Full of interesting information and insight, but nongamers may bog down in the details.

THE COMIC BOOK STORY OF VIDEO GAMES

THE INCREDIBLE HISTORY OF THE ELECTRONIC GAMING REVOLUTION

The popular progression of video games as rendered in graphic narrative.

The subject would seem to be a natural for the comic-book treatment, which can show as well as tell, but the contextual expanse here and the narrative tone result in a work that is less breezy and playful than one might anticipate. Hennessey (The Comic Book Story of Beer: The World's Favorite Beverage from 7000 B.C. to Today's Craft Brewing Revolution, 2015, etc.) and McGowan introduce readers to Japanese history and culture, which, along with World War II (and its emerging technology), the Cold War, the space race, science fiction, and the emergence of the home computer and the internet, they view as essential to their story. The result is a very ambitious history, more than most in this format, which doesn’t even reach Pong until it is almost halfway through and in which Nintendo doesn’t emerge until nearly the end. Hennessey’s previous work includes graphic treatments of The United States Constitution (2008), The Gettysburg Address (2013), and Alexander Hamilton (2017), and his method includes spotlight chapters on major figures in the development of gaming, most unknown outside the video game industry. The author and illustrator show how video games developed from their pre-computer incarnations through their popularity in arcades through advancements in special effects and portability. They explain how hackers pushed the technology of gaming forward, how devices developed for war craft found their way into game craft, and how rivalries among and within corporations have turned competitively vicious. The book ends with speculation about how virtual reality technology and corporate data collection might continue to inform not only the world of gaming, but the world at large.

Full of interesting information and insight, but nongamers may bog down in the details.

Pub Date: Oct. 3, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-399-57890-8

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Ten Speed Press

Review Posted Online: July 3, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2017

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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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A brief, canny book that will make any girl who feels alone feel less alone.

GIRL TROUBLE

AN ILLUSTRATED MEMOIR

To all the girls she’s liked before, a memoirist offers a series of interconnected essays.

Though she has characterized herself as “boy crazy” and previously documented that label in Loose Girl (2008), Cohen shifts her focus to her relationships with other girls—the ones who rejected her as a friend, the ones she rejected, the ones whom she saw as competition or yardsticks by which her own failings would never measure up. Some were witnesses and some were judges whose verdicts on her as unworthy have continued to reverberate through her adulthood and motherhood. A psychotherapist would focus on her parents’ bitter divorce as the key to her alienation and lack of self-worth. “In most of my friendships, I’d been fun and happy and unafraid,” she writes of a pivotal day when she felt ostracized. “But that day something shifted. For the first time I saw myself in the world, with others around me. My parents divorcing. My mother’s grief. My own sense of newness and change, of the world spinning out of control.” One of the ways this book offers healing is through Cohen’s collaboration with the illustrator, her older sister Tyler. During “an ugly divorce, fraught with affairs and devastation and anger,” their mother chose the older sister as her ally and confidante, leaving a breach between the two sisters that they wouldn’t repair until adulthood. Her sister was her first true female friend and the first betrayal (of many). While recognizing that “memory is a slippery eel,” Cohen surveys the dozens of relationships with women she has enjoyed and endured, showing how friendship changes with different stages and how she has as well. “I miss all of my ex-friends,” she writes toward the conclusion. “They are stamped onto my heart like old romances, lost loves. They are parts of me in ways no one warned me they would be.”

A brief, canny book that will make any girl who feels alone feel less alone.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-9970683-3-7

Page Count: 136

Publisher: Hawthorne Books

Review Posted Online: Aug. 2, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2016

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