Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Art Books

I’ve been reading a lot more books than normal lately so I figured I’d take a second to mention the crappy ones… ok, maybe crappy is too strong. How about, "I've read alot of ART books lately that have text too!" The first was...

West Coast Blues HC by Jean-Patrick Manchette & Jacques Tardi, published by Fantagraphics

WCB is the story of a man in deep malaise due to the tedious life he leads that unwittingly becomes the target of a pair of criminals. It starts when our hero helps an injured man, becoming the target of a pair of hitmen who are cleaning up loose ends. He is quickly forced to leave his life behind and ends up on the run. There, he becomes as hard as the criminals he's running from in order to get his life back.

WCB was the first of Fantagraphics new books reprinting the works of Tardi and overall, it’s ok. The art is fantastic because Tardi is great. He really is a master of the medium, and as an art lover, this book will be in my collection for a long time. I can't do justice to the exquisite use of blacks, and amazing composition. The art is amazing.

The problem is that I really didn’t like the story. It’s pure pulp crime fiction. I’m not sure when the original story was written but it easily could have come from the 30’s or 40’s. This doesn’t mean the story isn’t good. Heck, I love ERB’s John Carter of Mars tales stuff and that’s just plain silly.

The problem is that I don’t like the main character and the decisions he makes. In this case, running away from your life to protect loved ones is one thing, but not contacting your wife or children for months is just wrong. The lead can only be called “A man’s man” and while that was great in the 1950’s, by today’s standards it makes him a complete a-hole. The plot is pure pulp that quickly moves from one scene to the next while our hero 'takes charge' of his life. If you like the hardboiled action hero, then this is great. Otherwise, it's an art book.

WinterWorld HC written by Chuck Dixon, art by Jorge Zaffino, published by IDW.
WinterWorld is set at some point in the future when the entire earth is covered in snow and ice. People live in small outposts and our hero is a trader who travels between them. After he saves a young girl from some thugs when a trade goes bad, the story becomes the basic post apocalyptic search and save cliché.

WinterWorld was originally a three or four issue mini-series published by Eclipse back in the 80’s. It’s considered something of a cult classic because of Jorge Zaffino’s art. And, the art really makes this book worth the investment. Zaffino is considered an artist’s artist and it’s easy to see why everyone loves him. He uses heavy blacks like Toth and JP Leon but it’s never overwhelming. His sense of structure and style is something to marvel at. I can’t express how pretty this book is.

The problem is the story doesn’t hold up after twenty plus years. Post apocalyptic movies and stories have replaced zombies as the latest hot plot so there’s lots to compare this too. Unfortunately, Dixon doesn’t develop the characters and we’re left with an action book in which you can’t help but question the characters motivations.

If you’re an art person, this is almost a must have because there is so little of Zaffino's art out there. But, if you want a superior story to go with it, wait for a sale.

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