Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Graphic Novels

Few art mediums have worked as hard to gain credibility as graphic novels, perhaps fantasy and sci-fi in their quest to be regarded as literature. Legitimacy seems to have been granted given the expanding sections of this genre in libraries and bookstores, but many, including me remain sheepish when perusing them.

I jumped on the bandwagon with many when Batman: The Dark Night Returns and The Watchmen appeared on the scene. Both jump started the genre to such a degree that they're on the minds of many today due to their Hollywood adaptations. I became more impressed with this genre and moved through the works of Pekar (a full tribute is in the works).

The Adventuress by Audrey Niffenegger (author of The Time Traveler's Wife) was originally published by hand in the 80's. It reminds me of La passion de Jeanne d'Arc – the threshold, the tears behind those eyes, the isolation, and the nuns. Egypt also comes to mind: hands floating without arms hold veils, wine-glasses, and judgement; Eyes sometimes swirl but never blink or have a face. There's also alchemy, a cat, and transformation. The soul mourns a body with crossed arms folded under the chin. Ancient Greece comes to mind with play on weaving (Penelope); however, here a skirts unravelled to create a cocoon. The character seems to have conflicting emotions (thumoi) given the cleft figure and one that hugs and chokes itself. It's such a fantastical world that she, a moth, feasted on Napoleon's books.

The Pride of Baghdad presents war through the eyes of lions. At times the novel becomes too anthropomorphic — sex and rape, moral dilemmas (whether or not to eat humans) — but the point gets across. War starts when the zoo keepers throw them a donkey, enough food to last a while. Bombs blow up the pen's walls and they're free. They embark on a journey and on the way meet a wise turtle who states,

Tigris is the name of the river, dummy. … Everything's got a name. It's how we make crap belong to us. And this stretch of crap is my fishing hole.

There's black stuff under the earth, boy. Poison. When the walkers fight, they send it spewing into the sky, and spilling into the … into the sea.

Although the dialogue can be predictable, the illustrations make use colour very effectively, the dark grey and sepia of tragedy and bright tones for violence. On the whole, the work seems a little too surreal for war, but that might just be how lions view things.


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