Ranks up there with the most provocative graphic narratives for adults.

THE RABBI’S CAT 2

The sequel to Sfar’s graphic novel about a talking cat.

One good volume deserves another, as the Parisian Sfar (The Professor’s Daughter, 2007, etc.) extends the adventures of a rabbi, his daughter and their unnamed cat, who discovered the ability to speak (not always truthfully) after swallowing his master’s parrot. Once again the setting is 1930s Algeria, the French colonial homeland where the family has returned after a trip to Paris. The reader finds that the daughter’s recent marriage is even more strained, and that the Jewish community has begun to experience a growing swell of anti-Semitism. When the cat isn’t mediating between the bride, her inattentive husband (also a rabbi, but a more modern-minded one) and her kindly father, the talking feline discovers the surprising truth about Malka of the Lions (the elder rabbi’s cousin, more myth than man in the first volume) and embarks on a journey across Africa. Metaphysical slapstick abounds as the cat proves wiser in the ways of the world (and perhaps in the ways of the Torah as well) than three generations of rabbis and those who would try to follow a religious life. In the process, the cat apparently helps bring a young painter back from the dead, further complicating the daughter’s marriage, when what she considers art, while posing for the painter, her husband condemns as idolatry. Ultimately, the painter’s African pilgrimage sparks a mixed-race romance with a sensuality that puts the daughter’s passionless marriage to shame.

Ranks up there with the most provocative graphic narratives for adults.

Pub Date: April 1, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-375-42507-3

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Pantheon

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2008

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

BERLIN

BOOK ONE

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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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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