Monday, December 22, 2008

Three of the best.

I'm not the one for "comics of the year" posts. But here's mine anyway.

If there's two things that're vaguely holy to me, it's comics and libraries. Hey, you might even have guessed that. So this year, visiting Angouleme was pretty special. And while I was there, I ended up buying two of my favourite comics this year: Jodorowsky and Ladronn's THE FINAL INCAL vol.1, and Reinhard Kleist's CASH. Kleist's book is a biography of Johnny Cash, told with all the flair and magic missing from James Mangold's dreadful WALK THE LINE. Cash's life and songs merge masterfully. The tone switches from sorrow to humour to profundity to mythic in the same easy way the man himself could. It's a book crying out for an English translation. Hardt's art style reminds me of Craig Thompson's, but more expressive, though his brushwork is less slick.

The new Incal is an arguably unnecessary reiteration of the original series. This new cycle begins the very second the last one ends. Characters are reborn or reinvented, themes revisited, the Tarot symbolism layered on even thicker than before, but it's all done with Ladronn on such top form, it's hard to hold it against the book. Ladronn's the man for the job - it's hard to think of the currently enervated Moebius providing work just this damned kinetic anymore. It's fair to say Ladronn is loved in the U.S., so it's strange that this book has received so little coverage in the Anglophone comics press. You'd have thought that a champion of Ladronn's work like Richard Starkings might have thought about licensing and translating this one.

Another book that's received a mysterious silence from the murky corner of the internet that belongs to comics is Kev Walker's "graphic novel" (I'll never use that term and not put it in quotes) adaptation of Charlie Higson's first Young Bond novel SILVERFIN. Walker's work here is a wonder, the full package: his characters emote with a Steve Dillon-esque deftness; his line as bold and assured as Mignola's; his storytelling clear and flawless; he even colours it himself, in a Dave Stewart-reminiscent palette, restrained, tasteful, and always in service to the storytelling.  Really, this guy is sickeningly talented.  Also, take my word for it, if you're a Bond fan who's shied away from the Young Bond novels for whatever reason, give Higson's work a chance. He captures the spirit of Fleming so winningly, they'll have you grinning like a fool in no time. Bond is, after all, an alcoholic, an inveterate gambler, a pill-popper, a masochist and a sadist, a snob, a misanthrope, and a misogynist. Higson plants the seeds for all Bond's character flaws (and his saving graces), always subtly, usually funnily, and with a nod and a wink to the fanbase, the adult readership he knows is skulking about uninvited.

I'm sure there's more, but that'll do for this year.


seth hurley said...

I stumbled across Kleists site this year, His Havana sketches are beautiful.

He & Danijel Zezelj are two of the top contemporary guys I wish had more available in translation.

and the Incal & Metabarons....fuck, I should never have skipped my language classes in high school.

Mark said...

Ah, well, I manage to struggle through with my O-level French, and the occasional help of Babel Fish.

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