2013 Releases to Keep an Eye on, part I

I will return to reviewing new comics after the weekend, but for now here is an annotated list of releases slated for the first half of 2013, some of which might be of interest to you. I thought it would dovetail nicely with the best of 2012 post, and possibly function as a mild antidote to the general theme of incredibly stupid lists of random names that seem to dominate the world of, ahem, comics journalism this week. As the title indicates, this list is a work-in-progress.

David B., Black Paths (SelfMadeHero)

DavidBThis book by David B. has been out for a while in Europe, including in an English language edition published in the UK. In March SelfMadeHero will publish it on US shores, giving readers here a chance to read the great and weird story of the Austro-Hungarian port city of Fiume, declared an independent free state in 1919 by dadaist, poet, and self-declared pirate king Gabriele d’Annunzio. The Free State of Fiume was an actual historical place, born out of the chaos and tumultuous political landscape of the end of the Great War, but filtered through the imaginative pen of David B. it turns into a surreal world of decadence and fantasy, becoming the scene of both horror and romance. Check out some brief samples here.

Guy Delisle, A User’s Guide to Neglectful Parenting (Drawn & Quarterly)

DelisleSet to be released in late June, this new title by the autobiographical comics journalist and travel writer Guy Delisle changes gears somewhat from his earlier writings, seemingly letting the exotic locales of most of his previous work take a backseat to the true task of a cartoon-drawing travel-along husband – neglectful parenting. There is sparse information available about the title, and I am not even sure if it has been published in a French edition yet, but it seems that the go-to translator of Delisle’s work (and that of number of other Francophile comics creators), Helge Dascher, will also tackle this one.

Jess Fink, We Can Fix It! (Top Shelf)

FinkJess Fink made a splash with the publication of her humorous and erotic webcomic Chester 5000 XYV last year. Now Top Shelf is putting out her second book, which looks to be a semi-autobiographical tale of time travel, regrets, and, I’m guessing, various sexy hijinks along the way. Fink is a talented and funny cartoonist, so this one should be well worth checking out. The release date is still unknown, but have a look at some samples at her site. And make sure to read Chester 5000, if you haven’t done so already. It is a hilarious piece of work, but beware – it contains several drawings of naked robots and humans engaged in coitus.

Shigeru Mizuki, Kitaro (Drawn & Quarterly)

MizukiAs I alluded to in my list of the best comics of 2012, revered mangaka Shigeru Mizuki’s classic GeGeGe no Kitaro is at long last coming out in an English language release in early February. Originally begun in the early 1960s, Kitaro is the ongoing story of a young, one-eyed yōkai boy and his adventures with the supernatural and the mundane alike. A pioneer of the now-classic shōnen style of manga, this lighthearted adventure title has been greatly influential in Japan, spawning numerous adaptations, including both animated and live action movies (the latest one from 2007), and hopefully this 432-page volume will be but the first in a series of books about the lovely little monster.

Jacques Tardi, The Astonishing Exploits of Lucien Brindavoine (Fantagraphics)

TardiThere are quite a few Tardi books slated for 2013, but this June release is the one that has me the most excited. The first work entirely written and created by Tardi, Lucien Brindavoine is set in the same fantastical and trope-filled universe as Adèle BlancSec, leading to an eventual crossover of sorts in the next Adèle volume, planned for 2014. This book is perhaps a slightly less mature piece than some of Tardi’s later self-authored work, but it is filled with a vibrancy and a dark humor that makes it a thing not to be missed, especially so for those who enjoy his amusing riffs on traditional genre pastiches, with a nice dose of violence and sarcasm thrown in. Besides the main treat, a story of the titular protagonist finding himself in the middle of geopolitical and financial power struggles in Istanbul, this book also offers the first chapter of a never-to-be-finished series, featuring Lucien fighting as a soldier in the trenches of the First World War.

Jacques Tardi and Jean-Pierre Verney, Goddamn This War! (Fantagraphics)

Tardi_VerneyMost of you will probably be aware of this April release from Fantagraphics, following up as it does on the wildly successful It Was the War of the Trenches, released in English in 2010. I have been reading Tardi since I was a kid, mostly in Danish translations, but I am not familiar with this particular book, published in France only a few years ago. It looks very promising, and seems to be more of a single narrative spanning the entirety of the war, rather than the looser vignette-style format of the earlier book. Fantagraphics also promises to include an extensive section on the history of the war, including reproductions of photographs and historical documents, curated and written by historian and frequent Tardi-collaborator Jean-Pierre Verney.

