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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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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An enjoyable creeper that needs a bit more room to run.

THE ABSENCE

A village on the English coast wrestles with postwar realities and quantum physics in graphic designer and playwright Stiff’s debut six-issue horror/science fiction miniseries.

At the center of this tale set amid the cliffs, moors and pub of a seaside English village are dapper, disfigured veteran Marwood Clay and Robert Temple, an aloof scientific visionary who fought—and won—World War II on a radically new front. Marwood was born in the village, but he and Temple are both considered outsiders thanks to a fiery tragedy in Marwood and the villagers’ shared past. Temple has come with deep pockets and bizarre plans to erect a mammoth, meticulously designed structure referred to by his local foreman as “this pile of shite.” After an initial, congenial introduction, Marwood and Temple soon find themselves at odds as each attempts to engage with the villagers. Meanwhile, the village struggles with a rash of inexplicable disappearances. Is it murder? Is it Marwood? Or does something darker lurk beneath the village’s quaint facade? An opening scene of a localized cataclysm shares the date with the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, quickly establishing a connection between advanced technology and primal fear (exemplified by Temple’s boss, a decrepit, amputee government agent who wants Temple’s knowledge to further his own agenda). The story maintains a creepy atmosphere throughout, with elements of The Twilight Zone, The Manchurian Candidate and Donnie Darko, well served by Stiff’s simple, expressive black-and-white illustrations that have the outsized chunkiness of Howard Chaykin and the energetic crudity and classic paneling of Steve Yeowell. Stiff stuffs his story until it bristles with science-fiction tropes like liquid mirrors, sinister German doctors, prognostication via equations, crumbling religious iconography and nods to Schrödinger’s cat, but the sheer number of ideas and the brevity of the series give any individual concept short shrift.

An enjoyable creeper that needs a bit more room to run.

Pub Date: March 4, 2014

ISBN: 978-1782760382

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Titan Comics

Review Posted Online: Aug. 1, 2014

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