Stunning.

READ REVIEW

VOICES IN THE DARK

A peculiar man obsessed with the human voice and the preteen daughter of a Nazi propagandist cross paths during the later stages of World War II: Austrian cartoonist Lust's (The Big Feminist But, 2014, etc.) first graphic novel is an adaptation of Marcel Beyer’s novel The Karnau Tapes (1995).

Hermann Karnau has been fascinated by sound since he was a young boy savoring the silence of early mornings (before it was ruined by “imperious voices” and “clamor and commotion”), and this aural obsession eventually leads him to audio engineering work for the Third Reich. While recording radio propaganda at the home of a Nazi officer—a never-named Joseph Goebbels—Karnau begins a friendship with the man’s six children, particularly the oldest, Helga, who notices troubling incongruities between the world her parents portray to her and the world she directly observes. Karnau and Helga alternate narration, with Karnau indulging his obsession with perverse experiments and dissections in search of the bloody biology behind voice and sound and Helga growing aware of the lies and ugliness propping up her life of privilege and luxury, especially as the Soviet advance sends her and her siblings into a crumbling bunker with the retreating Nazi elite—where her parents’ words of reassurance are increasingly betrayed by the desperation they can’t keep from physically manifesting. The book is troubling and profound, with characters driven to find truths that ultimately prove devastating. Lust’s clean, confident lines richly convey everything from a child’s discomfort with a haircut to a dog’s eagerness to play to Karnau’s sheer bliss from a “quivering glottis.” Lust’s inventive paneling both offers diagrammatic images to underscore Karnau’s reductive mind and, combined with onomatopoeic captions, deftly ratchets the tension. The illustration style and muted color palette (like an aged newspaper) achieve a haunting realism despite cartoonish exaggeration and expressionistic flourishes.

Stunning.

Pub Date: Oct. 10, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-68137-105-4

Page Count: 368

Publisher: New York Review Comics

Review Posted Online: Aug. 6, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2017

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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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