Here’s what I read in the first week (and a half!) of Comics February. I really meant to post this earlier but I couldn’t stop reading.
The Art of Charlie Chan Hock Chye – Sonny Liew
I may not know much about comics but I do know this, when I see Sonny Liew’s name, I know it’s going to be a great read.
Liew has chosen a Singapore comics pioneer as his subject and there are surprisingly political comics. And this book on his life and art has also found controversy after Singapore’s National Arts Council abruptly pulled its grant over what it deemed “sensitive content”. And just one day before the launch too. (That’s Singapore for you.) But in spite of that – or because of that – the first printing sold out almost immediately and it led to additional printings in Singapore. The book will be published internationally by Pantheon Books this year.
This is one amazing book. As a Singaporean, it made me rethink what I was taught in school about Singapore’s history, and how we had this watered down, one-sided view of things. I hope more young Singaporeans read this book. I even had the thought, what if this were taught in schools? Of course that wouldn’t happen, because it’s Singapore.
As a (sometimes) comics reader, I loved the different layers, Chan’s comics, Liew’s occasional commentary and appearance in the book, interspersed with Chan’s struggles in his career and his life (real or made up – it doesn’t really matter). I loved the idea of an alternative universe in which Barisan Sosialis won the political battle (in reality, the People’s Action Party took the vote and the Barison Sosialis leaders were accused of being communists and detained without trial). The mock posters of Singapore’s many campaigns were a hoot.
Perhaps you might be wondering whether a person who hasn’t the faintest clue about Singapore’s past can read this book, and yes, no worries. I think Liew explains things and issues pretty well, and I’m guessing that the Pantheon version may have a bit more explanation for international readers. But isn’t that what reading is about – to explore, to learn, to dive into the unknown. And in Sonny Liew’s capable hands, you’ll do fine.
(This one also counts toward #readmyowndamnbooks and the Diversity on the Shelf challenges)
A Wrinkle in Time graphic novel – adapted by and illustrated by Hope Larson
I am never quite sure why adaptations of books, especially classics like this one, are made. To attract a new audience? To have those who once loved the book as a child buy another copy?
Well, I never read this as a child, but I really did love it when I finally read it as an adult, a few years ago. And as with movie versions, I was hesitant to read this graphic novel version. In the end, I was just glad I did. Hope Larson has done a really fabulous job with this adaptation. It felt just right – not too modern and weird, not too truncated or too long.
In an interview with Publishers Weekly, Larson said:
My concern was never making more work for myself, but doing the story justice. It is like a house of cards–so delicate, most of it resting on L’Engle’s dialogue. I didn’t want to end up with an adaptation that felt truncated, or relied heavily on caption boxes to get you from point A to point B in the most economical way. There’s no way to tesser through A Wrinkle in Time. If you take shortcuts in a book like this, you damage it.
An Age of License – Lucy Knisley
While I like Lucy Knisley’s very cute drawing style, sometimes her constant worrying and anxiety gets to me. Here she is about to embark on a vacation to Europe and she really gets so stressed out about it, that it is a bit painful to read. I kept thinking, it’s a holiday! You’re not moving there! So good thing she finally gets on the plane and those worries fly away and she instead lets us armchair travel with her as she ventures around Sweden, Norway, France. I think I was expecting more from a title like “An Age of License”, like there was something more… substantial. In the end it was a decent read, not very memorable.
Bad Houses -Carla Speed McNeil, Sara Ryan
I was surprised by this one. First of all, estate sales seemed like a rather niche business to be making a graphic novel out of. One of the main characters works with the family’s estate sale company. They manage estate sales, you know, when people die, they organize belongings and sell those the family doesn’t want. The other, the girl with the camera, Anne, just likes to visit estate sales, listening to stories and taking photos. Sometimes taking things as well. It’s not really a meet-cute but a meet-weird I guess. The guy and the girl meet at an estate sale, get together, figure out their relationship, figure out their own families and their own selves. It’s a coming-of-age story in a small (failing) town and with estate sales. It’s a bit eclectic, at times a bit depressing (one mom works in a nursing home), but in the end, a different, absorbing read.
Apocalyptigirl : an aria for the end firms – Andrew MacLean
I really wanted this to work. I mean, a main character who’s a tough female, the end of the world, a cat named Jelly Beans nSounds fun. But in the end it wasn’t anything to shout about. Nothing very memorable. She’s searching for something but to be honest I wasn’t entirely sure what it was.
Harbinger (Volumes 1 to 6) – Joshua Dysart
So the only reason I finally read this is because of the new Faith series out from Valiant. And Faith was originally from the Harbinger series by Joshua Dysart.
I had added Harbinger to my Scribd library a few months ago but whenever I glanced at that cover, with that angsty kid on it, I just never felt interested enough to try it out. Then I read about Faith somewhere and thought that maybe Harbinger was worth a try. And you know what, I read the whole series in two nights. Thankfully it was all available on Scribd. Confusingly, this is a reboot of the series which was first published in 1992. I haven’t decided whether I want to read the original one yet (also on Scribd).
The only problem is how to describe this series. They have superpowers. Faith can fly, Peter, well, he is just powerful all around. Others have superhuman strength, or can harness fire, a variety of things. They are pretty much misfits who have come together and are fighting against some sinister powers. It’s always a good versus evil thing, but I like how things are slightly different here. And that things aren’t always what they seem. I’m looking forward to reading Faith!
Ah comics, taking me to estate sales, traipsing across Europe, going back in time to Singapore’s tumultuous years, and changing the world, one plus-sized superhero at a time.
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