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3 Graphic Novels

February 15, 2010

Three things I read recently. It’s good to be back into reading again, but the best things to read seem to be eluding me. What’s the best? I’m not sure. I haven’t dug into anything which has really grabbed me since The Killer Inside Me. Started the Raw Shark Texts; which seemed to have potential, in a very meta, House of Leaves sort of way. But till then have filled up my reading hours with comics again.

Logicomix: Borrowed this from my buddy Slater, kind of on extended loan since he moved to Brooklyn. Really not the usual subject matter or treatment you see in North American comics, technically I guess it was made by a bunch of Europeans. Logicomix is the life of philosopher and pioneering logician Bertand Russell, told in a Tintin-esque  self-referential graphic narrative. And what’s a logician? Well I sure as hell didn’t know, but had a much greater idea of the importance of and contributions of by the end of this book.  Russell’s struggle to unlock the secrets of mathematics and encounters with other philosphers such as Wittgenstein are juxtaposed with scenes documenting the struggles of the books creators, as they argue about how to tell the story: “To me it’s 100% character! Not just their actions, but their ideas come from it: only men like them could have thought them!”  The creator’s story takes place in Athens, and they are very aware of their subject’s roots in the classics.  Perhaps their self-reflexive, dialectical style was meant to echo the style of the Socratic dialogues of Plato.  Makes those ‘modern’ techniques not seem that new after all eh? Anyhow, it’s all very meta.  Kind of most reminded me of the film version of American Splendor in it’s technique.  Anyhow it was compelling stuff, Russell’s life story was more engrossing than I would have guessed, and offers a reason for everyone to take up the challenge of philosophy–to think for yourself.

The Escapists: Brian K. Vaughn picks up where Michael Chabon’s Amazing Adventures of Cavalier and Clay left off, transporting the story of comic creation to the present day. Here his hero is a couple of young friends who buy the out of date license to the Escapist characters and use the to relaunch the series. They also stumble into some superheroics with a publicity stunt involving an old Escapist costume from the tv-serial, capturing the attention of a mega-corp that wants that license back. Yeah, so that’s the plot. And well, what’s the what? Well, this book has a lot of love in it man, it’s got a small cast of three who pour their hearts into making words and pictures come alive on the page. Each issue cuts back and forth between their new Escapist comic, and their current real life predicaments, often blending the two for dramatic effect. All works well, and as someone trying to self-publish my own comic right now it all felt painfully accurate.  Strangely the comic book scenes are done in what seems like an abstract but closer to photorealistic style, while the creators are cartoony rendering. This kind of kept me at arms length from any emotional punch for most of the story. But you know what? Fuck it. It rings true. And I’ll take anything that will inpire me to keep going.

X-Factor: Madrox: Multiple Choice. So that’s a long title! But what can you do when you’re trying to run name recognition on a second rate character on a third-rate series from the 90s? But fuck it, Peter David had a story to tell and I wouldn’t stop him. I was one of the people that liked X-Factor, probably more than the X-Men when he got going on it. David took a gang of well, the useless leftover mutants, and a  well, non starting line-up artist and crafted a supreme-o series through, wait for it, solid characterization, a sense of humor and well told stories. Go figure!  So anyway, he resurrected the series for the oughts with this story, a ‘noir’ murder mystery as our narrator Jamie Madrox, tells us a few times, where the victim in question is himself. Kind of happens when you’re the Multiple Man, able to split yourself into multiple duplicates, each able to live it’s own independent life. Well, David explores the limits of that, taking some new crazy ideas into the process, where Madrox’s dupes start having their own not just independence, but each becomes a fragment of his own consciousness, his guilt, his anger, his insecurity, whichever. Leads to an entertaining chase anyhow, particularly since one of the suspects seems to be himself. Great great stuff, fun to see  Strong Guy and Wolfsbane back in action as always. Nice pacing too. This is how you do it people.

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