Recommended Reading/playing catch-up: February-March 2015

I’ve been too busy to update this… but it’s never too late, right?  February and early March were really slow for reading — I didn’t crack the mini-pile much, but made it through three GN’s:

sam and magic pen









Sam Zabel and the Magic Pen by Dylan Horrocks.  I love the way Horrocks draws, and the colors make it even nicer. I really like seeing him apply his clean, indie style to fantasy and superhero imagery. Somewhat disappointed in the book overall, though.  Like most of Horrocks’ previous work, this is a comic about comics, but where Hicksville and Atlas are weird and inspired, Sam Zabel plays more off of stereotypes without ever really transcending them.  It’s fun enough, but rather thin. Horrocks seems most concerned with correcting mainstream comics’ tendency to feed male sex-and-power fantasies, a worthy goal,  but it results here in a cautious, eager-for-approval tone that has little depth.

The Sculptor by Scott McCloud. I was struck by how much manga influence there is in McCloud’s work now.  I especially noticed a similiarty to Tatsumi as in the examples below (though the vertical panels and heavy use of “aspect to aspect” paneling, as McCloud calls it, aren’t Tatsumi features).  As for the story and characters in this 500 page tome, the less said the better.

The Sculptor
Tatsumi Yoshiharo from “Who Are you”
ethel and ernest

Ethel and Ernest by Raymond Briggs.  I haven’t read as much Briggs as I ought (he hasn’t done that many comics), other than The Snowman.  This graphic novel about his parents’ 50-year marriage is just lovely, focusing on the small, almost private world of their relationship and life together, as British 20th century history unfolds around them.  The watercolor art evokes children’s book illustration (which is what Briggs has mostly done).  As unpretentious, subtle and natural as those last two books are… not.



And just a couple of small-press gems:

Malice in Ovenland
Immovable Objects










Malice in Ovenland #1 by Micheline Hess.  The first issue of a fun all-ages comic. Doing her kitchen chores, a girl falls into a creepy, smelly, greasy, magical world inside the filthy oven.  Hess’ drawing is colorful, simple and fun —  but not too simple: her pen-and-ink hatching helps create a fun/gross atmosphere for her fantasy world.  Recommended for kids — looking forward to the next issue.  From Rosarium Publishing.

Immovable Objects by James Hindle. A nicely done minicomic, from 2012.  In the “sad, frustrated guy” genre of indie comics, looking like a minimalist Dan Clowes/Chris Ware/Adrian Tomine kinda thing… maybe that genre is a little overdone by now, but this one was worth the read: formally interesting and a nice text/image interplay.  The flatness of the visuals corresponds to the flatness of the protagonist’s affect.



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