Various, Ax vol. 2 (Top Shelf)

Ax 2Ax, the great anthology of alternative manga that came out in 2010 from Top Shelf, finally gets a second volume. The release date is not yet publicized, but it seems likely to be sometime early in the year. The editors are once again Sean Michael Williams and Mitsuhiro Asakawa, both very talented editors who will no doubt present another thrilling collection of icky and enticing manga from the Japanese underground. In a US manga market that seems dominated by extremely long running shōnen action titles, the brevity, creativity, and vit of the pieces in anthologies such as this are much welcome, both as art and entertainment in their own right, and as a reminder that the Japanese comics scene is every bit as diverse as our own.

Various, Eros Gone Wild (Humanoids)

ErosAs far as raunchy European pseudo-pornographic comics go, this January release from Humanoids is going to be hard to beat. It is a large hardcover collection of the Fripons anthology of erotic comics, originally published as five volumes in French between 1990 and 1992. The contributors span wide, and include such luminaries as Annie Goetzinger, Enki Bilal, Philippe Druillet, Paul Gillon, and, of course, covers by Fred Beltran. Most of the strips seem to be short, humorous pieces with varying degrees of sleaze and craft. I can’t speak to the quality of the work, but for those who want samples, such can be had at the always informative Bedetheque website.

Wishful thinking addition:

Tom Spurgeon, Comics as Art: We Told You So (Fantagraphics)

SpurgeonOkay, so I don’t actually have any idea when this book, a comprehensive history of Fantagraphics, will be coming out, if ever. It’s been scheduled for release since 2006, and is now listed with a “release date TBA” on the publisher’s website. Regardless, since I really want to read the whole thing, and going by Karl Rove’s surprisingly postmodern thesis that “when we act, we create our own reality,” I’m going to include it on this list of 2013 releases. While you wait for Godot, you can go and read the first three chapters of the book here.

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Best Comics of 2012

This is a list of, in no particular order, my personal picks of the best comic books coming out in 2012. The selection only reflect those titles that have not been released in English prior to this year, limiting the amount of reprinted material somewhat.* I realize that the internet is already flooded by lists such as this, and I harbor no pretensions of significance in my own selection. I do invite readers to comment as they see fit – I have not read even a fraction of the many titles hitting the shelves this past year, and I am sure that there are gems I have missed, overlooked, or otherwise wrongfully left out. 2012 was in my opinion a very strong year for comics, and we can only hope that the seemingly newfound creativity amongst independent creators continues to flourish, and that the efforts at translating and publishing foreign works, classic as well as contemporary, continues.

Chris Ware, Building Stories

WareWare’s new project has been commented on all across both the comics and literary news circuit recently, and with good reason. Building Stories is an impressive exploration of the boundaries of the medium, with extreme care paid to everything from the interchangeable order of reading to the physical board game-like box itself. But formalistic experimentation alone does not a good comic make. Luckily the story told by Ware does not let the reader down, and while some parts of this quilted patchwork narrative veers close to feeling like excuses for toying with print and presentation, others are more thoroughly satisfying, and even provide something that is very rare indeed in a Chris Ware book – small glimpses of hope.

Glyn Dillon, The Nao of Brown

Cover to The Nao of Brown.

I reviewed Dillon’s first full-length graphic novel last week, and hence will not go into too much detail with it this time around. From the complexity and utterly charming personality of the titular character to the beautiful illustrations and colorful writing making up the story-within-a-story, this is a work that is bold, skillfully crafter, and has broad appeal. It deftly showcases the great skill of its creator, and is without a doubt a piece of visual storytelling that fully deserves the attention of a wider reading audience interested in literary fiction of any kind. Between this and other releases in the last year, UK publisher SelfMadeHero has thoroughly established itself as an important voice on the international comics scene.

Ryan Cecil Smith, SF #2

SmithRyan Cecil Smith is quite simply one of the most talented and exciting creators of self-published comic books today. His latest work, the sequel to last year’s SF #1, is no exception. It is the shortest book on the list, but is no less satisfying because of its brevity. This issue continues the tale of our hero Hupa Dupa, adopted by the Space Fleet Scientific Foundation Special Forces following the death of his parents at the hands of evil Space Pirates. The story is thrilling and fun, the art is perfectly in sync with the narrative, and there is nothing you want more after finishing an issue than get your hands on the next one. Or, even better, one of the magnificent sets of Supplementary Files.

