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J LHLS Archives: May 2004
Friday, May 14, 2004
Tell Me Something
48 pages, $8.95
Published by Fantagraphics Books
Reviewed by Laurel Sutton
So here's the thing I don't understand: Why is it that in every story/movie/TV show/play, when Character #1 is confronted with evidence of Character #2's infidelity via photos, they immediately believe it's true, and break off the engagement/miss the wedding/leave on a westbound train/sleep with Character #2's worst enemy? I mean, really. If that person was someone you loved, wouldn't you want to confront them, ask for an explanation, and give them a chance to show you that it's not true? Are we that ready to believe the worst about the people we care about the most?
Not to mention the fact that in said story/movie/TV show/play the photos are always FAKED. By Evil Character #3. It's not even a theme anymore - it's a cliché, for Chrissake. This is why I can't watch romantic comedies made after 1970.
Anyway, I mention all this because that cliché is a central part of "Tell Me Something", a new book-length narrative by Jason, who apparently lost or gave away his last name. I quite like this book, which is in clean and lovely black and white, and which has about 50 words of dialogue. The characters are all anthropomorphic birds and cats and dogs that look like a cross between early Disney animals and Tin Tin. They also have empty eyes, like Little Orphan Annie. It's a story of love and loss and betrayal and it has a sad ending - hey, the artist is Norweigian, what did you expect? The art is very controlled and stylized; Jason manages to convey all the characters' emotions through body movement and posture, since their faces are virtually expressionless. I also like the fact that despite the simplicity of the panels, there's a lot of subtley in them, and after reading the book several times I was still finding new details to admire and consider.
That said, I was totally befuddled by the structure. See, there are two story threads. At first I thought that the pages were printed in the wrong order, but then it dawned on me that the white-bordered pages were one thread and the black-bordered pages were a different thread. Then I couldn't figure out if they were separate stories, or alternate timelines, or alternate universes, or somebody's dream (there is actually a dream sequence in here, further complicating things). So I finally decided to RTFM, and there on the back cover is a blurb informing me that the story "slips back and forth between two distinct time periods". OH. Well, I wouldn't call them visually distinct, but I don't do PR for Fantagraphics. Thanks, back cover blurb!
PS. If you like Jason's work, you can buy original panels here.
Posted by Laurel Sutton @ 02:26 PM PST [Link]
Thursday, May 13, 2004
Back to School #1 and #2
Publisher: forcewërks Productions
Review by Jane Seaton
For once in my life, I can identify with the heroes of a superhero comic. I'm too stupid to survive in American suburbia. Grace and Nicolette (B.A.B.E. FORCE master tactician and gifted linguist respectively), a gleeful pair of innocents who shouldn't be allowed out in those bodies without a licence, are struggling to make sense of the greatest intellectual challenge they've ever faced (Yeah, right. Maybe they should have speed-watched some Buffy videos before embarking on this mission.). Trouble is, they're fitting right in, and so long as their resumés include DD cups, scary familiarity with high energy physics, and a willingness to party like five-year-olds until your global peacekeeping force needs you to kick ass - well, Nicolette is already on the cheerleading team, and there's nowhere higher to aim when you're posing as an American teen.
So maybe this comic is about what happens when the nerds fight back. The author (sorry, comic authors always qualify as nerds) is taking potshots at small-scale corporate America. Grace and Nicolette are 'nerds in suburbia', Edison, their sidekick, is clearly assigned nerd status in his minibio in #1, even if suburbia is his homeground. Dr Chaos is an economic nerd (running his soda empire as if he's going to wipe out the opposition by building a larger lemonade stall). And the unashamed uber-nerds, The Hawthorne High School math club, espouse the traditional nerd tactic of embracing, and meanwhile loathing, their nerdy heritage - it's good to be a nerd, but only if there's absolutely no alternative.
Finding alternatives are the school's lesbian maintenance supervisor and Helga Chaos. The only characters in the comic with both intelligence AND integrity, they reject conformity in favour of world domination. (Okay, the supervisor lady's world extends only to the maintenance corridors of Hawthorne High, but right now, that includes Grace and the showers, and that's enough for one working woman on one working day.)
What happens? Hm. Donkey basketball, marching band, flying soda cans, kick-ass DD-cup superheroes... You have to ask? Clunk, Skrrrrrrrrrk, Braaaaaam, and then a sell out. The math club get to take B.A.B.E.FORCE to the ball. Even the lady supervisor swaps her overalls for a frock and steps out with Clown (Did I fail to introduce you? Sorry. B.A.B.E.FORCE majordomo, basketball ref and baton twirler to the high school band - clearly he coached Nicolette for her cheerleading auditions and knows some tricks to turn an honest lesbian maintenance supervisor's head.)
Small-scale corporate America (AKA Dr Chaos) rebuilds the school gym and wraps his sister's knuckles, and nothing has changed, and everything is for the best in the best of all possible suburbias.
Posted by Jane Seaton @ 09:24 PM PST [Link]
Sunday, May 9, 2004
Reviewed by Ginger Mayerson
I wasn't going to see "Van Helsing" and therefore wouldn't be able to review it, but I realized that I couldn't let down the long time readers of this site. All three of them.
Enter at your own risk: There are lots of spoilers.
Posted by Ginger Mayerson @ 11:56 AM PST [Link]
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