In Graphic Reads I share my thoughts on the graphic novels I’ve read most recently.
Chew, Vol. 1: Taster’s Choice
by John Layman and Rob Guillory
First published in 2009
Tony Chu is a detective with a secret. A weird secret. Tony Chu is Cibopathic, which means he gets psychic impressions from whatever he eats. It also means he’s a hell of a detective, as long as he doesn’t mind nibbling on the corpse of a murder victim to figure out whodunit, and why.
I really liked Chew. The story was as wonderfully weird as only a story with cannibalism and bird flu conspiracy theories can be. The art style was stylized and lovely – it looked like the character designs could easily be used in an animated series. I also loved the coloring: it had stylish tones of blue, green and yellow that really helped give the book its own atmosphere.
Favorite Character: Agent Mason Savoy. I just love the way he speaks (“My friends, do I detect the slightest degree of consternation amid our humble vocational paradise?”). It seems like he can never use one short word if two longer ones will do the job. And his character design, described in the album as being “the lovechild of Orson Welles and a grizzly bear”, is full of personality and very recognizable.
Umbrella Academy, Vol. 1: Apocalypse Suite
by Gerard Way and Gabriel Bá
First published in 2008
In an inexplicable worldwide event, forty-seven extraordinary children were spontaneously born by women who’d previously shown no signs of pregnancy. Millionaire inventor Reginald Hargreeves adopted seven of the children; when asked why, his only explanation was: “To save the world.”
I’m not really sure how I feel about this book. The beginning sucked me in instantly: “It was the same year “Tusslin’ Tom” Gurney knocked out the space-squid from Rigel X-9… It happened at 9:38 p.m… It came from an atomic flying elbow.” Immediately it’s established that the setting is pretty much like our modern world, but not quite. There are, for instance, space-squids.
There are similar entertainingly quirky ideas throughout the book, but it all felt a bit rushed. Like there wasn’t enough time to dwell on most of the ideas for long enough to really take root in the reader’s mind. We learn too little about the characters and their world. I felt like I could really grow to like these characters if I was given something more to work with. So all in all, this left me with a very uncertain feeling. I think I’ll see how a second read-through feels.
Update after second read-through: The storytelling felt a lot less jarring and rushed this time. There was only one scene that still felt like it wasn’t told clearly enough. After this second read-through I can say with more certainty that I liked this comic.
Favorite character: Séance. I don’t even specifically know why. I like how he floats around, an off-kilter presence throwing comments from the back. He also often looks like he can’t be bothered.
Locke & Key, Vol. 2: Head Games
by Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez
First published in 2010
The three Locke children – survivors of a horrific home invasion that claimed their father – have just begun to rebuild their lives when little Bode discovers a key with an incredible power. Q: What if overcoming your fears, mastering any skill, learning any art was as simple as turning a key in a lock? A: It could cost you your life – especially if Dodge, the malevolent creature who is the Locke family’s sworn enemy, gets his hands on it.
The Locke children continue to study the keys they find in Keyhouse. In the first book, the remaining Locke family moved to the house where the children found weird keys that unlock the strangest of things. Joe Hill comes up with some pretty interesting keys. These ideas manage to also give us the best introduction ever from Warren Ellis. Short and “sweet”.
Now, about the art style. The art is in no way bad, it is in fact pretty skillful. It’s just not my cup of tea. I have an aversion to the way Rodriguez draws small features in the middle of large heads. The coloring style is more realistic than for example in Chew, which worked with stylish, simple tones. This means that there are too many colors for my taste, and the end result for me feels a bit chaotic. But, I have to say, I prefer to read black and white comics, so bear that in mind.
Favorite character: No one? Which could be why I find it hard to really get into this book. Even a book with really neat ideas can’t be a favorite of mine if I don’t like at least one character. I’ll still continue with the series, I think.
Have you read any graphic novels recently?