I’m straining to come up with a term for a certain genre of book, and maybe you can help: Y’know that style of graphic novel memoir that is drawn in a conspicuously scrawly black-and-white style, the humans rendered as hideously as possible? These books are usually titled something like My Year Amongst the Baobabs or Plop City. They stretch some mundane circumstance out over several hundred pages, then reflect back on what it all means only to conclude that it probably means nothing.
What is the DEAL with those books? Who are they FOR? Who is buying them???
Sorry to get all flustered, but this is just one of the great publishing industry mysteries I’ve never been able to figure out. I’ve been traveling for the past few weeks and when I returned home there was a stack literally two feet high of new books in precisely this genre—one of them is, no joke, 459 pages of abstract drawings of various birds—and I am just absolutely perplexed. PERPLEXED.
Anyway! I’m back now and diving into the old comic-review routine. Thanks to Phoenix Comics for keeping me updated on new releases! See you in the funny pages.
Rooster Fighter Vol. 1
Yup, it’s just what it looks like: An adventure manga about a lone rooster who splits his time between wandering Japan fighting demons… and eating corn. Though the entire book is a real goofy hoot, it never tips its hand or winks—this is serious business, after all, this fighting of monsters and wooing of hens.
Our hero is something of a loner, strutting into town in each chapter with a lesson to teach the locals (or, on occasion, to learn himself). The demons are the most interesting component, but are typically reserved for the final pages of each chapter; we spend most of our time with the rooster and whatever he's pondering before a monstrous creature interrupts and wreaks havoc. The demons are all reflections of mundane human anxieties—work performance, a love triangle, etc.—but there seems to be a bit of a mismatch between whatever those monsters represent and whatever the rooster is dealing with. The rooster's storylines and the demons themselves seem unrelated, as if two stories are interrupting each other. But maybe that’s a product of the translation, as the book appears to occasionally lean on hard-to-localize Japanese proverbs.
Rating: 🐓🐓🐓 (3/5)
Story and art: Shu Sakuratani. Translation: Jonah Mayahara-Miller. Touch-up art and lettering: Annalise “Ace” Christman. Design: Julian [JR] Robinson. Editor: Mike Montesa.
World Record Holders
I must confess that cartoonist Guy Delisle’s work often hovers somewhere over my head. I generally reach the end of one of his books and think, “What was that all about?” while seeing other readers nodding wisely and saying, “Yes, how true.” World Record Holders is a collection of some of his work from across the last few decades, and it’s a well-edited sampler platter of whatever it is that many people like about his stuff. One thing you will not get from any of these vignettes is a conclusion; each one ends on a note of ambiguity, which I find tiresome after the first five or six times it happens. But, I suspect, this is a key aspect of the Delisle fandom: Pondering what it all means, without any sort of narrative signpost. A cartoonist quits his job and is distracted by a bird; patrons of an art gallery offer differing interpretations of a sketch; a second Earth is discovered. If you appreciate wondering what the point of a story is—or if there is even any point at all—I think you’ll be satisfied.
Rating: 💼💼 (2/5)
Writer and illustrator: Guy Delisle. Translation: Helge Dasher, Rob Aspinall.
Publisher: Drawn & Quarterly.
Also: Quantum Leap Meets Romance Novels
There’s a gorgeous new Fantastic Four book out this week with big, beautiful (and occasionally sickening) colors reminiscent of the best of Jack Kirby. Also on the superhero front, take a peek at Harley Quinn: The Real Sidekicks of New Gotham Special, based on the animated series; and DC’s Saved by the Belle Reve, which mixes back-to-school with prison stories. Love Everlasting has a fun premise: A woman is trapped in a universe of romance novels, jumping from one genre to another like Quantum Leap but steamier. Also, there’s a mild-mannered graphic adaptation of Bunnicula that is surprisingly un-macabre, which would be a big letdown to 10-year-old me, who envisioned everything looking more like a Tim Burton film.