Neil Gaiman, Rafael Albuquerque, A Study in Emerald (2018)

A Study in Emerald

Author: Neil Gaiman, Rafael Albuquerque

Title: A Study in Emerald

Format: Hardcover

Pages: 88

Right in time for October spookiness, Gaiman’s cheeky and heartfelt tribute to both Arthur Conan Doyle and H.P. Lovecraft is a lovingly crafted mystery clad in horror. Gaiman’s short story won 2004 Hugo Award for Best Short Story and the 2005 Locus Award for Best Novelette, and had been adapted to the comic book medium by Rafael Albuquerque, Rafael Scavone,  and Dave Stewart over a decade later.

I must admit I did read the short story back in the time, but the comic book adaptation somehow made a much greater impression on me. Maybe it’s the Lovecraftian vibes, which so greatly lend themselves to the dark, shadowy frames filled with menacing tentacles and splotches of vivid green, or maybe it’s the structure of the story, beautifully misleading the readers, throwing red (or rather emerald) herrings left and right, only to reveal its true nature to the careful reader (and indeed, half the pleasure from reading Gaiman’s take on the world’s best detective stems from knowing all necessary facts about Sherlock Holmes ;))

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Mark Millar, Leinil Yu, Superior (2013)

Superior

Author: Mark Millar (writer), Leinil Yu (penciler)

Title: Superior

Format: Paperback

Pages: 200

What’s happening, another comic book review in a row? And what is that exactly, a love child of Superman and Shazam???

Well, to an extent ;). Though the fruit of Millar and Yu’s collaboration reads like an unabashed love letter to Superman, it had actually been published by Marvel. This comic is one of the more vivid examples of the blurred lines between what exactly in the superhero world is a property of one or the other powerhouses – and a solid reminder that ideas cannot be owned :).

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Nick Drnaso, Sabrina (2018)

When I got a notification on my WordPress app that Paul from Paul’s Picks reviewed Sabrina, critically acclaimed graphic novel published last year, I thought – what a coincidence 🙂 I was just finishing the book myself, and I postponed reading of the review until I finished. It’s short and to the point, but let me present my take on Sabrina.

Author: Nick Drnaso

Title: Sabrina

Format: Hardcover

Pages: 204

Sabrina goes missing and her boyfriend Teddy, depressed and aimless, moves in with his high school friend Calvin, US Air Force soldier (the kind of warrior that specializes in IT) a few states away. Sabrina’s family suffers, things get bad and worse. Apart from that, Calvin’s ex-wife does not want him around their little daughter and he’s torn between his plan to move closer to them and try to get them back and career opportunities in the military.

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Tom King, Mikel Janín, The War of Jokes and Riddles (2017)

The War of Jokes and Riddles

Author: Tom King (writer), Mikel Janín (illustrations)

Series: Batman

Format: Paperback

Pages: 200

Where do I start? Maybe with the hype concerning Tom King as the new Wunderkid of DC Comics, one of the few authors who allegedly could take the post-Rebirth Batman and put some life into the character nearing its permanent retirement age (80 years next May!). Tom King’s approach was supposed to be ‘cerebral’, his stories realistic and full of suspense. Maybe some of them are – I am not to judge, since I’ve read only the one and I don’t intend reading any other. Because, in short, The War of Jokes and Riddles was a smelly pile of horseshit.

Let’s start with the art, because later on it will be one long rant. Art is mediocre at best, with Riddler inexplicably beefed up and Joker looking like a drawing of himself from some really bad old comics. Batman and Selina look correct if quite generic, and that’s probably the best I can say about them. The main problem I have with Janín‘s art is that it lacks dynamics, and the eyes of the characters seem dead. They make faces, all right, but nothing reaches their eyes. The panels depicting the war don’t really make much impact – they are there, and they show what happened. Maybe I’m spoiled by other artists, I tend to choose my comics carefully knowing there’s a lot of fluff and a lot of trash out there.

