Oct 27, 2011

Graphic Novel Review

The Comics Review category is a new category that reviews graphic novels I've read. Click on the titles to take you to the Amazon page where you can get more information about them. The first one up is...

Far Arden by Kevin Cannon

This is an amusing and engaging read for a variety of reasons. First, the artist has a compelling story, with lots of twists, and also because it looks like a fairly easy style to draw. Notice the characters aren't drawn with perfect anatomical detail. Getting the body proportions  exactly right is not important; the story is, and when the story is compelling, the reader is a lot more open to the art style used.  

I also  get a kick out of the little "sound effect" like words Cannon uses to describe various actions. It serves to give the panels a whimsical feel but also helps the reader understand the little actions that are taking place. I may adopt this technique in some of my comics. I found myself looking for these little descriptive expressions. A small gallery of them:


One of my hangups in my art is that I tend to make it too complicated, and try to make the art too perfect, with the result being that I either give up or don't attempt it at all. This style serves to remind me that I can keep the illustration style simple and still make the story I'm telling engaging. So, students, don't get so hung up on the technical quality of the art. The story is just as important, if not more so, than the artwork.

The Saga Of Rex by Michel Gagne
I love this one. The Saga of Rex is about a little fox with a heart of gold who has incredible adventures with alien races and fantastically rendered worlds. There are no words at all; the story telling is done through Gagne's incredible artwork. The Rex series appear in issues of Flight, a series of graphic novel collections. You can but the collected series HERE.

The storytelling is phenomenal, and without words, you have to study the pictures to understand what is happening sometimes. But the adventures Rex finds himself in are amazingly rendered and his innocent and pure personality comes through every panel.

I'm hooked.


Daisy Kutter is a tough-as-nails chick who used to be an outlaw but reluctantly became a sheriff in a western town where there are robots. The art is great, the mood and settings are evocative, and Kibuishi has a terrific sense of pacing the action of lightning quick scenes as well as creating drama using pauses between the action.

Stig And Martha by Mardon Smet

This is an interesting bit of artwork I found in a collection of Danish graphic novels called From Wonderland With Love, which showcases some of the best of Danish comic artists. This work has a whimsical, Ren and Stimpy-like quality to it, with a touch of street graffiti thrown in. I like how the sound effect words are distorted (note the wavering tips of the "A"s), indicating the nerve-jangling quality of the sound. I like that technique, I might add it to my own repertoire.

BONE by Jeff Smith

Bone is about the Bone cousins, Fone Bone, Phoney Boney and Smiley Bone, who are run out of Boneville, and are trying to get back home.

In the meantime, they meet all sorts of strange characters and become involved in an epic struggle that changes them all.

In the page to the left, two misfit monsters, called Rat Creatures, provide terrific comic relief as they bicker.

Bone is funny, sad, suspenseful and above all riveting.

Two Generals by Scott Chantler

Two Generals is the true story of Scott Chantler's grandfather, Lew Chantler, who in 1943 shipped out to Europe with his best friend Jack Chrysler as members of the Canadian armed forces. 

The story describes Chantler's training and experiences leading up to the invasion of Normandy, one of the most pivotal events of WW 2. 

Chantler was an unassuming man who fought bravely for his country, and the book is based on Chantler's 1943 diary, Chrysler's letters to wife, and the War Diary of the Highland Light Infantry of Canada. It's a somber and engaging read of real events and real people. 

Blacksad by Juan Diaz Canales and Juanjo Guarndo

John Blacksad is a hard boiled private eye, who is also a cat.

Blacksad is a series of noirish, hard boiled detective stories in a city filled with animals who dress like people. There is  a gangster who's a lizard, a district attorney who is a German Shepard, a polar bear who is a divisive and unethical political figure.

This is one of my favorite books so far; the art is excellent, the writing crisp and the plotting taut. There are some adult themes in Blacksad, but it is not gratuitous, and serves to give greater impact to the stories.


Anonymous said...

Actually, the collected Saga of Rex is available: http://www.gagneint.com/Final%20site/books/Rex_saga/Rex_saga_main.htm

Magnum said...

Thank you for your comment. Appreciate it, and I've updated my blog post. I actually found a copy of the saga at Dragoncon and snatched it. I love this series.