A clean and engaging visual style supports a story that sustains narrative drive, humanizing the characters and making...

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TETRIS

THE GAMES PEOPLE PLAY

A graphic narrative that clarifies a complicated series of international negotiations, making the story interesting even for those who don’t care about video games.

An ambitious and accomplished illustrator, Brown (Andre the Giant, 2014, etc.) streamlines a story that encompasses Japanese technology, Russian software development, American licensing, international business practices, and a worldwide obsession sparked by a simple game. He also provides context that traces the creative impulse for designing games back to cave paintings and suggests that, from earliest recorded history, “the player isn’t just having an imaginative experience. They’re practicing analytical and strategic skills.” But most of all, “fun is the motivator for all of this!” Brown’s book is much more fun than most accounts of business deals, as the narrative shows how a puzzle gaming craze began in Russia, a country where copyrights and royalties were foreign concepts and where early Tetris passed from hand to hand. “The idea of selling the game as a product never crossed his mind,” writes the author of Soviet software developer Alexey Pajitnov. Though the game lacked the rich visuals or propensity for violence that would mark other video game sensations, it became globally contagious. “People played so much and so often that they experienced visual hallucinations,” writes the author. “People would continue to see Tetris pieces falling after they’d stopped playing. It became known as the Tetris Effect.” It also became a gold mine and sparked plenty of disputes as foreign rights and emerging technologies led to contentious legal battles. When the “Tetris merry-go-round” stopped, Pajitnov was initially left with “no compensation. Any money that might have gone to him went to the Soviet government….They couldn’t even pay him a bonus.” Ultimately, it ended well for Tetris’ creator, who moved to the United States, where “he was pursuing his true passion in life” and was belatedly rewarded for his efforts.

A clean and engaging visual style supports a story that sustains narrative drive, humanizing the characters and making readers care about every development.

Pub Date: Oct. 11, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-62672-315-3

Page Count: 256

Publisher: First Second

Review Posted Online: Aug. 3, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2016

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A sugarcoated but undiluted vehicle for schooling American readers about their rights and responsibilities.

THE UNITED STATES CONSTITUTION

A GRAPHIC ADAPTATION

A searching interpretation of that sonorous document the Constitution, with cartoons.

Why have a Constitution to begin with? Because, remarks film and TV writer Hennessey—who, even if his prose is bound by balloons, turns out to be quite the Constitutional scholar—the founding fathers were keenly aware that civil rights were never formally written down in Britain, “and that deeply troubled the framers.” That’s as much of an establishing conflict as is needed for a superhero piece, and Hennessey, paired with artist McConnell, does a fine job of turning the making of the document, despite all the dull stretches in the Constitutional Convention that James Madison recorded in his diary, into a drama. Happily, Hennessey is aware of the truly radical origins of the Constitution, even as he notes its conservative strains. For example, he remarks that the system of checks and balances is a remarkable innovation, even if it sometimes seems that presidential actions—as with military intervention in Vietnam and elsewhere—go unchecked. In addition, laws are difficult to make in this country for very good reason: “Otherwise we might get too many of them.” Combining words and appropriate images, sometimes comic and sometimes earnest, the narrative visits such matters as the three-fifths law of determining apportionment, the writ of habeas corpus, eminent domain and conceptions of property and freedom of assembly and movement (for instance, the Articles of Federation forbade “vagabonds and paupers” from crossing state lines). Also covered are the many guarantees Americans take for granted—not least the Ninth Amendment, which states that certain rights not enumerated (“The right to scratch a dog behind the ears?”) shall not be denied.

A sugarcoated but undiluted vehicle for schooling American readers about their rights and responsibilities.

Pub Date: Oct. 21, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-8090-9487-5

Page Count: 142

Publisher: Hill and Wang/Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2008

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Playfully drawn and provocatively written, the memoir reinforces Bell's standing among the first rank of the genre’s artists.

THE VOYEURS

“Graphic memoir” only hints at the artistry of a complex, literary-minded author who resists the bare-all confessionalism so common to the genre and blurs the distinction between fiction and factual introspection.

Who are “The Voyeurs?” In the short, opening title piece, they are a mixed-gender group standing on an urban rooftop, watching a couple have sex through a window in a nearby building. They tend to find the experience “uncomfortable,” even “creepy,” though those who remain raptly silent may well be more interested, even titillated. Bell (Lucky, 2006, etc.) is also a voyeur of sorts, chronicling the lives of others in significant detail while contemplating her own. As she admits before addressing an arts class in frigid Minneapolis, where she knows the major interest will be on how she has been able to turn her comics into a career, “I feel I need to disclaim this ‘story.’ I set myself the task of reporting my trip, though there’s not much to it, and I can’t back out now. It’s my compulsion to do this, it’s my way, I suppose, of fighting against the meaninglessness constantly crowding in.” The memoir encompasses travels that take her from Brooklyn to Los Angeles and from Japan to France, while addressing the challenges of long-distance relationships, panic attacks, contemporary feminism, Internet obsessiveness, the temptation to manipulate life to provide material for her work, and the ultimate realization, in the concluding “How I Make My Comics,” of her creative process: “Then I want to blame everyone I’ve known ever for all the failures and frustrations of my life, and I want to call someone up and beg them to please help me out of this misery somehow, and when I realize how futile both these things are I feel the cold, sharp sting of the reality that I’m totally and utterly alone in the world. Then I slap on a punchline and bam, I’m done.”

Playfully drawn and provocatively written, the memoir reinforces Bell's standing among the first rank of the genre’s artists.

Pub Date: Sept. 4, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-9846814-0-2

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Uncivilized Books

Review Posted Online: Nov. 5, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2012

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