Posted by: Brian Hibbs on April 1, 2007
Yeah, back for the second round of the day (and that worked PERFECTLY, too, both G & J posted between me so it doesn’t like I’m bloviating as much as I am), but, man, it’s already 10:30, and I’d like to have some “me time” today, so let’s see if I can keep this shortish and still retain some meaning:
ALICE IN SUNDERLAND GN: Bryan Talbot is a creator that I feel doesn’t get enough respect, though that may be largely because he seems to disappear for years at a time then releases ginormous works that just blow your tiny little mind, man. ANd this piece of work is a very radical departure for Talbot — multimedia collage and photoshop enhances his already utterly amazing line work to a degree that I’ve never seen him approach before. And there’s 300+ pages of this tooth-achingly beautiful work here, certainly the largest project he’s tackled. I, really mean this, this is some of the best work of his already long and illustrious career.
But while I wholly and steadfastly recommend it in terms of sheer craft and presentation (an oversized HC original 300+ page GN for $30? It’s a steal!), I’m a little less excited about the actual content. This is largely because I’m a dumb ol’ ‘murican, who likes a certain amount of linearity in my content; whose never particularly liked historical content (except as insofar as I can relate it to my individual life), and prefers fiction to non-. These are my biases, and while they make me a poor “critic”, they are what they are.
There’s an astonishing level of “dream logic” going on in ALICE IN SUNDERLAND, as Talbot relates historical information about the city/region of Sunderland in the UK, both of the physicality of the environment, and the colorful connections between many of its most famous residents over a (let’s say) thousand year period — it jumps willy nilly between decades and centuries, and always circling back around and through and between Lewis Carroll and ALICE IN WONDERLAND, and it’s done in a constant array of ever changing styles — going from an “Arkwright” style to nearly Dave McKean, to Herge, to historical period work, to rubber-faced cartooning, and back and around again, always changing, never standing still.
And I only made it through about 50 pages of the narrative before I finally gave up and decided to just look at the pretty pictures instead.
If I had to compare it to something narratively (and it’s a shitty comparison, to be sure), it might be the tour of London in the middle of FROM HELL, where you find out about the giant pentagram inscribed on the soul of London. Except there’s not a pentagram, or even an underlying murder. And, let’s say, ten times as long.
There is so much craft and skill and deep understanding of comics on display here that you’ll shake your head in wonder. The question is whether or not you’re interested enough in the subject matter to have it carry the work. For me, that answer is no, but I still took home a copy for my personal collection because I know I’m going to want to look through it again and again, even if I never end up reading it at the end of the day.
That’s kinda the worst review ever, isn’t it? And yet… I’m still going to give it a VERY GOOD, because I can not heap enough superlatives on Talbot’s craft, and I really do think you should seriously entertain buying it despite my aesthetic failures as a critic.
OPTIC NERVE #11: The sharp-eyed of you will notice that this wasn’t on the Diamond shipping list. The regular customers amongst you will say “hey, that wasn’t in on Wednesday! (or Thursday!)”, and you’d both be right. Direct shipped from D&Q, arrived on Friday, partly because we can make thier (wickedly absurdly high) minimums, but also partly because Diamond isn’t going to have this out for a few weeks, as I understand it. So, your LCS may not have it yet. Just saying.
Anyway, the box came, I unpacked it, and seconds after throwing it up on the rack me and Jeff both dived in and read it. What followed is why, really, I need to mic the store, and record every word that we say on Fridays, and edit into a podcast. It was a really fascinating conversation about authorial intent, and comparative analysis, and artistic influence (this issue is just DRIPPING with Tatsumi), where I took a point counter to Jeff’s…. not because I thought he was wrong, but because it’s the proper kind of conversation one should hear when one enters a comic book store. As opposed to our usual “Dur, who is stronger? Hulk or Thor? Dur!”
Anyway, Jeff made some rather excellent points about why similarly veined work by Tatsumi or Clowes works, and this doesn’t, but they’re his points to make and I’ll let him do that… next Sunday if he keeps to his ABCs! (though he’s crazy swamped with stuff too right now, so don’t expect that essay to necessarily be the next thing he writes)
So, let’s put that conversation to the side, and get to the heart of the comic itself: it sucked.
Sorry, thoroughly loathsome protagonist, systematically acts like a jerk because he can’t handle change, and he ends up alone and unhappy at the end. The End.
That’s nothing I want to read, when it comes down to it.
And this one was AWFUL.
Even more so when I went back and reread #9 & 10, because, let’s face it, this story started in 2004 (January to be exact), so I thought “I must be missing something from the previous issues, which I remember liking”. No, on reread, I STILL thought the first two parts were good comics, and act 3 just a waste of time and paper. Yes, it’s possible to have an anti-protagonist, I guess you’d call it, where their character arc doesn’t triumph, but deflate — the problem is, there has to be something compelling about the protagonist, or their situation, to keep me interested. Here, not so much.
Interestingly, Rob Bennett opined to me today that he liked it very much. And Tomine is about as far from what one would consider Rob’s normal tastes.
That’s what I thought. How about you?