Brandon Graham et al, Prophet volume 1: Remission

GrahamAnother work of daring science-fiction, this ongoing title published by Image comics and written by Brandon Graham with a rotating cast of talented artists is a refreshing dose of honest-to-god craziness in the otherwise stale and repetitive world of mainstream serialized comics. It springs from a prior work created by Rob Liefeld, but the similarity between the two prophets is in name only. Graham’s is a thorough re-imagination, setting up a world and a character that allows for all sorts of fantastical and playful storytelling, fully utilizing the wide array of talents provided by artists such as Simon Roy, Farel Dalrymple, and Giannis Milogiannis. In this world of vicious space-critters and gentle cannibalism it is perfectly normal to mate with a vagina-faced alien before receiving one’s mission from it – just another day in the hectic life of John Prophet, seemingly a direct descendant of Conan the Cimmerian.

Charles Burns, The Hive

BurnsIt might be a little unfair to include this book on the list, since it is so clearly the middle part of a longer volume – the second work in a planned trilogy published in the traditional European album format. But screw that, Burns’ work here is so electric, his line so bold, and his story so out there that it deserves a spot in any best-of list, or at least this one. The Hive sees the narrative move in still stranger directions visually, with the surreal and discomforting Burroughs-esque realm of Nitnit taking up more space, while at the same time the ties between reality and fantasy more clearly manifest themselves. Read it, but make sure to read X’ed Out first.

Chris Wright, Blacklung

WrightAs others have pointed out, Wright’s debut is a graphic novel in every sense of the word. It delivers the type of narrative that only sequential art can, with a clear understanding of when to write and when to let the expressive black-and-white illustrations speak for themselves. The style is at once charming and vicious, depicting the visceral violence in a way that feels almost unrelenting. It is, however, not a work of splatter punk or mindless gore, but rather an engaging, breathless, and humorous tale of the dregs of the sea, including a colorful assortment of pirates and madmen, quite clearly drawing inspiration from both Melville, Stevenson and Peckinpah.

Li Kunwu and Philippe Ôtié, A Chinese Life

KunwuLi’s autobiographical work, co-written with the French author and diplomat Philippe Ôtié, is sure to de a divisive work. It tells the story of a boy growing up during one of the most eventul and tragic periods of Chinese history, from his birth in 1955, a few years before the famines of the Great Leap Forward, through the Cultural Revolution of the 1960s and ’70s, and into the era of restructuring and reform following the death of Mao in 1976. Li is very much an insider of the political apparatus of Communist China, and he is unapologetic about his own participation in activities that might well come off as unappealing and unsettling to the readers, including the production and distribution of propaganda (he worked as a state artist for the Party for much of his career). This self-censored look inside the mind of professional propagandist is certainly part of the appeal of the book, which over its 700 pages paints a portrait of a complicated character and an important period of modern history. As Li puts it at the end of the book: “So yes, of course we are proud of what we’ve made, even if it’s not perfect yet.”

Shigeru Mizuki, Nonnonba

MizukiThe publication of emminent mangaka Shigeru Mizuki’s work in English, begun with last year’s release of Onward Towards Our Noble Deaths, continues with this book, a semi-autobiographical account of growing up in the Japanese countryside of the 1930s. The story is patient and subtle, weaving a funny and moving tapestry of childhood tragedies and folkloric myths, as Shige, our young protagonist, spends many of his days in the company of the titular grandma of the story, listening to her many tales of yōkai‬ and ‪yūrei‬, fantastic creatures who often impose themselves directly into the visual narrative of the comic. Shige begins to see the world around him the way NonNon does, even befriending a disheveled yōkai‬ at one point in the story, and in this way NoNonBa is the perfect bridge between Mizuki’s more realistic books and his more widely popular works of supernatural fiction, such as the great Kitaro (scheduled for a release in the US by Drawn & Quarterly in early 2013).

Joe Daly, Dungeon Quest book 3

DalyThe weird voyage of Millenium Boy, Steve, Lash, and Nerdgirl continues in the third volume of Daly’s magnificent stoner adventure. The riffing on classic roleplaying tropes is often hilarious, but the true comedic brilliance of the series lies in the way Daly writes the often drawn out pages of dialogue between the main characters. He manages to capture the way people talk in real life perfectly – especially after the consumption of copious amounts of weed and mushrooms. This book is twice the length of the previous volumes, delving into the history of the world through the clever use of hieroglyphic exposition and a book-within-the-book (Millenium Boy’s newest esoteric book, The Romish Book of the Dead), and introducing the new character of Lou. And of course, the homoerotic awkwardness and the uncomfortably realistic violence we have come to expect continues unabashedly.

