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#51 [Mar. 4th, 2009|12:21 pm]
jody_macgregor
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100 COMICS TO READ BEFORE YOU DIE (or grow out of them)



#51 MIDNIGHTER #7 – Brian K. Vaughan, Darick Robertson
(Wildstorm)


“Well, guess I saw that coming.”

Midnighter is an analogue of Batman created for Wildstorm comics. There are so many of those now they should have their own name. Batmanalogues? They’re the dark heroes, usually grim, who have a thing for black leather, maybe some vaguely pointy things on their masks and never lose or are ever caught unawares. Batman’s never caught by surprise because he’s Batman, no explanation needed, but with Midnighter it’s his gimmick, his superpower. He’s such an expert at reading body language and taking people apart with his fists that he knows how every fight will end before the first punch or witty insult is thrown. That’s part of what sets him apart from his inspiration, making him an analogue rather than a rip-off. The other main thing that separates him is that he’s gay and married to a Supermanalogue named Apollo. The two are members of The Authority, a team of superheroes who watch humanity from their carrier in orbit, the Justice League Of America re-imagined as vengeful gods waiting to teleport down and beat people to death for their sins whenever they deem it necessary.

Just like Superman and Batman, we know that Apollo and Midnighter aren’t going to die at the end of each issue or if they are they aren’t going to stay dead for long. While reading, we fool a part of ourselves into thinking that maybe this one time there could be consequences because that’s part of the fun. Usually. But not this time. For one glorious issue, Midnighter threw that conceit out of the window (possibly while in orbit) and showed us its happy ending right from the start. Midnighter’s ability to see the endings of fights before they start gives Brian K. Vaughan an excuse to tell the story backwards.

Each page flows sequentially in the typical manner from top to bottom, but the pages are laid out in reverse. If you wanted to you could start at the back and work your way to the front, experiencing the story in the more traditional manner. To the credit of Vaughan and Robertson, it works perfectly well that way too. But to get the fullest out of the conceit – and to get the jokes – you need to read it forwards, which is to say backwards. The terrified villains say, “Did you see what he just did?” and “That’s the most disgusting friggin’ thing I ever heard.” Midnighter cryptically utters a “Remember what I said before.” When the payoffs come they’re always worth it.

It all works because, as any comedian will tell you, it’s all about the timing. It doesn’t matter if the punchline comes before the setup, we’ll still laugh if the joke is told right. A fight scene that begins with the hero standing on top of the bodies of his enemies like a paperback-cover barbarian king and then proceeds through the bloody dismemberment before ending with the expository dialogue turns out to work just as well as the reverse. It still has the right rhythm, the right fill-in-the-blanks ba-dum-ba-dum-ba-BOOM. A lot of credit for that should go to Darick Robertson, who draws Midnighter’s fights like broken-bottle back-alley brawls where every punch looks painful and ends (or begins) with the hero bleeding and punch-drunk rather than shaking it off and squaring his jaw.

Other stories have been told backwards, like Gaspar Noé’s 2002 film Irreversible or that one episode of Seinfeld. Neither of them worked nearly as well as this fill-in issue of a typical, often frankly mediocre, superhero comic. Possibly because they didn’t have explosions. Midnighter #7 has very good explosions indeed.
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#52 [Mar. 2nd, 2009|03:07 pm]
jody_macgregor
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100 COMICS TO READ BEFORE YOU DIE (or grow out of them)



THE MAXX #1–12 – Sam Kieth, William Messner-Loebs
(Image)


“Then it wasn’t all a dream! Unless I’m dreaming now.”

Maxx is a hulking purple brute with oversized teeth and claws who thinks he’s a hero even though he’s homeless and spends a lot of his time hallucinating in a cardboard box. When he’s not sleeping in an alley he’s crashing at the home of his social worker, Julie Winters. Spending all her time and money bailing out Maxx the superhobo and a variety of other hopeless cases, she’s the real hero of the comic, visually signposted in the first issue when she wears an outfit that makes her look like she’s got her underpants on the outside. The Maxx turns superhero comics upside down and shakes them to see what comes out.

