Books

Graphic novels range from the weird to the sublime

Patience. Daniel Clowes. Fantagraphics. 180 pages. $29.99.

Clowes’ work is already awfully weird — Ghost World, Eightball — but he almost ventures into Charles Burns territory with this science fiction-murder mystery-love story. The writer/artist’s startling yarn is packed with surprises, along with his usual astute insights into the human psyche, but this sad and funny tale may be his most accessible yet and among his best.

Thoreau: A Sublime Life. A. Dan, Maximilien Le Roy. NBM Publishing. 88 pages. $19.99.

This biography of the preternaturally chill pacifist, originally published in French and translated into English, beautifully captures the essence of its subject and the wild times in early America that formed his philosophy. His withdrawal from civilization to Walden Pond and imprisonment for nonpayment of taxes to protest the Mexican War are depicted, but the centerpiece is his embrace of the abolitionist movement and his reactions to the righteous and violent actions of John Brown and followers. The script incorporates many of Thoreau’s writings, and Dan and Le Roy breathe life into this remarkable retelling.

Wonder Woman: Earth One Vol. 1. Grant Morrison, Yanick Paquette, Nathan Fairbairn. DC Comics. 144 pages. $22.99.

Like Batman, Sherlock Homes and Laura Croft, multiple versions of popular characters co-exist in the fictional multiverse. How else could Superman simultaneously time travel with the Justice League, battle the Joker alongside Batman, kanoodle with Lois Lane and spend some “me” time in his arctic Fortress? So, too, with Wonder Woman. This gorgeous and absorbing out-of-continuity iteration of the Amazon princess’ origin by the shape-shifting Morrison and master artists Paquette and Fairbairn explores the mythological and social roots of the character, along with its fetishistic subtext. It’s a reinvention and not without controversy, but Morrison insists that his vision is consistent with that of the character’s creator, William Mouton Marston, an early advocate of alternative lifestyles, group marriage and elastic sexuality.

Zap Comix #16. R. Crumb, Rick Griffin, Paul Mavrides, Victor Moscoso, Spain Rodriguez, Gilbert Shelton, Robert Williams, S. Clay Wilson, Aline Kominsky. Fantagraphics. 96 pages. $14.99.

Once printed on flimsy newsprint and sold solely in head shops, this fancy final edition reunites the old crew (alive and dead) plus Aline Kominsky, a superstar in her own right. It’s Crumb-heavy — no complaints there — but the highlights are the late, great Spain Rodriquez’s autobiographical tales of Buffalo bikers, the final Wonder Wart-Hog adventure by Shelton (in color!) and multi-artist jams, just like those in days of yore.

The Only Living Boy #1: Prisoner of the Patchwork Planet. David Gallaher, Steve Ellis. Papercutz. 80 pages. $8.99.

The popular Web series makes its dead-trees debut, and it’s well worth the wait. The all-ages saga features a plucky young fellow thrust into a world of anthropomorphic monsters, some of which might become allies, at least temporarily. Gallaher is a sharp and entertaining writer, and Ellis is an exciting and versatile illustrator. Their story is a real treat all around and would make a great gift for preteens and up.

Mary Wept Over the Feet of Jesus. Chester Brown. Drawn & Quarterly. 280 pages. $21.95.

His last book, an earnest but decidedly skeevy exploration of his relationship with sex workers, was audacious, but this graphic interpretation of tales of sex and personal politics from the Bible is revelatory and brilliant. That Brown is an excellent artist is a given, but the research and documentation here is scholarly and insightful. Might not be for everyone, but for those who can get past their piety into the human aspects of the Bible and history, it’s a deep dive well worth taking.

Big Kids. Michael DeForge. Drawn & Quarterly. 96 Pages. $16.95.

An odd little portrait of an alienated young man morphs into a parable (or is it?) of twigs and trees. As peculiar as it is on its surface, the account still resonates as a deft depiction of the quandaries of adolescence and the painful transition to adulthood. DeForge, an effects, props and character designer on Cartoon Network’s Adventure Time, presents the narrative in a bold and evocative way, so even if the story befuddles, its genius visuals are worthwhile.

Quarantine Zone. Daniel H. Wilson, Fernando Pasarin. DC Comics. 160 pages. $22.99.

This dystopic narrative reads like a movie treatment and posits that evil and violence are caused by a virus. The population is separated into infected and non-infected, and the inevitable rebellion ensues. It’s a clever grade-B story with Pasarin’s superb art overachieving beyond Wilson’s by-the-numbers plot.

Richard Pachter is a writer in Boca Raton.

  Comments