Study Group Comics

SGC4Last but not least on the list is the new digital incarnation of Study Group – a great publisher of comic book anthologies and mini-comics, and an outlet for experimental sequential art and thoughtful criticism alike. The website is both a webcomic portal and a blog, with work on display by a large number of talented creators, including Zack Soto, Jennifer ParksFarel Dalrymple, Kazimir Strzepek, and Aidan Koch. It presents a combination of ongoing titles, typically updated on a weekly or biweekly basis, and shorter one-offs, such as Tom Neely’s Doppelganger and Julia Gfrörer’s Black is the Color. As with any anthology project the quality of contributions varies  and the breadth of style and genre is so wide that not all of the content will appeal to all readers. SGC1Despite this multitude of perspectives the project retains a clear sense of cohesion, and comes off more as a carefully curated exhibition than a collection of randomly selected works.  With the notable dip in quality of the last volume of Kramers Ergot and the possible decline of print publications in general, a project like the Study Group website is even more exciting, and the open-ended creative space it offers readers and creators is a wonderful addition to and a shinning light for the future of comics.

* Some of the notable titles left out due to this criteria include Hayao Miyazaki’s Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind box set (Viz Media); Kevin Huizenga’s Gloriana (Drawn & Quaterly); Brandon Graham’s King City (Image); Jodorowsky and Janjetov’s Before the Incal (Humanoids); Brendan Leach’s The Pterodactyl Hunters in the Gilded City (Top Shelf); Van Lente and Dunlavey’s The Comic Book History of Comics (IDW); and Gary Panter’s Dal Tokyo (Fantagraphics).

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Review: The Nao of Brown

The cover.

The Nao of Brown is the first full-length graphic novel written and illustrated by Glyn Dillon, but this large and beautiful tome, released by British publisher Self Made Hero, is far from a sophomoric work. Indeed, it is in my opinion one of the very best comic books published this year. The story, in short, is that of Nao Brown, a 20-something half Japanese, half English woman living in London (a “hafu,” as she puts it). She is an artist and a designer, lives with her flatmate Tara, and spends most of her days working in a vinyl toy store and sitting at a small local Buddhist temple. While Nao seems friendly and unassuming on the surface, we quickly learn that she is dealing with quite serious mental issues, namely an obsessive compulsive disorder that manifests itself as imagined acts of violence perpetrated by Nao on nearby people in times of acute stress, with the victims ranging from small children to full-grown men; from complete strangers to old friends. I will not go into too much detail regarding the plot itself, but it involves the kind of subjects you would expect from the set up – including romantic entanglements, misread signals, and the everyday challenges of living with OCD.

Nao Brown.

Interwoven with this slice-of-life narrative is a more fantastical story, taken directly from the work of fictional mangaka and fellow hafu Gil Ichiyama, of whom Nao is an ardent fan and follower. These intermezzos deal with the character of Pictor, and are very akin to a classic fairy tale, albeit with darker and more somber overtones. They are evocatively illustrated and well-integrated into the larger flow of the book, while providing both a welcome artistic and narratological contrast to the main plot.

Dillon is excellent at writing dialogue and his characterization of Nao is utterly charming, but while the plot and writing of the book is of a generally high quality, it is in his masterful use of visual storytelling that Dillon truly shines.

A portrait of Pictor.

He seamlessly interweaves Nao’s imagined acts of violence with the reality around her in a way that fully utilizes the capabilities of sequential art, and while his background as a storyboard artist shows, especially in the spatial dimension of his artwork, he is also clearly aware of the unique attributes of the comic book medium. The quality of the art throughout the book is exquisite, and the way in which a slight crease of an eyebrow or the twist of a mouth can convey everything about the emotional state of the characters reminds one of some of the greatest craftsmen in comics. The book itself is something to behold. From the map of the fictional realm contained on the inside of the dustcover to the quality of the paper, this is a work that is well worth owning a physical copy of.

Now for some slightly spoiler-y territory, although with no specific details revealed. The book’s final act has been criticized  by some reviewers as presenting a cop-out of sorts, letting the rest of the complex narrative and character portrait down by taking what could be construed as an easy way out. I disagree.

Nao on the beach.

While the story does end on an upbeat note, the layered storytelling leading up to that point fully earns it this bit of melodrama, and in any case the ending hardly presents us with a newfound carefree existence for our young heroine. Rather, it delivers a message of hope and partial (but only partial) transformation, which to my mind is perfectly in line with the philosophical tones of the rest of the narrative.