These characters have another existence beyond the normal(ish) one, in a primeval, subconscious world called the Outback where Julie is a Frank Frazetta leopard-print Jungle Queen and Maxx her fearsome protector. Confused as ever, he thinks these strange dreams of a savage land are about Australia. There they get to live out the escapist fantasies that never work out properly in the real world, where Maxx is so incompetent he accidentally glues his claws shut right before a fight. The two worlds overlap so that Maxx, half-convinced he’s crazy, sometimes sees both at once – a massive airwhale floating over the verdant grassland becomes a Goodyear Blimp hovering over a city street, both occupying the same space. The panel edges are chewed away like jigsaw pieces or shattered mirrors as one reality intrudes on another.

In shaking out all of the genre detritus, Sam Kieth and William Messner-Loebs loosen layers of Jungian psychology and postmodern critique at the bottom. A random fight scene between Maxx and a shark-man villain happens at the same time as Julie and her Steinem-loving friend discuss representations of violence in media. The neighbourhood kids obsess over the finer details of the story that elude the main characters (“...that’s what we gossip about in school all day, the metaphysical and spiritual roots of everyday life, as manifested through the metaphor of super-heroic struggle.”) Confronted with the alter egos who manifest in the Outback, Julie starts trying to classify them according to id and superego. Everyone talks like they’ve been through therapy and if they haven’t, they should.

Pointing out that superheroes are a bit crazy, a bit sexist, a bit dodgy in the subtext, a bit blatant in their status as escapist fantasies – none of these things are original to The Maxx. It just happened that for 12 issues they were combined together in a pleasant stew along with artwork that varied from psychedelic crayons to inky grimness. Also, it had plenty of sublime nonsense like a Seuss-ian cartoon character named The Crappon In A Hat, a tribe of giants who only know one song and tiny monsters dressed in floral prints who look like your grandmother. That never hurts.
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#53 [Feb. 26th, 2009|11:14 am]
jody_macgregor
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100 COMICS TO READ BEFORE YOU DIE (or grow out of them)



#53 DROPSIE AVENUE – Will Eisner
(Kitchen Sink)


“We were here first!”

The imaginary New York neighbourhood of Dropsie Avenue was the backdrop for several of Will Eisner’s comics, like those in A Contract With God And Other Tenement Stories. In this book the setting becomes the story as he traces the street’s origins from its settlement by Dutch farmers in 1870 through over 100 years of history including two world wars, the Depression, riots, fires, family tragedies and waves of new arrivals.

Each time they arrive – the Dutch making room for the English, then the Irish, Germans, Italians, Jews, Hispanics and blacks – the same story repeats. Each time the old locals complain about the tone of the neighbourhood being lowered along with their property values. Sitting on their stoop two Italian matrons bitch about the street’s first Jewish boy getting engaged to a good, Catholic, Italian girl and how it’s a sign of the times. But it’s a sign seen in every time by every ethnicity as each new group settles down with their families and starts to see themselves as Americans and everyone else as outsiders.

Over the years Dropsie Avenue inches its way downwards, each influx of newer, poorer residents a symptom rather than the cause. It begins melodramatically with the moment an upwardly mobile Irish couple simultaneously drop dead from the sheer shock of being informed that their daughter’s been arrested for prostitution. Crime, real estate and politics blend together from the moment a dodgy construction deal guarantees a train station will be built next to empty property so that cheap tenements can be built there. Bootleggers come in with Prohibition and years later the drug dealers follow. Each war is followed by boys coming home as men, hardened by their experiences and inured to violence. Gangs form. Landlords become slumlords.

The years fly by, shown in silent montages where a couple can go from their first meeting to a marriage in three panels. These are contrasted with drawn-out moments like a whole page devoted to a boxing match that sees an Italian boy defeat Irish Mike and give himself a reputation as a local hero that kickstarts a career in politics. Eisner’s rubbery people live and die, weep and wail, fight and wave their arms around in passionate confrontations while the windows break and buildings slowly decay like the stubborn teeth of the town behind them.

The political movers and shakers, and in particular a lawyer named Abie Gold – the Jewish boy who married that Italian girl – have moments where they look out over the street and perceive the cycle of history beginning to repeat as their home spirals into its own gutters. It takes a singular effort of will, and a lot of money, to attempt to break or even slow the progression that takes a place from a snooty, high-class English neighbourhood and turns it into a ghetto. The blunt force of history is resilient and no matter whether property values go up or down, the old locals in the world’s Dropsie Avenues will always be suspicious of the new arrivals.
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#54 [Feb. 16th, 2009|06:24 pm]
jody_macgregor
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100 COMICS TO READ BEFORE YOU DIE (or grow out of them)



THE LEFT BANK GANG – Jason
(Fantagraphics)


“Crime And Punishment was a good comic book, though.”

