Thoughts of the Graphic Sort

A place where I can discuss my addiction to graphic novels.

Persepolis 2: The Story of a Return by Marjane Satrapi

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Satrapi returns to her graphic novel memoir with a tour de force of sex, drugs, teenage rebellion, and identity crises.  Marjane is now a teenager and in Vienna to attend high school.  Although she has left the horrors of revolution behind in Iran, she now has the horrors of adolescence to deal with.  Feeling like an outsider no matter where she goes, Marjane attempts to fit in only to feel like she is betraying her heritage, her religion, and her mother.  Heavy stuff for a teenager alone in a foreign land.

I loved teenage Marjane.  She is troubled, misunderstood, wanting to do the right thing but also wanting to fit in (rarely are these two wants the same when you are a teenager), and lonely.  She is exactly like every other teenager in the world and that is Satrapi’s gift.  She has created a complex, emotional bildungsroman that everyone can relate to and yet still find Marjane’s journey into adulthood interesting and unique.

For me, Persepolis 2 surpasses volume 1 in terms of story telling and narrative arc.  Instead of experiencing the world through the stories of those around her, Marjane is thrust out into the world on her own and she has to find something to hold onto to survive.  As she slowly becomes accustomed to certain aspects of Western culture, she realizes she is an outsider at home and abroad.

The novel follows Marjane for a decade as she progresses from adolescence to adulthood.  Through it all, she continues to struggle with being part of a culture that refuses to acknowledge her basic human rights simply because she is a woman.  But in the end, Marjane stays true to herself and becomes and inspiration for girls everywhere.

Written by JP Weezey

March 19, 2012 at 8:00 am

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Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood by Marjane Satrapi

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Precocious children walk a fine line between endearing and annoying.  That precocious boy from Jerry McGuire?  Annoying.  Hit-Girl from the graphic novel Kick-Ass and movie of the same name?  All kinds of awesome.  But Hit-Girl is one of only a few precocious children who didn’t make me cringe after every sentence she uttered.

The annoyingness level of precociousness is subjective, and I admit I have a low-tolerance for precocious children, but I was completely annoyed by the child Marjane.  I felt Satrapi tried too hard to make her quirky and she just ended up being irritating.

But that’s not to say I didn’t like Persepolis.  In fact, I rather enjoyed the novel, and once the story moved from Marjane and began focusing more on the world and lives of those around her, I was really drawn in.  Satrapi’s skill lies in explaining complex histories succinctly without making it feel like you’re reading a history book.  Marjane grows up amidst a revolution and turmoils that have been brewing for decades, and we learn about what’s going on in Iran through conversations with her family, friends, and constant protests in the streets.

Check out the artwork:

I love how she uses the monochrome palette to her advantage by effectively filling panels with deep blacks and stark whites.  She has a simple, clean drawing style which really keeps the story flowing.

Persepolis took a while to grow on me but when it did, I was glad I stuck with it.  Satrapi does a great job of bringing a land in the midst of a revolution to life for those who live in a world where torture and bombings are just vague ideas.

Written by JP Weezey

March 16, 2012 at 8:00 am

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Castle Waiting Volume II by Linda Medley

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After I finished Castle Waiting Volume I, I creepily stalked Fantagraphics’ website for news on Volume II.   When it was announced Medley was finally returning to the series, I ordered and read each new issue as they were released.

But after issue 10, I decided to wait until they were compiled into a single volume before purchasing any more Castle Waiting.  I hate to say it, but Volume II seemed to lag when compared to Volume I.  Sure, the artwork is sill excellent, the characters are still charming and loveable, but Medley seemed to have switched gears and this left me wanting more of what made Volume I great.

Instead of the wonderful back stories that made the first volume so entertaining, here she devoted pages to castle exploration and introduced some new, but not novel, characters to the mix.  Although we finally learn more about Jain’s mysterious past and the surprising, and touching, pasts of some of the other characters, I felt Medley spent too much time taking us on a tour of the Castle’s mysterious hidden passages and secrets.

Medley’s strengths are with her characters and their inventive histories.  There were touches of what made Volume I so great, like when we find out what’s behind Iron Henry’s iron heart and what’s ailing the doctor, but these moments are too short to make the time spent restoring the Castle rewarding.

But even though I was a bit disappointed in this follow-up, I still love Castle Waiting and can’t wait for the next volume.  And Volume II isn’t a complete letdown–learning about Iron Henry’s past and seeing manly Chess play with a baby is worth the extensive tour of Castle Waiting.

