I’ve written a few reviews over the past month that I want to get out of my system before the new year. Hope you don’t mind me sharing…
One Soul, by Canadian writer/artist Ray Fawkes, tells the story of one soul as it passes through 18 different incarnations. The book came my way after reading a lot of good pre-publication notices, so while I knew a bit of what to expect, I was still pleasantly surprised by it. Using a 9-panel grid, Fawkes gives an impressionistic glimpse of each life in every spread. While the characters’ personalities are only briefly sketched out, the arc of their stories still manage to convey a full sense of a life lived. By reading across the grid, the reader discovers nice synergies as the different lives find similar experiences. Fawkes presents this well through the occasional repeated layout (p. 14/15) or designed spreads (p. 52/53) that often pack greater impact than the script alone conveys. Additionally, thanks to his strict use of the grid, the reader can also drill through the book, following the story of each life from its beginning to its (often unexpected) end, watching the grid gradually darken as lives come to their end. While the grid did fall apart a bit at the end for me, it’s still highly recommended for readers wanting to experience a different storytelling structure; less so if you prefer a thorough insight into your characters.
On the other hand, The Griff, written by Christopher Moore & Ian Corson, is probably the biggest disappointment I’ve suffered recently. I’ve enjoyed a lot of Moore’s novels (notably, Fool and The Stupidest Angel), so also had high hopes for this original graphic novel … but it turned out to be a repurposed movie script the pair had worked on. While featuring a fast-paced plot and an entertaining mix of characters typical of Moore’s novels, it seemed to be missing a lot of linking elements that, while they might have worked well in a film, seemed like shorthand in this format. No real effort was spent setting the scene or providing atmosphere beyond that provided in the visuals. Speaking of the art, by Jennyson Rosero, it was nicely done for the first third of the book, but the quality of the finish and coloring declined noticeably as the book went on. Whether it was due to a rushed deadline on her part or on the part of the production staff, it was disappointing to see such visual inconsistency in a story that short (though unpaged, Amazon lists it at 160 pages. It was a quick read, at any rate). Interestingly, Rosero only got a “with” credit, and the art copyright was retained by the publisher. Certainly this seems like a sign of an unbalanced creative team, with little collaboration going on between story and art, which could be another reason why this book didn’t seem to work for me. Largely, it stands as an example of why a comic script is different from a movie script, and why good comics are so much better than just an illustrated screenplay.
A curious thing I’ve noticed about my pull lately is how all the comics I’m following (aside from Savage Dragon) have really low issue numbers, often just in single digits. One of my new favorites just had its #1: Mud Man by Paul Grist, published by Image. While I love Grist’s drawing style and have followed his comics on and off over the years, his opening essay in that first issue is what endeared me to his latest project. In it he pins down one of my favorite things about comics, better than I was able to do in my own Free Comic Book Day comic from 2006: “I think there’s something compelling about a story told over a period of time which allows you to get to know characters. … I like stories that you can carry with you and think about before you get to find out what happens next. And because they build up over a period of time they get into your head in a different way than a single one off story can.” I’m looking forward to carrying Mud Man around in my head for a while! Another low-numbered comic that has claimed some space in my head is Terry Moore’s new title, Rachel Rising. It’s a murder mystery with a touch of the supernatural, packed with yet-to-be answered questions; it’s only on #4 so far, and well worth checking out.