The Left Bank Gang takes place in an alternate universe in which The Lost Generation writers – in particular Ernest Hemingway, Ezra Pound, F. Scott Fitzgerald and James Joyce – are cartoonists. In fact every famous writer is, from Gertrude Stein to Dostoevsky, and so all of the great works of literature are comics (William Faulkner apparently draws his panels too crowded). The other obvious difference between our world and theirs is that there everyone is an animal. Jason draws The Lost Generation living on Paris’s left bank in the 1920s, getting drunk, arguing in cafés and sketching in their notepads, as anthropomorphic dogs, cats and birds.

The animals are given only a bare handful of the most necessary and obvious facial expressions, the backgrounds are sparse and delineated in simple lines like Herge’s and both are shown in a regular grid of even-sized panels. In tandem these simple effects speed up comprehension and enhance the flow of the story – Jason’s style is the comic-book equivalent of Hemingway’s famously direct and spare prose.

These portraits of the artists as blank-faced funny animals aren’t quite their historical counterparts. Jean-Paul Sartre appears as a French stereotype in a striped shirt, obsessed with the size of his penis. James Joyce complains that if he hadn’t read so many comics as a kid he’d instead be perfectly happily working as a plumber instead of digging an early grave at his desk every night. Hemingway casually belts a critic who accosts him in the street, then carries on telling Fitzgerald about how wonderful bullfighting is. The most direct difference comes when, confronted with a world that has yet to recognise their genius, Hemingway turns his fellow cartoonists into a gang and plots an audacious robbery.

Halfway through, The Left Bank Gang changes from a story about struggling literary types living in the Latin Quarter of Paris and becomes a heist movie. Specifically, it becomes Stanley Kubrick’s 1956 film noir, The Killing, from which it casually borrows several of its details. The characters neatly slot into the roles dictated to them by the new genre they suddenly inhabit – the man with the plan, the fall guy, the traitor – and two-fisted Ernest Hemingway gets to become the star of a hard-boiled pulp story just like those that his work, in our world, influenced.

In The Killing one of the characters dies summing up his life with the famous last words, “Just a bad joke with no punchline.” The Left Bank takes the writers responsible for some of the early 20th century’s most notable literature and traps them in the tropes of the latter half of the century’s potboilers; it’s a good joke with a hell of a punchline.
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#55 [Feb. 8th, 2009|11:35 am]
jody_macgregor
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100 COMICS TO READ BEFORE YOU DIE (or grow out of them)



#55 UZUMAKI – Junjo Ito
(Viz)


“I’m getting wound up...”

Horror stories wait between the covers with their hockey masks and special stabbing knives hidden from view, showing only some lush artwork, a mildly spooky title font and enticing quotes like the light hanging from an angler fish’s forehead. They grab us by our curiosity and use it to drag us through the kind of harrowing reading experiences we have to be lured into enjoying.

Past its cover and towards its teeth, Uzumaki draws readers into an ordinary world and then gives us glimpses of the cracks around the edges of that world, slowly spreading until everything is torn to pieces including our perceptions of what is ordinary and safe. The people of the seemingly mundane Japanese town of Kurôzu-cho are themselves being drawn in by things that appear innocent – the spiral shapes that can be seen all over the town in dust devils, eddies in streams, curving plants – and hypnotised by them. As events in Uzumaki get stranger, the story circles in on itself, showing events from different angles so that no matter where you look you’ll have the chance to flinch and cringe.

The spirals are sometimes fixations for their hapless victims and sometimes infections. When the father of the main character, schoolgirl Kirie Goshima, crosses paths with the spirals it’s an obsession. He becomes entranced by the patterns his pottery starts making after he uses clay from the strange pool at the centre of town, unable to stop himself from baking the curved and twisted pots even after they begin screaming with human voices. On another occasion the spirals ensnare their victims in the form of a disease spread by the town’s mosquitoes. They begin swarming in circling columns at the same time as bodies are found punctured and drained of blood and the hospital is flooded with eerily calm pregnant women with a sudden affinity for the buzzing insects.

