Books

From fairy tales to biography

Fables 150. Bill Willingham, Mark Buckingham et al. Vertigo. 160 pages. $17.99. The long-running series, which predates Once Upon A Time and other TV shows that attempt to contemporize diverse fairy-tale characters, is ending, and various loose ends are tied up, cut off or wrapped in a lovely bow. Though creator Willingham’s decision to halt his ongoing tale might prove to be temporary, he and his merry band of collaborators ably demonstrate that the concept remains viable, vital and highly entertaining.

Providence. Alan Moore, Jacen Burrows. Avatar. 32 pages. $4.99 (monthly). Moore is a big H.P. Lovecraft fan and devotee. No surprise! But this new series, which he says is both a prequel and sequel to his earlier fictional homages, The Courtyard and Neonomicon (both beautifully drawn by Burrows), attempts to put HPL’s life and work into a historical and literary context with a tale that evokes and explicates classic characters and tropes. Moore supplants these oddly quiet first two issues with extended text pieces that expand upon the story, a go-to device for him back through his Watchmen days.

Archie #1. Mark Waid, Fiona Staples. Archie. 32 pages. $3.99. A rethink and reimagining of the classic small town boy next door, this story by top-tier contemporary creators Waid and Staples is also an attempt to return the redheaded character to his roots in the days before his romantic triangle with Betty and Veronica. There’s also an attempt to give the relatively chaste ménage-a-trois a logical foundation, which opens up all sorts of storytelling possibilities. Waid repositions the Lodge family in a more contemporary and realistic setting, which will undoubtedly lead to even more drama and comedy. This first issue evidences great promise without sacrificing any of the built-in charm and good will these characters have carried since (gasp!) 1941.

Mélody: Story of a Nude Dancer: Sylvie Rancourt. Drawn & Quarterly. 352 pages. $22.95. Rancourt, a former nude dancer (not to be confused with the children’s author of the same name) who first wrote, drew and sold these strips during her ecdysiast days in 1980s Québec, had never translated or published the examples of “dessin naïf” into English until now. The adventures of her alter ego, Melody, and her conniving and manipulative boyfriend, Nick, are told simply and without contrivance. Despite the tawdry mis en scene, Mélody’s mostly innocent adventures are sweet, realistic and compelling.

Steve Jobs: Insanely Great. Jessie Hartland. Schwartz & Wade. 240 pages. $25.95. What a fabulous idea: a graphic biography of Apple co-founder (and its latter-day savior) Steve Jobs. Sure, he led an intense and colorful life, so a visual account of it must have seemed like a swell project; indeed, there are several competing iterations out there. But this new illustrated hagiography falls far short. Heartland really isn’t much of an artist; maybe your kid (or mine, for sure) could do roughly the same job. Plus, the narrative seems dumbed down and not entirely accurate. Jobs, for example, didn't invent or create iTunes; it's a renamed version of SoundJam, a program developed by Jeff Robbin and Bill Kincaid, and acquired by Apple for use with its then-new iPod MP3 music player. The brief reference to Job’s teen drug use might preclude receptiveness by the gatekeepers for all-ages audience, too.

Vincent. Barbara Stock. Translated by Laura Watkinson. Self Made Hero. 142 pages. $21.95. Here’s a graphic bio that works — brilliantly. Stok effectively captures and conveys the outlines and spirit of the Dutch master painter’s troubled life. Her deceptively simple art is appropriately colorful, vibrant and rewarding. Even if your knowledge of the iconic artist and his work is cursory, this intelligent and evocative volume — published in association with Amsterdam’s Van Gogh Museum — is well worth your time.

In Search of Lost Time: Swann’s Way. Marcel Proust. Adapted and illustrated by Stéphane Heuet. Translated by Arthur Goldhammer. Liveright. 224 pages. $26.95. Another well-meaning effort: adapting the wordy and expansive Proust classic into a graphic novel. Though the translator has said that the job could be “likened to a piano reduction of an orchestral score,” it’s actually a suicide mission or, at best, a Sisyphean task. Indeed, the stiff and cramped sequential chronicle packed full of dense word balloons and expository narrative boxes undercuts and subverts the experience and turns what should be a richly sensual experience into a claustrophobic and exhausting imposition. However admirable its ambition, imagining any way this could have succeeded is hard.

Michael Midas Champion: Book One. Jordan B. Gorfinkel, Scott Benefiel. InkLit. 144 pages. $19.95. It’s a fun all-ages tale, one that knowingly acknowledges classic superhero comic tropes. Bullies, sports, romantic wish fulfillment and the like are conveyed nicely by the veteran creative team of Gorfinkel and Benefiel.

Richard Pachter is a writer in Boca Raton.

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