Inviting enough to make readers seek out the novel—which means Heuet has done his job.

READ REVIEW

REMEMBRANCE OF THINGS PAST

VOL. I: COMBRAY

This comic-book version of Proust’s masterpiece caused quite a stir when it first appeared in France, but the hoopla is undeserved. Heuet’s adaptation is neither a disgrace nor a work of genius; it’s simply a respectable (and respectful) graphic narrative much in the vein of the old Classics Illustrated titles: heavy on text and somewhat generically drawn. This slim book adapts only the first two sections of Swann’s Way, the “overture” and “Combray”; a dozen or so more volumes are promised. The artist and his American publisher have made some odd choices. With so many fine English translations to chose from, NBM instead commissioned a new one from Joe Johnson, who begins by ignoring the now more accepted (and more accurate) overall title, In Search of Lost Time. This is especially odd because the translation is in general quite literal. The artist’s main error is more serious: he chooses a visual style totally unsuited to his characters and their creator’s prose. Everyone here has little dot eyes and dash mouths, a visual homage to Herge’s Tintin that makes no sense, shatters our feel for the period, and cheapens the intensity of Proust’s internalized narrative. Nonetheless, Heuet’s version succeeds quite well as a beginner’s guide to Proust: we get the famous magic lantern of the narrator’s spoiled childhood, the equally famous madeleine, and an introduction to the two “ways” of Combray. Heuet captures Proust’s strong sense of social order and also his delight in the eccentricities of those around him, from his hypochondriacal aunt to the unsuitably married Swann. Some of the landscapes are kitschy, but the city scenes are well studied. The only real visual challenge here is distinguishing among the characters.

Inviting enough to make readers seek out the novel—which means Heuet has done his job.

Pub Date: June 1, 2001

ISBN: 1-56163-278-3

Page Count: 72

Publisher: NBM

Review Posted Online: May 20, 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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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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