Kirie, like most of the main characters, is a simple cipher, a stand-in via whom the readers experience the events for themselves. She’s what horror-movie critics call the ‘final girl’, a paragon of kindness and indomitability who is guaranteed to survive long enough to confront the central horror in its most terrible form so that its debasement can be most effectively contrasted with her perfect innocence. The early chapters of Uzumaki are self-contained, with Kirie encountering the latest manifestation of her home town’s oddity, before the event peaks and is dealt with in such a way that we may never speak of it again. For most of the series, until things really hit the fan, each new chapter begins with life in Kurôzu-cho back to normal again and no one bothered by the previous chapter’s weirdness, so that the spiral into fear can start over.

Only her boyfriend, Shuichi, who attends high school in the next town over and so has seen that the place they grew up has somehow curved away from true perceives the deepening horror. He’s the one who doesn’t go return to Go and reset back to an attitude that everything is okay at the beginning of each story, instead following his own spiral into madness. At the same time he speaks with the common-sense voice of the audience, trying to convince Kirie that they should get out of town, which of course she ignores as total nonsense. “Shapes have become malevolent! Look out, a geometric figure’s behind you!” Also like the audience, Shuichi slowly grows enthralled despite himself and begins searching for an explanation in the face of the unlikeliness of a satisfying one really existing.

Kirie and her family are resolutely conventional in their way – even when spookily emerging from the lake with another batch of the cursed clay for his pots, her father whoops, “Whoo ha ha! I’m soaking wet!” like a typical teenager’s embarrassing father. The rest of the town though, are inches away from spiralling into savagery, ready to turn on each other at a moment’s notice. The citizens are frequently twisted into inhuman shapes by the evil coils, but they’re only too happy to twist themselves into inhumane barbarians whenever things get bad. They rapidly revert to a siege mentality where kicking people out of your shelter and leaving them for the wolves is perfectly normal, as is forming your own vicious gang of goggle-wearing whirlwind riders or cannibalising your friends after they’ve begun mutating under the spiral influence – because apparently they taste better that way, as they describe in ecstatic, drooling detail.

Once it’s bewitched you and sucked you in, Uzumaki has atrocities worse than hockey masks and special stabbing knives within its pages. Appropriately, it’s as twisted as horror can get.
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#56 [Jan. 23rd, 2009|03:35 pm]
jody_macgregor
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100 COMICS TO READ BEFORE YOU DIE (or grow out of them)



#56 BOLLAND STRIPS! - Brian Bolland
(Knockabout)


“The actress and the bishop lived
at number 22.
They lived a simple blameless life
that’s known to very few.”


Some of the most interesting characters in comics have started out as random sketches in an artist’s notebook – Hellboy was famously a doodle of Mike Mignola’s – created in collaboration between the hindbrain and the hand without the forebrain being informed. Brian Bolland’s The Actress And The Bishop were two more. Named for the followup to double entendres deployed by people who think they’re funnier than they are (“She’s my new secretary, but you can all use her... as the actress said to the bishop!”), these two punchlines to a thousand smutty jokes come to life in Bolland’s comics, living in sinful domestic bliss in an ordinary street called Rayner’s Lane. The personifications of impropriety and sniggering gossip, they read books in bed and sit on the couch watching the telly like an ordinary old married couple. The stories of their lives are told in rhyme, simple 4-line tales of their lost loves and forgotten devotions with deft Lewis Carroll touches of surrealness. The smut is mostly left as innuendo, there if you look for it but never the real subject, just as it is in the double entendres The Actress And The Bishop came from.

Aside from The Actress And The Bishop, Bolland Strips! collects a variety of short material by the artist, who is better known for his considered and studied cover art for other people’s comics. Among the strips is Mr Mamoulian, another character made up on the page, only this one retaining more of his doodled beginnings. A hunched and bug-eyed bookish recluse, Mamoulian is, as Bolland admits, a stand-in for himself, but a version of his self-image as it exists in his most insecure moments. In spontaneous stories close to automatic drawing, Mamoulian putters through parks, art galleries and his own absurdly guilt-ridden sexual fantasies with the same perpetually surprised expression. He’s well-read and full of trivia but completely incapable of interacting with people, even the ones in his imagination, and often a target for crazy people looking to rant at him about synchronicity or confide in him about their double lives as secret agents and sexual adventurers.

The Mr Mamoulian pages are a kind of poetry as well, though less literally than with The Actress And The Bishop. There’s no rhyme, but one strip is written in vague but suggestive blank verse and another approaches visual poetry, consisting only of obscene-looking dismembered figures and fleshy undescribable things labelled ‘bacon’. When the strips aren’t similarly bizarre experiments, each one adds more characters or builds on recurring themes until the simple scribbles of an ugly man sitting in his armchair have become an entire fascinating world so tangled it seems perfectly natural when he introduces a professor of ‘mamouliology’ who attempts to sort it all out.

