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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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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Rich, creamy art and playful paneling make for a fun read.

THE GIGANTIC BEARD THAT WAS EVIL

Cartoonist Collins’ debut graphic novel is a long, smooth fable of a man whose unkempt facial hair ravages the tidy city of Here.

Here sits on an island, surrounded by the sea, separated from the far-off land of There. And whereas Here is all row houses and trimmed trees and clean cheeks, There is a dark, disordered place that would mix your insides with your outsides, your befores with your nows with your nexts—unpleasant business brilliantly depicted in panels breaking across a single body as it succumbs to chaos. So the people of Here live quiet, fastidious lives, their backs to the sea, and neighbor Dave delights in doodling it all from his window as he listens to the Bangles’ “Eternal Flame” on repeat. But an irregular report at his inscrutable office job triggers the single hair that has always curved from Dave’s upper lip to be suddenly joined by a burst of follicles. Try as Dave might, his unruly beard won’t stop pouring from his face in a tangled flood—and soon it threatens the very fabric of life in Here. Collins’ illustrations are lush, rounded affairs with voluptuous shading across oblong planes. Expressions pop, from the severe upturn where a sympathetic psychiatrist’s brows meet to the befuddlement of a schoolgirl as the beard’s hypnotic powers take hold. With its archetypical conflict and deliberate dissection of language, the story seems aimed at delivering a moral, but the tale ultimately throws its aesthetics into abstraction rather than didacticism. The result rings a little hollow but goes down smooth.

Rich, creamy art and playful paneling make for a fun read.

Pub Date: Oct. 7, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-250-05039-7

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Picador

Review Posted Online: Aug. 24, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2014

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