Tuesday, October 04, 2011

What I read this week... Oct 03

This week I was worried that I wouldn't have very much quality reading time due to conflicts between work, dance practice (Girl and Tiny), soccer practice (Boy and Tiny), and other misc commitments.  But, Wife decided that she wanted to see all the soccer games this weekend so while she stood in 50 degree weather with a lovely wind chill, I went to dance practice, sat in the heated lounge reading for 2 hours.  It was excellent! 

Overall it turned out to be a mixed bag of books: 1 great, 1 very good, and 1 eh-ok.

Details below the break...

I started the week with King of Flies Vol 1: Hallorave and Vol 2: The Origin of the World written by Pascal (Mezzo) Mesenburg, illustrated by Michel Pirus, published by Fantagraphics.

King of Flies is a series of interconnected 3-4 page stories about life in suburbia.  It predominantly centers around Eric, who in between ingesting copious amounts of drugs, likes to sleep with just about every girl he meets, and sometimes their mothers too.  Everyone in the cast is damaged in some wonderful way and between drugs and sex they like to say mean things to each other.  Once people start dying and the living start hallucinating about them the story enters a whole new level of strange.

King of Flies is not for the meek. Mezzo has written a story that is about the seedy underside of suburbia. There are lots of drugs, lots of sex, and lots of people who have lost their way both morally and mentally. In Eric, Mezzo has created one of the most unlikeable, yet incredibly interesting characters I have read in a long time. Words like narcissistic and shallow are some of the nicer ones that I would use to describe him. But, for all his faults, Eric is fascinating because he is so amoral and apathetic to those around him you can’t help but read more. Eric is needlessly cruel yet while reaping the seeds he has sown, wonders how he got there.

With each sequence of the story so short, it takes a few pages for Mezzo to get the story going. Mezzo keeps weaving the various incidents in each characters lives in and out of each other in incredibly incestuous ways. By doing so, one characters cruel act becomes magnified many times over. Each chapter is also a first person narration. This really allows you to get into the head of each person and see how miserable each of them while searching for some peace.  Mezzo does an interesting thing with the setting that is worth mentioning too.  The buildings and physical places the people visit are very American in their settings, but the references such as money, and local places are all very European.  This makes the book feel more worldly than one would normally expect.  I can't say "oh, that's just the German loser teenagers that could never happen here," because all the visuals imply that it could.

Pirus’s art is very similar to that of Charles "Black Hole” Burns. It’s very tight with dense backgrounds and works perfectly.

King of Flies Vol 1: Hallorave was the stronger of the two and I sucked me in immediately.  Vol 2: The Origin of the World was equally as strong but some of the ghost sequences were a little loopy.  There is supposed to a third volume that will tie up some loose ends.  I'm eagerly waiting for it but the break from this dark tale is welcome too.

The third book was the B.P.R.D: Plague of Frogs Collection Vol 1, written by Mike Mignola, Christopher Golden, Geoff Johns, Tom Sniegoski, and illustrated by Ryan Sook, Cameron Stewart, Scott Kolins, Guy Davis, and others, published by Dark Horse. 

This collects all the B.P.R.D one shots, plus the first five issues of the 'regular' series, Plague of Frogs (POF).  As you can expect, it's a bunch of unrelated one shots in which the B.P.R.D goes on a mission, discovers some random monster, and dispatches it with relative ease.  It's a lot of pages and a lot of story but there really isn't any substance to them.  This doesn't mean the stories are bad because they aren't.  But they were never outstanding either.  And after the 4th one I was pretty much done with it all.  To be fair, in the intro Scott Allie the editor admits the team was just playing and didn't have a direction until POF started and it shows.

But, the five issues related to POF were just stellar.  Mignola had sole writing duties and Guy Davis was on the art chores.  This was a wicked little gem of issues and you can see why B.P.R.D took off after this.

So, I look forward to the next collection but I can't really recommend spending the $35 for this one.  Go buy the B.P.R.D. Vol 3 tpb at your local store and skip the rest.

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