There are more strips collected at the end, one-off ideas and gags, even a moment where he breaks down and rants directly at the audience for wanting their adventure stories dressed up with all this sex – though he’s more offended by the fact that otherwise wholesome sex has to share space with gratuitous violence. What these strips all have in common is Brian Bolland himself, the individual and his quirks showing through the page whether he intends them to or not.

The similarities between Mamoulian’s fantasy woman and The Actress, in fact most of the attractive women Bolland draws, are obvious. His obsession with sex and his obsession with his own obsession both show through. His own philosophy of life is apparent in the frequent secrets with no explanations; the Gods and monsters portrayed as ordinary men; the association of bondage and war imagery. The meta-level gag in which he reveals his work was secretly created by an Eastern European cartoonist hiding his identity for fear of political reprisal says more about his insecurity than any of Mamoulian’s clumsy conversations with women. Through these characters created by his subconscious, what Bolland strips away is his artifice and what he draws is a burlesque where a man’s inner workings are laid bare.
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#57 [Jan. 6th, 2009|04:28 pm]
jody_macgregor
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100 COMICS TO READ BEFORE YOU DIE (or grow out of them)



#57 LITTLE NEMO IN SLUMBERLAND – Winsor McCay
(Checker/Sunday Press/Taschen/New York Herald)


“There! Nemo has fallen out of bed again! I just heard a loud thump!”

Read more...Collapse )
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#58 [Dec. 28th, 2008|01:35 pm]
jody_macgregor
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100 COMICS TO READ BEFORE YOU DIE (or grow out of them)



#58 THE FIXER: A STORY FROM SARAJEVO – Joe Sacco
(Drawn & Quarterly)


“This conversation is costing me 100 dm, but 100 dm does not begin to fill the crater of my obligation to Neven.”

Unlike Joe Sacco’s other comics about war-torn areas, such as Palestine and Safe Area Gorazde, The Fixer isn’t a crater-strewn landscape painting. Instead, it’s an intimate portrait of a single man. Neven is a fixer in Sarajevo, a well-informed and well-connected local who hangs out in hotel lobbies offering to act as guide and translator for visiting foreign correspondents who are trying to find a new story in the Bosnian War. Sacco slowly discovers that Neven, an ex-soldier, is himself the story. As the fixer drinks, smokes and gambles away the money he’s slowly leeching out of the cartoonist’s wallet, he introduces both his soldier buddies and his paying journalistic contacts. Both groups are shrinking, the first as they die and the second as they move on to fresher news. War has been business for Neven, both as a fixer and as a fighter. A new massacre, from his point of view, is a business opportunity.

Sacco finds more interest in Neven’s own stories than those he translates. The former sniper claims to have known several of the shady underworld characters given command of special units and turned into warlords during the conflict. The rise and fall of these charismatic thugs is narrated over café visits that Sacco compares to first dates; a moment when the two bond over their shared knowledge of military history he compares to schoolboy friendship. The journalist-cartoonist can’t help getting too close to his subject because it’s at the heart of the way he writes, repeatedly telling the the readers to put themselves in so-and-so’s shoes.

Neven’s fall from his glory days to the point where he’s living in his blind old aunt’s filthy apartment while sponging off journalists – and, as Sacco himself points out, not especially wealthy or prestigious ones – becomes a lens not only on the wider story of the conflict, but on journalism itself. The thorny relationship between reporters and the people they pay for their stories proves just as fascinating a subject. A photographer hires Neven as a guide, then guiltily becomes upset when he shoots someone while they travel together. Sacco begins to doubt the stories he is being told; even if his informant is fundamentally trustworthy, does paying him sour that trust? Might someone, even subconsciously, embellish stories to earn the 100 marks he’s being paid for them?

Though these questions are explored they cannot be fully answered. Ultimately, The Fixer is an unfinished portrait, an admission that there is a limit to how well you can get to know a person no matter how much you imagine wearing their shoes, especially when you’re paying for them.
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#59 [Dec. 24th, 2008|12:42 pm]
jody_macgregor
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100 COMICS TO READ BEFORE YOU DIE (or grow out of them)



#59 NANA – Ai Yazawa
(Shojo Beat)


“Say something new! The readers will start snoring!”

