If artists, as British sculptor Anish Kapoor famously said, make mythologies, then this volume is genuinely a marriage of...

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THE GRAPHIC CANON

GILGAMESH TO SHAKESPEARE TO DANGEROUS LIAISONS

Classic literature gets desterilized with the help of the modern world’s most daring graphic artists.

In this first of three volumes, editor Kick (100 Things You're Not Supposed to Know, 2008, etc.), better known for rabble-rousing at Disinfo.com, collects an incredible variety of graphic adaptations of oral tales, plays, essays, sonnets and letters. Starting with The Epic of Gilgamesh and ending with Hamlet, this meaty slab is laced with more wit, beauty, social commentary and shock than one might expect from a book tailor-made for college classrooms. The expected suspects are all here in excerpted or abridged form, including The OdysseyBeowulf and The Divine Comedy. But there are unexpected entries, too. Tania Schrag turns in a delightfully explicit depiction of the Greek play Lysistrata by Aristophanes, while Vicki Nerino delivers a raw take on an explicit yarn usually expunged from The Arabian Nights. Noah Patrick Pfarr turns John Donne’s “The Flea” into an elaborate lesbian tryst. Robert Crumb does his characteristically bizarre take on James Boswell’s London Journal, with high debauchery intact. More unpredictable entries are drawn from Native American folktales, a Japanese play, Chinese poetry and The Tibetan Book of the Dead. Serious treatments are given to King Lear and A Midsummer Night’s Dream, not to mention a museum-worthy portrait by Eric Johnson of a minor character from Edmund Spenser’s The Fairie Queen. Some of the artistic heavy hitters in this volume include a selection from Seymour Chwast’s outstanding adaptation of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, Rick Geary’s take on the Book of Revelation, Peter Kuper’s blistering take on Jonathan Swift’s “A Modest Proposal” and the legendary Will Eisner’s view of Don Quixote from his 2003 graphic novel The Last Knight. The infamous Molly Crabapple closes the book with rich portraits of The Marquise de Merteuil and Vicomte de Valmont from Dangerous Liaisons.

If artists, as British sculptor Anish Kapoor famously said, make mythologies, then this volume is genuinely a marriage of equals.

Pub Date: May 22, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-60980-376-6

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Seven Stories

Review Posted Online: Feb. 21, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2012

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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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A thin sliver of illustrated memoir that barely hits its stride before fading away.

CHICKEN WITH PLUMS

Satrapi (Embroideries, 2005, etc.) recalls the tragic final days of her great-uncle, an Iranian musician who died of a broken heart after his wife destroyed his favorite instrument.

Set for the most part in Tehran circa 1958, this graphic memoir tells the story of Nasser Ali Khan, a renowned master of the tar, an Iranian stringed instrument. A man of taciturn demeanor and moodiness, Khan believes himself too much of an artist to perform non-creative labor; he barely contributes to the household upkeep with either work or money. Not surprisingly, his firecracker of a wife doesn’t take well to this attitude and eventually cracks, snapping his beloved tar in two and sending Khan to his bed, where he grows gloomy and frets. This day-by-day reconstruction shows Khan’s wife and brother trying to rouse him back to the land of the living. But his artist’s pride (the tar was Stradivarius-like in its perfection) is not easily mended. As always, Satrapi’s artwork is simple and expressive, with its rich pools of black ink and swooping, lyrical curlicues. Only occasionally does she break out of a strict frame-to-frame design, but when she does, the results are breathtaking. One beautiful page depicts the family of one of Khan’s sons seated around the TV: In the top half, they’re happy and chatty, watching a woman sing; in the bottom, all is in perditious shadow, a bearded man lecturing on the screen, with the text reading simply, “But in 1980 war erupted and that was the end of happiness.” Unfortunately, the volume is so short that the story doesn’t have enough time to take root, and what could have been an emotional and heart-rending drama becomes instead an intriguing footnote.

A thin sliver of illustrated memoir that barely hits its stride before fading away.

Pub Date: Oct. 3, 2006

ISBN: 0-375-42415-6

Page Count: 96

Publisher: Pantheon

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2006

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