.

CREDITS

I Should’a Ran; writer, artist, colorist and letterer, Seth; publisher, Drawn & Quarterly.

Wilson (April 2010)

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I’ve never read Clowes before. I saw Ghost World and had major problems and assumed I wouldn’t like his comic work.

I was wrong.

Clowes sets Wilson up, intentionally or not, as the craziest collection of Sunday strips from a newspaper comic strip. Each page is a one page strip, with some differing art styles someone more involved might have something to say about (why one strip is realistically rendered while another is not). The strips all end with a resolution and observation.

As a protagonist, Clowes’s Wilson is a poor, untalented version of Larry David’s “Curb Your Enthusiasm” persona… wait, describing him as a realistic George Costanza might be a better choice. He doesn’t have friends, he can’t connect with women and his dumb ideas get him in lots of trouble. So, yeah, a realistic George.

Wilson is frequently hilarious, causing lots of audible laughter, usually when Wilson is being a jerk. There’s a lot of the jerkiness at the beginning and it seems like Wilson‘s just going to be a collection of the protagonist insulting people. Then the narrative starts.

Clowes never makes Wilson anything but an insensitive ass, so it’s interesting to see just how much sympathy for the character the narrative can create.

I suppose my only complaint with the plot is Clowes closing it off at the end.

It’s a fast, fun read, with Clowes quietly presenting Wilson‘s more profound moments, as it should be.

I am a little fearful of an upbeat film adaptation.

CREDITS

Writer, artist, colorist and letterer, Daniel Clowes; publisher, Drawn & Quarterly.

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