Nana is the story of two girls both coincidentally named Nana who both move to Tokyo for reasons involving boys. Despite their similarities, Nana Hachi and Nana Osaki are very different people. Hachi is sheltered, needy and lovesick; flitting from one crush to the next, reacting to every morsel of drama that enters her life by either clinging to people and wailing or blasting out laughter like a giddy machine gun. She over-reacts to everything, which she’s oblivious to though those around her are somewhat put off by it, especially her rants blaming all of her troubles on the curse of an imaginary ‘demon lord of terror’ she has invented to explain the little tragedies that befall her. Nana Osaki on the other hand is the cooler and calmer of the two, a wannabe rock-star singing in a punk band called the Black Stones – Blast for short – and in love with a guitarist named Ren. Ren and Nana's relationship mirrors Sid And Nancy down to their hairstyles, though minus the heroin. There’s also a rival band named Trapnest, who get signed to a label before them, to add further complications and conveniently a new batch of pretty rock-star characters.

Soap opera can be hard to take seriously, both for the audience and the creator. Dramatic events need to keep happening to the same characters constantly to keep interest and suspense up, but they have to be fundamentally ordinary people (even if unusually good-looking) to maintain audience identification and sympathy. Nana gets around this by not taking itself seriously. At one point Nana Hachi grabs a copy of the first volume of the series she’s starring in to refresh her memory of what someone said. Characters complain about scenes being dragged on for too long, background characters becoming too important and their faces being drawn inconsistently. In the bonus pages these brief jumps through the fourth wall become longer excursions so that the characters can read their fan mail and even interact with characters from Ai Yazawa’s other series, as if the author is pre-emptively creating her own fan fiction.

Somehow, Yazawa manages to keep just enough of the everyday about her characters and their lives to keep them feeling authentic despite this meta-level playfulness. Her fine eye for detail, especially in fashion, helps. So too does her sense of place, both in the importance placed on Tokyo’s nightclubs, festivals and fireworks and the intimacy portrayed in scenes of share-housing and bathtub-sharing. Most importantly, Nana’s characters aren’t static, but are changed by the things they go through in a surprisingly believable and affecting way. When the things they care about are yanked away from them and the big dramatic life stuff starts happening it’s entirely gripping. Before you know it you’re reading about 20-something Tokyo slackers drifting through relationships and jobs, grasping desperately at chances for love and fame and a better life, and hopelessly hooked by it.
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#60 [Dec. 8th, 2008|02:36 pm]
jody_macgregor
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100 COMICS TO READ BEFORE YOU DIE (or grow out of them)



#60 LOST AT SEA – Bryan Lee O’Malley
(Oni)


“It all really makes a lot of sense but it’s a pain to explain all at once.”

Raleigh is a teenage girl on a road trip with three schoolfriends she doesn’t know very well. While they chatter nonsense and joke and sing along to the stereo she thinks and overthinks, the narration written as a letter she’s composing in her head, rambling and honest and coloured by teenage pretensions. Through this transcript of her thoughts and memories it becomes apparent that something is going on beneath the surface story of four wacky Canadian kids on holiday in America discovering the true meaning of friendship and all that. Something unexplainably weird involving cats and souls and dreams.

Bryan Lee O’Malley’s characters are button-eyed and fluid, filled with a sense of energetic motion whether they’re jumping on a bed or chasing cats in the dark. When trapped in their car and an endless procession of roadside diners you can almost see them coiling like springs, their eyes growing dark as they prepare to shoot off into the next scene. This cute sense of fluidity is something developed further in his Scott Pilgrim books, but here it perfectly captures the youthful energy of his characters and makes their moments of boredom, broken-down in a nowhere town, that much more dreary for its absence.

Lost At Sea is reflective and introspective, just like Raleigh herself. Maybe she’s crazy, too. The book doesn’t focus on whether something supernatural is actually going on or she’s hallucinating some things and reading too much into others, because being a confused teenager and being crazy are close enough that if you were both at once, well, how would you know? Raleigh’s too young to understand exactly what’s going on or to have the language to explain it, so neither does O’Malley, leaving things ambiguous and open to interpretation. What it’s about are the awkward moments where we realise the differences between who we think we are and who other people think we are. It’s also about how we reconcile both, the ways we figure out our own identities (or souls) through our relationships with others – discovering the true meaning of friendship and all that.
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