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March 3rd, 2011

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12:35 am - Alternative, Indie, Mainstream
I had been wanting to read Black Hole, by Charles Burns, for a while. Like Blankets, it's a critically acclaimed, long, black-and-white graphic novel with focuses on teen angst and romance whose title begins with BLA. So when Mission: Comic Book Club chose it for the monthly book, I had a good excuse to check it out.

Black Hole follows the lives of Seattle teenagers in the late seventies. There's a strange plague going around—the bug, they call it—and it's transmitted by sexual contact. And it manifests in horrible ways like deformed faces and extra mouths and weird rashes. Some of the infected live in the forest, freaks and monsters. Others can pass enough to stay in school.

It's a great premise, but the execution was not my cup of tea. There are numerous surreal dream sequences/hallucinations that aren't very clear, the characters aren't very likable, and there isn't very much narrative momentum. The people who liked the book thought it did a great job of capturing what it's like to be a teenager and that sense of isolation and loneliness, but I was mostly bored and confused and not caring what happened to anyone because all they did was do drugs and get drunk and then have sex.

The art is great, however, so detailed with meticulous line work, and Burns does some cool things with perspective and panels at times. But by the end of the book—and I was ready for the book to be over long before the end—I was left wondering what the point of it all was.

I'd had my eye on Dead@17, by Josh Howard, for some time, as I liked Howard's art style, which I'd gotten a taste of in Clubbing. It looked like a cool series, and then one Javier Grillo-Marxuach was tapped to adapt it for television, which put it back on my radar, so when my comic book store had a sale, I picked up everything that had been released in trade so far.

Nara Kilday is a seventeen-year-old girl. Spoiler warning: she dies. Spoiler warning: she comes back to life. Turns out she's caught in the battle between good and evil, heaven and hell, muffins and Armageddon. The first couple books are fun but clichéd, hitting most of the usual story points for apocalyptic tales about Chosen Ones. Secret societies, demons, the usual. Each new book, however, expanded the scope of the story and added new elements until Howard had built a fairly complex, decently original mythology that still pulled from a lot of familiar sources.

Nara's relationship with her best friend, Hazy, is one of the highlights of the book, and it's fun to watch them kick ass together. There are also plot twists galore. The art really pops off the page.

I wish Dead@17 were better than it is. The dialogue is nothing to write home about. The characters don't have time to develop enough because Howard moves the plot forward so quickly to get through each story in four or five issues. The fast pace is somewhat refreshing, but in the later books, he has so little time to do what he needs to do that he sometimes has entire pages that are just characters explaining some new aspect of the mythology. It's telling and not showing at its worst. Also, sometimes I felt like the book was an excuse for Howard to draw scantily clad teenage girls, and it made me uncomfortable. Even if they were hot. Or especially because they were hot.

I'm still not sure whether I'll continue reading the series. The story does take fun turns here and there, and I'd like to know where it's going, but the book is just so unexceptional! I'm used to reading really good comics, you guys. It's disappointing when things aren't awesome.

After the Mission: Comic Book Club meeting where we discussed Black Hole, I was talking to Leef, the owner of Mission: Comics and Art, about having read Batman: Evolution and Batman: Officer Down, and he recommended Batman: Turning Points, a miniseries focused on the relationship between Batman and Jim Gordon. Written by Ed Brubaker, Greg Rucka, and Chuck Dixon. That sounded relevant to my interests!!

And, indeed, it was. It follows Bats and Gordon through the course of their evolving friendship by showing us the aftermath of key Batman storylines like Batman: Year One, The Killing Joke, Knightfall, and No Man's Land. Although it surely helps to be familiar with the storylines to put the issues in context, it's not entirely necessary, since the dynamic is obvious. Why does Gordon need Batman? Why does Batman need Gordon? How do they relate to each other when the other isn't around? It's not that Turning Points has any real epiphanies to offer; I'm pretty sure much of what's contained here has been said before. But it's interesting and lovely to shine a spotlight on their relationship in this way and watch how it's changed over the years and why.
Current Mood: confusedconfused
Current Music: Eisley - Oxygen Mask

(10 memoirs | Describe me as "inscrutable")


[User Picture]
Date:March 3rd, 2011 09:29 am (UTC)
Like Blankets, it's a critically acclaimed, long, black-and-white graphic novel with focuses on teen angst and romance whose title begins with BLA.
I love this sentence.
[User Picture]
Date:March 3rd, 2011 03:19 pm (UTC)
The two books have been inextricably linked in my mind for so long that I didn't realize everyone didn't make the same connection. The book club was like what?? Then I explained why I thought they were similar (they also both feature a character who puts a girl on a pedestal and totally obsesses over her), and one girl later said I made a "very compelling" argument!
[User Picture]
Date:March 3rd, 2011 01:32 pm (UTC)
I loved Black Hole. So weird and disturbing. Great art!

Agreed on Dead@17. Love Josh's art, but the book is mediocre.

Have you read Epileptic by David B? Love that one. Really gripping.
[User Picture]
Date:March 3rd, 2011 03:15 pm (UTC)
I just couldn't get into Black Hole! Too weird for me, I guess.

So disappointed by Dead@17. I'm not used to mediocre! I'll probably pick up future books if I find them used (or my store has 40% off Image again, just to support them), though. I'm a completist, and it'll make me twitchy to just have part of the series. Or I guess I could sell the books I have. But the art is pretty!

I've never heard of Epileptic or David B! What is it?
[User Picture]
Date:March 4th, 2011 03:20 am (UTC)
Date:March 3rd, 2011 03:33 pm (UTC)
Oh goody! A comics review post by Sunil! I'll be . . . not able to add to my list of comics to try.

Although I did just pick up volume 1 of CHEW and am enjoying it.
[User Picture]
Date:March 3rd, 2011 04:14 pm (UTC)
Ha, it's weird when I'm not raving about things, huh?

I'm glad you're enjoying Chew so far!
[User Picture]
Date:March 3rd, 2011 04:16 pm (UTC)
I enjoyed Batman: Turning Points and I agree that there weren't any epiphanies within it. It was good to see such a character relationship based collection. I should revisit it when I've finished No Man's Land.
[User Picture]
Date:March 3rd, 2011 05:11 pm (UTC)
Yeah, it was a good idea for a miniseries, especially as a way to tie the canon together.
[User Picture]
Date:March 9th, 2011 04:41 am (UTC)
I had Blankets sitting on my shelf for ages, and I finally read it this past weekend. It was Most Excellent.

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