Written by JP Weezey

March 14, 2012 at 8:00 am

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Castle Waiting by Linda Medley

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  Quick and dirty review: Every young girl should have a copy of Castle Waiting on her nightstand.  If you’ve ever wondered what happens after happily ever after, then you’re going to enjoy this clever, fun, and quirky novel.

A little more depth: Castle Waiting begins with the story of Sleeping Beauty and then dumps it by the side of the road.  We all take it for granted that Sleeping Beauty gets her Prince and rides off into the sunset, happy and usually singing, but what about the people who were cursed with her?  Their lives were interrupted for a century-long nap, the  town was ruined because of the briar patch surrounding the castle, and by the time they awake, they no longer have a King or country.  And yet Sleeping Beauty leaves it all without a second glance to start a new life with her Prince.  What a selfish bitch.

Medley takes a stance on happily ever afters by focusing on those left behind.  She fills Castle Waiting with the fairy tale castoffs — elderly handmaidens wanting for a Princess to attend to, a nun with a beard and a past, a demon with a heart of gold, doctors who need healing more than the patients — and gives us an anti-princess to root for.

Jain, the heroine of Castle Waiting, is pregnant and alone.  She flees her Prince Charming and arrives at the Castle an independent woman who has no problem saddling up and going after horse thieves.  Surrounding her is a cast of flawed, but warmhearted, characters, each with a story to tell.  Although Jain’s mysterious reasons for leaving her husband are only hinted at in the beginning, it is Sister Peace who really steals the show.  Her back story comes in near the end of the volume, but it is absolutely worth the wait.

Medley is great at writing charming characters and her artistry is top notch.  Each panel is handled with precision; her clean lines remind me of a woodblock print.

Be prepared for dozens of references to Grimm, beloved fairy tales, and plenty of other fables.

Written by JP Weezey

March 12, 2012 at 11:00 am

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Tamara Drewe by Posy Simmonds

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That right eye's just a bit wonky, don't you agree?

I heard about Tamara Drewe from my sister who saw the movie of the same name.  While she didn’t give the movie rave reviews, I was intrigued enough to check out the graphic novel.  So I bought it and then it sat on my shelf for over a year.

See, the cover artwork kinda threw me off.  I already disliked Tamara for being a bit cross-eyed.  And then I read the flap and saw that it was a remake of a Thomas Hardy novel (Far From the Maddening Crowd), and I was even more disinterested.  Why?  Because in my opinion, modern updates do more to ruin a story than enhance it.

But then, many months later as I was reorganizing my bookshelves, I noticed the sheep doing the nasty in the background.

Two bits of fluff gettin' it on. My kind of classy.

Okay.  Now we’re onto something.

So I gave Tamara a chance and I’m plenty glad I did.  It opens with an classified ad for a writer’s retreat that is “far from the maddening crowd, ” a very clever way to pay homage to the source.  The actual story starts with Glen Larson, an American who has a bit of an inferiority complex when it comes to writing and women.  He arrives at Stonefield Retreat for for his second stay and you get the idea that through the hardwork of Beth, the proprietress, Stonefield is the perfect retreat for authors.  She does the cooking, laundry, typing, cleaning – pretty much everything so that the writers can spend all of their time writing.  Beth is the ultimate supporter, as evidenced by her refusal to disturb her philandering husband’s many dalliances with other women.

And then comes Tamara.  The whole retreat becomes a whirlwind of emotions when the ugly duckling whose nose job has turned her into a swan comes home.  She moves into the manor next door to Stonefield and every man for miles instantly wants to take her into the field and show her their fluff.

But Simmonds knows how to craft a story and she layers Tamara Drewe with very realistic characters, many of whom are unlikeable but you just can’t stop reading about them.  She brings in stalkers, ex-rock gods hung up on ex-girlfriends, unrequited love, media rags and paparazzi, and misguided youth.  And through all of the tawdry goings on surrounding Tamara is Beth.  Beth, the stable, forgiving wife who is on the verge of reaching her limit with her philandering husband.  Watching her teetering on the edge is delicious and infuriating but you daren’t look away lest you miss all of the gory aftermath.

And the artwork… Simmonds uses simple, clean lines to draw her characters which really compliments the writing.  Some pages devote more than half of the page to the writing, which Simmonds artfully interweaves around the images.  The colors are muted and she sometimes colors the backgrounds in browns and grays to highlight the actions of the characters which is really nice.  The simplicity of her artwork naturally compliments the complex story and really immerses the reader into the the world of Tamara Drewe.

Written by JP Weezey

March 11, 2012 at 11:48 pm

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