As mentioned above, this is one of the best things I have read all year. I warmly recommend it to anyone interested in intelligent comic books, and I assure you that Glyn Dillon is someone to keep an eye on. We can only hope that he will return to the drawing board sooner rather than later.

For more of Dillon’s work, do visit his blog. There are also some excellent interviews with him available on The Comics Journal, Robot 6, and The Comics Bureau.

Map from the dustcover.

All pictures in this review are © Glyn Dillon.

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Big Comic Superior

Today’s update is a blatant rip-off of something Joe McCulloch did in his weekly TCJ column last week – an illustrated stroll through an issue of a Japanese manga magazine. Inspired by Joe’s piece, I visited the always-fantastic Kinokuniya Books, a few blocks from my office, this weekend and picked up a couple of issues of some classic seinen magazines. What follows is a brief journey through selected segments of Big Comic Superior (Biggu Komikku Superiōru), issue 630.

Cover to Big Comics Superior #630.

The magazine is one of several spin-offs of the popular Big Comic, published bi-weekly by Shogakukan. The target demographic is seinen (literally “young men”), and Superior is more specifically aimed at those who have outgrown its early-twenties sister publication Big Comic Spirits, but who are not yet ready for the maturity of the more middle-aged Big Comics and Big Comics Original. If this all sounds a bit confusing that is because the whole structure of the Japanese manga market is indeed confusing, with highly specific demographic qualifiers of age and gender tending to play a larger role than actual genre when it comes to labeling and marketing. Safe to say, Big Comic Superior offers a wide variety of different flavors of manga, with slightly fewer boob shots and explosions than Spirits, but less corporate suits and talking heads than Original.

Opening page of “The Prime Minister’s Power.”

The breadth of genre is certainly on display in this issue, with the stories inside ranging from several ongoing food and sports titles, to action and adventure series, and on to more comedic and downright bizarre one-shots and series. It also includes one of the stranger ecchi (literally “naughty” or “frivolous”) pieces I’ve seen, apparently a chapter in the series The Prime Minister’s Power, running in the magazine since 2008. Without going in to too much detail, it seems to be a equal parts 50 Shades of Grey and Yes Minister, complete with gratuitous sex scenes in which the naughty bits are only barely concealed by strategically obfuscating set pieces in the panels.

Luckily the majority of stories are less lurid, if not necessarily less bizarre, than Prime Minister.

From “Silencer.”

One of the more intriguing series inside is the newly launched Silencer, by writer Yuka Nagate and artist Sho Fumimura (better known to connoisseurs under his pseudonym Buronson or his real name Yoshiyuki Okamura). It seems to be a pretty straightforward noirish crime tale, featuring a chain-smoking and unshaved guy in a messy suit alongside a blonde woman armed to the teeth as the main protagonists. Fumimura’s line is dynamic and realistic, and the short installments of the story are packed to the brim with action sequences. This particular chapter includes everything from the attempted rescue of a group of hooded hostages to a girl breaking into the office of a crime boss, armed with a crossbow. Curious readers can see a sample of a newer chapter of the series here. My guess, or is that hope?, is that this series will be picked up for US release in a couple of years. It seems to do quite well in Japan.

From “Silencer.”

Another interesting ongoing title is Yuureitou (or alternatively The Ghost Tower Yuureitou), from which the cover of this issue is taken. Written and illustrated by Tarou Nogizaka, it deals with the story of a particular haunted location, the ghost tower of the title, where a woman was brutally murdered by her adopted daughter half a century ago.

Opening page from “Yuureitou.”

Now two people, the typically unappealing and lecherous manga “everyman” Amano Taichi and the mysterious white-haired girl-dressed-as-a-guy Tetsuo, have banded together to search for what seems to be some sort of treasure hidden within the tower. Since its beginning in 2010 the series seems to have moved quite a bit away from the original premise, and it was a little hard to follow the plot in this installment. The art, however, remains appealing, if a little bland, and it is not unlikely that the title will be picked up for an US release at some point. The first few chapters have allegedly already been translated by fans online.

Perhaps the story I found the most interesting was the awkwardly-titled Good Dog, Energetic Husband, primarily because of its unique style and its bizarre ability to seemingly mix up everything from talking dogs to office politics and violent-yet-hilarious revenge taken on a creepy park stalker.

From “Good Dog, Energetic Husband.”

