Saturday, March 31, 2007

Weekly Comic Reviews for March 28th, 2007

Only one regular book to review this week and it's Elephantmen #8 but I also get to review Maus volumes 1 and 2. But since I'm pressed for time, here goes...

Elephantmen #8 -- Another strong issue from this great series. The current story with Hip, Ebony, and Trench coming under fire provides a starting point to flashbacks to reveal more about Trench. What he was like at MAPPO, how he got the name Trench, what's up with the eyepatch, etc. And the issue goes along way in establishing yet another dynamic and multi-dimensional character (even if he does say that things are only black and white to him, a zebra seeing only black and white... okay, it doesn't come across as cheesy as it sounds). He's definitely not the character I was expecting him to be and it should be interesting to see where he ends up. The great art, the narrative, the storytelling, it all works to flush out the characters (mainly Trench in this case). My only complaint is that maybe the actual story isn't getting the attention it deserves but I don't mind waiting a bit longer for the story to be flushed out. And as for the short story that accompanied it, Hip's personal assistant (Wagner the iFrog, a gift from Miki the cabbie) has to battle a rival personal assistant (Didier, I'm guessing he's an iMonkey). It was a fun, cute little story with artwork to match the fun nature of it. Yet in its simplicity you find yourself cheering for little Wagner. All in all, another great issue to an already stellar series.

Maus volumes 1 and 2 -- Winner of the Pulitzer Prize Special Award, these two volumes written and drawn by Art Spiegelman (who I will refer to as "Art" as though I know him or something)tell the story of his father Vladek and his years just before, during and shortly after the Holocaust and how he survived. The details of the story are interwoven with pages depicting Art interviewing his father and events that occur during the interview process. In the second volume Art goes even further to show events that occured after the release of the first volume and its critical success and at one point, Art includes a short comic story he wrote and drew following the suicide of his mother and his feelings at that time. Okay, hopefully I didn't confuse too many of you with that description. And I guess I should mention that Art decided to depict the various nationalities and races in the book as different animals. The Jewish are mice, the Germans are cats, Americans are dogs, etc. I guess in interviews one of the reasons for this metaphor is to show how stupid it is to try and divide up people in such a way. I thought at first that it would make it harder to read as there's not much to distinguish one mouse from another but since I think this is one of the things Art is going for it is handled well by having the characters identify each other and it isn't a distraction. And in some cases (such as when Vladek has spent quite a bit of time in the concentration camps) it makes sense as even he says with their heads shaved and weightloss they did become somewhat indistinguishable. But I let's move on. The story (all narratives) is simply amazing. Vladek's survival is truly remarkable and as the characters note themselves, it's probably impossible to pinpoint just one factor that kept him alive. But his resourcefulness and ability to barter got him through a lot. It's a hard story to review, the presentation of it is stellar but the story must be read to be truly appreciated and I couldn't do it justice here. Seeing Art interviewing his father and the openness and honesty he shows in telling of his father's flaws in the current day (while maybe trying to get an understanding of why he has them) makes the second narrative just as engaging as the first. At times, it's almost hard to see the two Vladeks. You have the one during the Holocaust who you feel so much sympathy for and then there's the older Vladek who is someone who is extremely challenging to be around. Even Art's discussion about whether he should include some of the details about his father at the risk of falling into the stereotypes about Jewish people (such as his father's persistence to not spend one cent unless he absolutely had to, going so far as to leave an oven burner on at all times to avoid using up more matches) brings the reader further into their lives and makes the story so much more engrossing as you see these characters as real people, despite their animal appearance. I really can't say enough about this book, it's truly an amazing piece of literature and a book I recommend that everyone read.

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