the-war-of-jokes-riddles-1

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Brian Azzarello, J.G. Jones, Lee Bermejo, Before Watchmen: Comedian/Rorschach (2013)

Before Watchmen

Author: Brian Azzarello (writer), J.G. Jones, Lee Bermejo (illustrations)

Title: Before Watchmen: Comedian/Rorschach

Format: Hardcover

Pages: 256

Thank gods for libraries! Because if I’d bought this, driven by nostalgia, authors’ fame, or some misplaced need for adventure, or a revisit of the universe before HBO’s TV series scheduled for next year, I’d have been furious. All right, I knew the Watchmen prequels were a shameless money grab, there was no doubt about it. But I also hoped for some kind of tribute, a homage, or a thoughtful reimagining of the ideas and social commentary presented by Moore and Gibbons in the story and characters from Watchmen.

Watchmen

Need I say more? I probably ought to 😉 So, first things first, Moore’s and Gibbons’ Watchmen are on my list of favorite graphic novels of all time. Gritty, subversive, digging deep into the American superhero mythos and collective identity, Watchmen became at once the grist and the mill of the pop culture, simultaneously giving it lasting imagery and the tools to analyze it. We should probably do a Two-shot post on Watchmen here at Re-Enchantment, but because our views on the work of Moore and Gibbons are very similar, there wouldn’t be much suspense or tension. We might only have some differences of opinion regarding certain characters and plot devices (the fated pirate story, ekhm…), but our overall reviews would be quite alike.

I have been circling around Before Watchmen for a while now, at first dismissing this idea as a blatant and ill-conceived effort to capitalize on Moore and Gibbons’ work – and DC’s already done more than enough bad things in this regard. However, when I saw the Comedian/Rorschach book in my local library, I decided to finally give it a chance and overcome my prejudice – after all, I thought, Azzarello of 100 Bullets and Batman fame wouldn’t butcher Moore’s ideas.

I couldn’t have been more wrong.

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Yuki Urushibara, Mushishi (1999-2008)

Wow, it’s only a second appearance of manga on Re-enchantment… After Yotsuba&!, it’s time for Mushishi, another of my favourite series. Created by Yuki Urushibara and published for ten years in serialized form in Japan, now it’s available both in English and Polish, collected in 10 volumes.

Mushishi 1

This is the only manga I own a whole set of. Well, this and Azumanga Daioh, but the other is just one 700 pages omnibus. Also highly recommended, from an author that later gave us previously mentioned Yotsuba&!, but that’s not for today.

Mushishi is a story about Ginko, a wandering mushi-shi, occult specialist protecting people from mushi, ethereal, supernatural beings not perceived by regular humans, but capable of influencing their lives in usually pretty dangerous ways. Partly a shaman, even more a scientist, Ginko uses his knowledge of the supernatural to help people as he travels through Urushibara’s version of XIX-century rural Japan of the late Edo period.

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Jean Van Hamme, Grzegorz Rosiński, Thorgal (1977-2006)

and several other, not as good, writers, from 2006 onwards, and maybe they should stop, but it started great, and continued strong, for three decades 🙂

When I was a kid, I did not have easy access to Marvel, or DC, comics. Some Batman storylines, The Amazing Spider-Man published in Poland by TM-Semic… I’ve actually only come to really appreciate comics in my early twenties. On title that was always around though – Thorgal. One of a few comic book series hugely popular in a comic wasteland that Poland was, and perhaps still is – we have notable authors, sure, but the scale is small.

Thorgal is a science fiction Viking fantasy (!) series written by (first, and best, 29 issues) a Belgian author Jean Van Hamme and illustrated by a Pole, Grzegorz Rosiński. Belgian, part of the big universe of Francophone comics, the biggest force in the European comic book scene and well worth your while. Smart, pretty – often in a rough way, less polished, and less uniform, than their American counterparts and also less prudish than American publications. I would argue – on average, more sophisticated. With no luck in the film adaptation department, as recent unremarkable Tin-Tin and messy Valerian prove.

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