A must-have for comic historians and those interested in gothic romances, romance comics, and LGBTQ interpretations of...

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GOTHIC TALES OF HAUNTED LOVE

This anthology pays tribute to the gothic-romance style seen in comic books from their 1960s and ‘70s heyday, updating them in fresh ways.

Like the novels they’re based on, gothic-romance comic books “embodied the best of the gothic-romance tradition—isolated and eerie locations, inherited crumbling manors, family secrets, ghosts, secret identities, and passions heightened by mysterious circumstances,” plus the iconic image of a woman in a white nightgown running away from a dark mansion. The 20 pieces collected here by Nicholson (The Spectacular Sisterhood of Superwomen, 2017, etc.) and Beiko (Scion of the Fox, 2017, etc.) vary in style, tone, and subject but always play with the genre and reader expectations in creative ways. For example, the opening story, “Crush” (writing by Janet Hetherington; art by Ronn Sutton; color art by Becka Kizie; lettering by Zakk Saam), employs a traditional comic-book style and seems at first to be a typical, suspenseful gothic setup: A governess goes to a lonely mansion owned by a ship’s captain whose “eyes are as wild as the sea.” (With his seven children, the story has amusing resonance with The Sound of Music as well.) Not so typical is that the heroine, Constance Mayhew, is black, and the children are undaunted by their harsh father. Other stories, too, turn the tables on tradition. Besides people of color, they also offer powerful heroines; gay and lesbian characters; a mix of several fresh artistic styles; modern-day settings; outcomes that don’t depend on winning love; stories in Vietnamese and Korean; and even a quiz (“How grave is your misfortune?”). By turns romantic, dreamy, death-haunted, or tongue-in-cheek, this is a splendid offering, entertaining on its own and provokingly genre-bending. Editors Nicholson and Beiko have done readers a real service by assembling such a diverse, attractive collection by talented writers and artists. Their love for the genre comes through, and this volume is likely to gain more fans.

A must-have for comic historians and those interested in gothic romances, romance comics, and LGBTQ interpretations of traditional forms—highly entertaining.

Pub Date: Jan. 11, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-988715-07-0

Page Count: 200

Publisher: Bedside Press

Review Posted Online: Feb. 16, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2018

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Chwast and Twain are a match made in heaven.

A CONNECTICUT YANKEE IN KING ARTHUR'S COURT

Design veteran Chwast delivers another streamlined, graphic adaptation of classic literature, this time Mark Twain’s caustic, inventive satire of feudal England.

Chwast (Tall City, Wide Country, 2013, etc.) has made hay anachronistically adapting classic texts, whether adding motorcycles to The Canterbury Tales (2011) or rocket ships to The Odyssey (2012), so Twain’s tale of a modern-day (well, 19th-century) engineer dominating medieval times via technology—besting Merlin with blasting powder—is a fastball down the center. (The source material already had knights riding bicycles!) In Chwast’s rendering, bespectacled hero Hank Morgan looks irresistible, plated in armor everywhere except from his bow tie to the top of his bowler hat, sword cocked behind head and pipe clenched in square jaw. Inexplicably sent to sixth-century England by a crowbar to the head, Morgan quickly ascends nothing less than the court of Camelot, initially by drawing on an uncanny knowledge of historical eclipses to present himself as a powerful magician. Knowing the exact date of a celestial event from more than a millennium ago is a stretch, but the charm of Chwast’s minimalistic adaption is that there are soon much better things to dwell on, such as the going views on the church, politics and society, expressed as a chart of literal back-stabbing and including a note that while the upper class may murder without consequence, it’s kill and be killed for commoners and slaves. Morgan uses his new station as “The Boss” to better the primitive populous via telegraph lines, newspapers and steamboats, but it’s the deplorably savage civility of the status quo that he can’t overcome, even with land mines, Gatling guns and an electric fence. The subject of class manipulation—and the power of passion over reason—is achingly relevant, and Chwast’s simple, expressive illustrations resonate with a childlike earnestness, while his brief, pointed annotations add a sly acerbity. His playful mixing of perspectives within single panels gives the work an aesthetic somewhere between medieval tapestry and Colorforms.

Chwast and Twain are a match made in heaven.

Pub Date: Feb. 18, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-60819-961-7

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: Nov. 3, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2013

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A not-very-illuminating updating of Chaucer’s Tales.

THE CANTERBURY TALES

A RETELLING

Continuing his apparent mission to refract the whole of English culture and history through his personal lens, Ackroyd (Thames: The Biography, 2008, etc.) offers an all-prose rendering of Chaucer’s mixed-media masterpiece.

While Burton Raffel’s modern English version of The Canterbury Tales (2008) was unabridged, Ackroyd omits both “The Tale of Melibee” and “The Parson’s Tale” on the undoubtedly correct assumption that these “standard narratives of pious exposition” hold little interest for contemporary readers. Dialing down the piety, the author dials up the raunch, freely tossing about the F-bomb and Anglo-Saxon words for various body parts that Chaucer prudently described in Latin. Since “The Wife of Bath’s Tale” and “The Miller’s Tale,” for example, are both decidedly earthy in Middle English, the interpolated obscenities seem unnecessary as well as jarringly anachronistic. And it’s anyone’s guess why Ackroyd feels obliged redundantly to include the original titles (“Here bigynneth the Squieres Tales,” etc.) directly underneath the new ones (“The Squires Tale,” etc.); these one-line blasts of antique spelling and diction remind us what we’re missing without adding anything in the way of comprehension. The author’s other peculiar choice is to occasionally interject first-person comments by the narrator where none exist in the original, such as, “He asked me about myself then—where I had come from, where I had been—but I quickly turned the conversation to another course.” There seems to be no reason for these arbitrary elaborations, which muffle the impact of those rare times in the original when Chaucer directly addresses the reader. Such quibbles would perhaps be unfair if Ackroyd were retelling some obscure gem of Old English, but they loom larger with Chaucer because there are many modern versions of The Canterbury Tales. Raffel’s rendering captured a lot more of the poetry, while doing as good a job as Ackroyd with the vigorous prose.

A not-very-illuminating updating of Chaucer’s Tales.

Pub Date: Nov. 16, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-670-02122-2

Page Count: 436

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2009

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