Humanity stunningly observed—a treasure.

THE MAN WITHOUT TALENT

This first English-language edition of a work by influential Japanese comic-book artist Tsuge follows an impoverished, embittered comic-book artist whose unconventional search for riches keeps him in league with schemers at the fringes of society—much to his wife’s angst and young son’s distress.

Whether it’s selling stones he finds near his home, repairing and reselling cameras bought from a junk store, or even carrying people on his back across a shallow river, Sukezō Sukegawa will do just about anything for money—except create the comic books for which he has received critical acclaim. He pridefully resents the lack of money in comic books, though he fails to sell any stones either. Sukezō’s pursuits introduce him to shady characters, such as the alcoholic head of an “art stone” association and the man’s libidinous wife, and to outsiders such as a homeless man whose uncanny connection to birds allows him to effortlessly gather exquisite specimens for sale. Though Sukezō’s wife resents his inability to make money—and the costs associated with his offbeat vocations—Suzekō provides for the family in his own, unbalanced way, as when he combines a stone-hunting trip to the countryside with a hiking trip for wife and son. The trip is a disaster: Sukezō’s asthmatic son melts down over the train schedule, fecal matter likely slips into the family’s noodles, and the three of them lie by a river and wryly contemplate suicide. Tsuge’s raw and profound work is equal parts pathos and poetry, streaked with irony and ribaldry. His lines are beautifully clean and wonderfully expressive, the pages sometimes presenting expertly cartoonish simplicity and other times almost photorealistic detail. Tsuge has a soft spot for outsiders yet is acutely aware of how they can end up dead in a field somewhere, covered in their own filth.

Humanity stunningly observed—a treasure.

Pub Date: Feb. 11, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-68137-443-7

Page Count: 240

Publisher: New York Review Comics

Review Posted Online: Dec. 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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A sugarcoated but undiluted vehicle for schooling American readers about their rights and responsibilities.

THE UNITED STATES CONSTITUTION

A GRAPHIC ADAPTATION

A searching interpretation of that sonorous document the Constitution, with cartoons.

Why have a Constitution to begin with? Because, remarks film and TV writer Hennessey—who, even if his prose is bound by balloons, turns out to be quite the Constitutional scholar—the founding fathers were keenly aware that civil rights were never formally written down in Britain, “and that deeply troubled the framers.” That’s as much of an establishing conflict as is needed for a superhero piece, and Hennessey, paired with artist McConnell, does a fine job of turning the making of the document, despite all the dull stretches in the Constitutional Convention that James Madison recorded in his diary, into a drama. Happily, Hennessey is aware of the truly radical origins of the Constitution, even as he notes its conservative strains. For example, he remarks that the system of checks and balances is a remarkable innovation, even if it sometimes seems that presidential actions—as with military intervention in Vietnam and elsewhere—go unchecked. In addition, laws are difficult to make in this country for very good reason: “Otherwise we might get too many of them.” Combining words and appropriate images, sometimes comic and sometimes earnest, the narrative visits such matters as the three-fifths law of determining apportionment, the writ of habeas corpus, eminent domain and conceptions of property and freedom of assembly and movement (for instance, the Articles of Federation forbade “vagabonds and paupers” from crossing state lines). Also covered are the many guarantees Americans take for granted—not least the Ninth Amendment, which states that certain rights not enumerated (“The right to scratch a dog behind the ears?”) shall not be denied.

A sugarcoated but undiluted vehicle for schooling American readers about their rights and responsibilities.

Pub Date: Oct. 21, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-8090-9487-5

Page Count: 142

Publisher: Hill and Wang/Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2008

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Playfully drawn and provocatively written, the memoir reinforces Bell's standing among the first rank of the genre’s artists.

THE VOYEURS

“Graphic memoir” only hints at the artistry of a complex, literary-minded author who resists the bare-all confessionalism so common to the genre and blurs the distinction between fiction and factual introspection.

Who are “The Voyeurs?” In the short, opening title piece, they are a mixed-gender group standing on an urban rooftop, watching a couple have sex through a window in a nearby building. They tend to find the experience “uncomfortable,” even “creepy,” though those who remain raptly silent may well be more interested, even titillated. Bell (Lucky, 2006, etc.) is also a voyeur of sorts, chronicling the lives of others in significant detail while contemplating her own. As she admits before addressing an arts class in frigid Minneapolis, where she knows the major interest will be on how she has been able to turn her comics into a career, “I feel I need to disclaim this ‘story.’ I set myself the task of reporting my trip, though there’s not much to it, and I can’t back out now. It’s my compulsion to do this, it’s my way, I suppose, of fighting against the meaninglessness constantly crowding in.” The memoir encompasses travels that take her from Brooklyn to Los Angeles and from Japan to France, while addressing the challenges of long-distance relationships, panic attacks, contemporary feminism, Internet obsessiveness, the temptation to manipulate life to provide material for her work, and the ultimate realization, in the concluding “How I Make My Comics,” of her creative process: “Then I want to blame everyone I’ve known ever for all the failures and frustrations of my life, and I want to call someone up and beg them to please help me out of this misery somehow, and when I realize how futile both these things are I feel the cold, sharp sting of the reality that I’m totally and utterly alone in the world. Then I slap on a punchline and bam, I’m done.”

Playfully drawn and provocatively written, the memoir reinforces Bell's standing among the first rank of the genre’s artists.

Pub Date: Sept. 4, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-9846814-0-2

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Uncivilized Books

Review Posted Online: Nov. 5, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2012

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