Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Review: The Monsters' Monster, by Patrick McDonnell

Patrick McDonnell, the cartoonist behind the already-classic comic strip Mutts, has created a picturebook about monsters whose bad behaviors are very much like those of this book's potential audience. "Who could complain the loudest? Who could throw the most terrible tantrum? Who was the most miserable?" Their most fiendish plot of all involves creating another monster, one whom they hope will be the most terrifying of all. But this Monster (a chunky, cartoonified version of Boris Karloff's portrayal of the Frankenstein monster) has other ideas. I won't give it all away, but I will note that jelly donuts play a part.

McDonnell's artwork is, as always, loose and playful and highly expressive. Little two-headed Gloom 'n' Doom is especially hilarious to watch throughout. The text is clever and a bit sing-songy in places, perfect for reading aloud. And the book's gentle lesson will warm the heart of any little (or big) monster.

"Dank you," Patrick McDonnell.

The Monster's Monster
by Patrick McDonnell
Lttle, Brown, 2012
ISBN-10: 0316045470
ISBN-13: 978-0316045476
40 pages, $16.99

Monday, July 1, 2013

Review: Black Paths, by David B.

David B. is one of my favorite cartoonists: His lush drawings brim over with bold design work, mythological references, and symbolic energy. Epileptic, his account of growing up with a brother who suffered from grand mal seizures and his family's attempts to cope with the situation, remains one of the finest non-fiction graphic novels I've ever read. My French is very poor, but back when I had access to French-language comics I would buy anything with his name on it, just to luxuriate in his imagery, even when my understanding of his verbal nuances was lacking.

Black Paths is a fictionalized account of the Free State of Fiume after the First World War, told mostly through the eyes of Lauriano, a young writer who suffers from his experiences in WWI, and Mina, a French cabaret singer. The book is utterly beautiful: B.'s artwork sings with the addition of color (most of his earlier work I'd encountered was in black and white only), and--as usual for him but unusually for most cartoonists--there are many passages where impressionistic images and non-standard design and layout create beautifully dream-like moments.

However, the ins and outs of political intrigue have never held much appeal to me, and such matters are the meat of this book. Perhaps I simply wasn't in the right mood when I read it, but I could never seem to connect with the narrative in a meaningful way. I am convinced that the fault lies with me, not with the cartoonist, though. One day I'll give this book another chance, which it deserves. It's a bravura exercise in cartooning, but on a subject matter I couldn't seem to relate to. This time.

Black Paths
by David B.
Self Made Hero, 2011
ISBN-10: 190683833X
ISBN-13: 978-1906838331
128 pages, $24.95