The anthology suggests that, thankfully, this extended family isn’t close to exhausting its creative potential.




Don’t be fooled by the prosaic title or the whiff of pedagogy in the introduction; this is the world of comics—or at least the North American, English-speaking part of that world—at its liveliest.

The second anthology edited by Brunetti (volume one was published in 2006) showcases some of the form’s history and development, highlights some of the best and better-known contemporary artists and introduces some cutting-edge innovators working at the vanguard of form and collage. The thematic organization by the editor (a Chicago-based professor and cartoonist) is compellingly idiosyncratic, juxtaposing Chris Ware’s one-pager of a superhero named “God” with R. Sikoryak’s series of covers for the fictional Action Camus series—a takeoff on Action Comics with a superhero who is part Superman, part Albert Camus’s The Stranger. The work included addresses plenty of psycho-philosophical issues—death, identity, dreams, memory, death and the possibility of an afterlife—while also including a tribute to MAD magazine’s creator Harvey Kurtzman, with his work followed by extended graphic celebrations by such leading acolytes as Robert Crumb and Art Spiegelman. The latter stresses how far Kurtzman’s influence extended beyond fellow artists to the culture at large: “I think Harvey’s MAD was more important than pot and LSD in shaping the generation that protested the Vietnam War.” The obsessions probed throughout the anthology are as personal as the artistry, with Crumb offering a series of strips on record collecting (the first in collaboration with Harvey Pekar) and the exotic lure of what were once known as “race records”; Joe Matt on porn addiction; and Lynda Barry on dancing (and “keepers of the groove”). In David Heatley’s closing “ Portrait of My Mom” and “Portrait of My Dad,” it’s plain that what he’s really offering is a portrait of himself. Explains Brunetti, “I have tried to represent a variety of approaches while retaining a sense of wholeness and interconnectedness among the stories. If the first volume viewed comics as a developing human being, then this volume treats them as an extended family.”

The anthology suggests that, thankfully, this extended family isn’t close to exhausting its creative potential.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-300-12671-6

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Yale Univ.

Review Posted Online: April 8, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2008

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Chwast and Twain are a match made in heaven.


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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An original project worth watching as it shapes up to something that may be quite magnificent.



This black-and-white historical narrative, written and illustrated by Lutes, collects eight volumes of his ongoing comic book set in Berlin during the late ’20s. It’s a multilayered tale of love and politics at the beginning of the Nazi era, as Lutes follows the stories of three characters: a 20ish art student from the provinces, a textile worker, and a young Jewish radical. Their lives intersect in only the subtlest way—Lutes depicts them crossing paths at some great public events, such as the Mayday march that closes this part of his book. And Lutes plays with perspective in a visual sense as well, jumping from point-of-view frames to overhead angles, including one from a dirigible flying above in honor of the Kaiser. At street level, Lutes integrates his historical research smoothly, and cleverly evokes the sounds and smells of a city alive with public debate and private turmoil. The competing political factions include communists, socialists, democrats, nationalists, and fascists, and all of Lutes’s characters get swept up by events. Marthe, the beautiful art student, settles in with Kurt, the cynical and detached journalist; Gudrun, the factory worker, loses her job, and her nasty husband (to the Nazi party), then joins a communist cooperative with her young daughters; Schwartz, a teenager enamored with the memory of Rosa Luxembourg, balances his incipient politics with his religion at home and his passion for Houdini. The lesser figures seem fully realized as well, from the despotic art instructor to the reluctant street policeman. Cosmopolitan Berlin on the brink of disaster: Lutes captures the time and place with a historian’s precision and a cinematographer’s skill. His shifts from close-ups to fades work perfectly in his thin-line style, a crossbreed of dense-scene European comics and more simple comics styles on this side of the Atlantic.

An original project worth watching as it shapes up to something that may be quite magnificent.

Pub Date: June 1, 2001

ISBN: 1-896597-29-7

Page Count: 212

Publisher: Drawn & Quarterly

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2001

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