I confess to having almost no clue as to the plot of this particular gem, but the visuals were intriguing and it seems to have been both written and illustrated by the odd genius Masaya Tokuhiro (creator of, amongst other things, Kyoushirou 2030, and former mentor of Eiichiro Oda). Curious souls can check out a few sample pages here, and if anyone knows more about this title – please do let me know.

From “Good Dog, Energetic Husband.”

The whole issue is about 400 pages long, and there is an overwhelming amount of material within. The majority of stories are installments of ongoing titles, but there are also a few short one-shots, most of them in the humorous gag strip variety. It lacks the very-long-running titles of its parent publication, such as the infamous Golgo 13, and there is definitely less sleaze than in Spirits, but for discerning readers (or dedicated consumers-of-pictures, as it may be) it is quite a treat. Alongside Monthly Ikki and Young Ace, Big Comic Superior is one of my favorite seinen magazines currently published.

With back cover ads like that, this ain’t your son’s manga.

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Review: The Blot

I was not entirely sure what to expect when I picked up Tom Neely’s self-published 2007 comic book The Blot. It is a beautiful and simply designed softcover book with no text on the front cover (and hardly any text within its pages), relying instead on a slightly unsettling painting of the protagonist, which perfectly relays the feel of the contents of the book. The 192 pages, mostly kept in black and white, are all gorgeously illustrated. Neely’s style draws on the tradition of classic comic strips and animation in the vein of Floyd Gottfredson and Ub Iwerks, pairing whimsical character designs with an eerie quality and a sense of dread uniquely Neely’s. As beautiful as the few color illustrations in the book are, it is the black and white imagery that shines through, fitting the story perfectly and conveying the initial fear of the mysterious ink blot experienced by our protagonist as well as the subtle humor present in many panels. Some of these cartoony black and white drawings managed to instill more dread in me than most traditional horror comics have done, and they are sure to stay with me for longer.

If there ever was a comic book to truly embody the feelings of an uncomfortable and relentless dream, this is it. The images and the techniques used by Neely all work towards conveying such feelings to the reader, and the wordless panels only reinforce the surreal and dream-like quality of the story. While there is nothing didactic about the story, it still possess a clear narrative path and manages to subtly manipulate the reader into sharing the feelings of our unfortunate protagonist, experiencing fleeting moments of hope and happiness despite the ever-present sense of uneasiness throughout the chapters of the book. These chapters, separated by solid black pages and carrying sometimes-enigmatic titles, serve to demarcate the different stages of metamorphosis throughout the story. This metamorphosis is chiefly brought about by the blot haunting the protagonist, an ever-changing entity that both hinders and aids him without any clear or discernible purpose. If the relationship between the blot and the protagonist is the main focus of the story, another central subject is the romance between our everyman hero and a similarly-cartoony woman, the only person to actually speak and a character no less ambiguous or indiscernible than the blot itself. She helps him control the blot, which now seems to have possessed him physically, turning it into a force of creativity and whimsy instead of pure destruction. Despite his newfound talents, the protagonist cannot seem to fulfill the desires of or even understand the woman he loves, and the joy they experience together is ultimately a brief one.

The narrative is riveting and fast-moving, but Neely never spells anything out nor does he force a specific interpretation on the reader. While his use of symbols is powerful, as when one character dons a mask to present an angry and unshakable visage, the characters’ motives and actions remain enigmatic. The protagonist looks like a classic everyman, and he is easily the most relatable and sympathetic character in the story. In many ways he seems to embody the fears and aspirations of the cartoonist himself, faced with the overwhelming power of the black ink blot. Without ever uttering a word he manages to make us care deeply for him, and in the end Neely’s story is more moving than one would expect.

I can hardly recommend The Blot enough, and I look forward to experiencing Neely’s newest work, The Wolf, a “painted novel” published in 2011.

For more of Tom Neely’s work check out his blog here, as well as his interviews with Tom Spurgeon at The Comics Reporter, with Kristy Valenti at The Comics Journal, and with Robin McConnell on the Inkstuds podcast. For a preview of The Blot, be sure to watch this YouTube video recently put together by Neely – good stuff!

All pictures in this review © Tom Neely.

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Birth pains

Hello internet,

This is my first post, and I’ll keep it short. The hope is to update the blog a couple of times a week, whenever the mood strikes me and I have something meaningful to say. Most of what I post will be about comic books in one form or another, either reviews, analyses, or random ramblings. I know that there are already a sea of other blogs out there dealing with this subject, so thank you for taking the time to check this one out.

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