Jessica’s Farm

front cover
Josh Simmons picked an interesting way to write a graphic novel, not to get it over with but to stretch it out. Over a long time.
Jessica’s Farm is 96 pages long and each page, we’re told, was drawn over the course of a month in the eight year span between January 2000 and December 2007. Josh plans to continue on until 2050 when the entire 600 page book can be published. But he has published Jessica Farm 1 now and will publish part 2 in 2016.
Jessica seems to be a child in an abusive situation but either she’s found how to stay sane within her own imaginary world with a host of friends or she’s found a way to fight back. I’m not sure if her courage is a shield or a weapon.
An interesting life project and I think, well worth a read. Even though it only takes an hour or so to get through 8 year’s worth.

The Sandman

I recently finished Neil Gaiman‘s epic comic book series The Sandman (from the Vertigo imprint of DC Comics). I read it in my favourite way to read the better comic book series: in ‘phonebooks’. By that I mean the serial stories are gathered into bound collections which don’t require Endless waiting. The 75 issues of The Sandman (published between 1989 and 1996) are contained in 4 volumes called “Absolute Sandman”. These are large publications with a old style faux leather cover and a ribbon attached for marking your place in each tome. Very nicely done. And I am actually lucky that my library still had all four since some of them have gone out of print.
Just about the only common thread through this series, beside Morpheus (The Sandman), is Neil Gaiman himself. There are a wide variety of artists, letterers, pencillers, inkers and editors that become attached and then detached to the series but Gaiman manages to keep something, not easily definable, cohesive alive through all 75. The visuals change so much that you’d hardly recognize one from the other but still there is that intangible dream of continuity that keeps you interested and makes me upset about book four being the end. And desire the series to be Endless. Add to that, too, that this isn’t a straightforward story. After reading them all I’m left with questions like who actually masterminded Lord Shaper’s death (there are several candidates). How could Morpheus have been imprisoned in the first place (was he that bad that his siblings wouldn’t come to the rescue:  Destiny had to know where he was)?  Why did Hob survive that final encounter with Death?  What happens to Nuala?  And more.  Of course, to my way of thinking, being full of questions after a work of art is an excellent state to be in.
Some of the things I find particularly interesting:

  • the family of the Dream Lord are Endlessly interesting… they approach their duties so differently
  • religion and the Endless: Gaiman includes various religions, gods, myth, comic book heroes, belief systems together with the story lines and with no apparent conflict
  • the inhabitants of Morpheus’ realm, The Dreaming, are fascinating with very rich backstories included (like Cain, Abel and Eve, Matthew, Lucien, Merv, the guardians at the door, the Corinthian and Nuala)
  • the complexity
  • the Land in A Game of You
  • the bridge becoming a hall for the Dream Lord’s funeral and wake and then becoming a bridge again
  • all the stories told by the refugees from the Reality Storm at the Worlds’ End Inn
  • although my first point included her in the collective Death deserves her own due in the end!

Flight Vol.4

Another Flight collection from Kazu Kibuishi.  I especially enjoyed the following in this one:

  • The Saga of Rex: Castaway by Michel Gagné.
  • Food from the Sea by Amy Kim Ganter.
  • The Window Makers by Kazu Kibuishi of course.
  • …and Hope for the Best by JP Ahonen.
  • The Forever Box by Sarah Mensinga.
  • Igloo Head and Tree Head by Scott Campbell.
  • Mystical Monkey by Ryan Estrada.
  • Twenty-four Hours by Andrea Offermann.

More Kazu Kibuishi

My posting about graphic novels in January mentioned some of Kazu Kibuishi’s work as did my review of The Amulet. I borrowed Flight Volume 2 and purchased Book 2 of the Amulet since.

Flight Volume 2
Kazu Kibuishi is the editor, of the Graphic Novel potpourri that is Flight. But readers are still lucky enough to be treated to his excellent work too. Kibuishi’s The Orange Grove is wonderfully touching; its uncluttered and clear style draws you in.
My favourite story, though, is Ghost Trolley by Rod Sechrist. Eerie artwork and an interesting story.
I also enjoyed Destiny Express by Jen Wang and Monster Slayers by Khang Le.
I’ve read three volumes of this series and have enjoyed them all. Recommended!

The Amulet Book 2
The Stonekeeper’s Curse (Book 2) is an excellent and exciting sequel to The Stonekeeper (Book 1). The story is a compelling young adult story (that’s still good enough for adults too) with a complex cast of characters and intricate plot. All that and it still manages to enthrall. I especially liked the talking trees! I will likely buy the entire series.
Very highly recommended.

The Professor’s Daughter

The Professor’s Daughter published in 1997 by First Second (New York, NY) was drawn by Emmanuel Guibert and written by Joann Sfar. I didn’t find it delighted me as much as Gene Luen Yang’s books from the same publisher. This is a more whimsical topic, of course, and I did enjoy the drawings and water colouring. But I found the story too disjointed: it hopped from point to point with little to connect it or to motivate the reader to care about the urbane protagonists Imhotep IV and Lillian Bowell. Even the very beginning was rushed into from my perspective as reader.
Although very pretty I find this work too frustrating to recommend to anyone but those who appreciate comic drawing and don’t overly care for story.

Other Graphic Novels

Our library has a surprising number of graphic novels. Here’s just a few:

Kazu Kibuishi’s View Item DetailsFlight or View Item DetailsAmulet. Book 1, The stonekeeper

Michel Rabagliati‘s View Item DetailsPaul goes fishing or View Item DetailsPaul has a summer job (translated from French).

Seth (who was at a Guelph author’s event I went to this past year): View Item DetailsBannock, beans, and black tea : the life of a young boy growing up in the Great Depression or View Item DetailsChristmas days

Alan Moore’s View Item DetailsThe league of extraordinary gentlemen in volumes 1 and 2.  Moore is a bit dark but a complex and gifted story teller.  The first volume is better than the second IMHO.

Hayao Miyazaki’s View Item DetailsHowl’s moving castle, V.1 which is based on a favourite movie.

A.B. Cover’s View Item DetailsWilliam Shakespeare’s MacBeth : the graphic novel.

The Amulet

Killing some time in a comic book store in Waterloo with my son, I came across and purchased the first book in The Amulet. It’s a graphic novel by Kazu Kibuishi who is also the founder and editor of the Flight series.
The characterization in this children’s novel are excellently and quickly established with the heroine Emily and her brother Navin as they desperately follow their mother into an adventure in an alternate Universe. I love the wonderfully drawn robots Cogsley, Morrie and, especially, Miskit. I am eager to read Book 2.
Highly recommended.