An intriguing pop-culture artifact—more so for its background than its execution.

READ REVIEW

GIRAFFES ON HORSEBACK SALAD

With help from comedian Heidecker (Tim and Eric’s Zone Theory, 2015, etc.) and illustrator Pertega, “pop-culture archaeologist” Frank (The Good Inn, 2014, etc.) adapts into a graphic novel a never-produced film collaboration between surrealist artist Salvador Dalí and classic-Hollywood absurdist Harpo Marx.

The first 40 pages of this graphic novel are mostly straight-text exposition, detailing how Frank came to reconstruct the unproduced film and explaining the brief time Dalí and Marx spent together in mutual admiration. This sluggish start sets the stage for what is to come: an illustrated adventure that kicks off in 1930s New York but eventually engulfs the world, thanks to “the Surrealist Woman,” an enigmatic beauty with fantastical reality-altering powers. We first encounter her through visionary businessman Jimmy, who discovers an artistic self he never knew was inside him when the Surrealist Woman arranges an otherworldly musical performance. As Jimmy and the Surrealist Woman fall in love, the happiness she feels triggers global chaos (the Great Pyramid floods, Venice runs dry, the streets of Paris suddenly all go in one direction). Jimmy’s vulgar, ambitious, unfaithful fiancee, Linda, becomes enraged by the attention the Surrealist Woman receives—both from Jimmy and from society—and rallies the forces of order to prosecute the Surrealist Woman. The story is a bit on the nose about freedom of expression versus societal oppression and expectation. Most enjoyable are Groucho and Chico Marx, who work on behalf of the Surrealist Woman; their playful, punny dialogue contrasts with the stiff exchanges between Jimmy and Linda or Jimmy and the Surrealist Woman. Pertega’s art shines in detailed close-ups and as the story delves deeper into surrealism (dripping wax effects, rivers of hair, complex page layouts), while the plainer scenes and more distant perspectives render the characters flat.

An intriguing pop-culture artifact—more so for its background than its execution.

Pub Date: March 19, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-59474-923-0

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Quirk Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 23, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2019

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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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