Graphic Novel Friday: Catching Up With Archaia
The sheer number of books that come into my house for review or possible mention can sometimes be staggering. On an average day I'm looking at anywhere from seven to 20 packages in the mail. Sometimes authors and even entire imprints can fall behind a bookcase or be buried under new arrivals and thus be lost, temporarily or for good. I'm not complaining, but it can make me feel guilty, since only about 60 to 70 percent of it gets featured here or elsewhere, or on my personal blog.
One publisher I've meant to cover on Graphic Novel Friday for awhile but haven't, due to that aforementioned press of books, is Archaia. Archaia consistently publishes quality work, and they have three new titles this year that should hit a number of different reader sweet spots--from talking mice to zombies to mythology...
Awakening by Nick Tapalansky, Alex Eckman-Lawn, and Thomas Mauer - Billed as existential horror, this moody, sometimes disturbing graphic novel uses a dark but expressive color palate along with photo-realistic renderings of backgrounds to achieve a gritty, atmospheric tension. I can't say that the detective element or the zombie element are that unique, but in combination they create a powerful effect. The city of Park Falls has been haunted by a series of murders and disappearances. A retired police detective sets out to investigate, only to find the cause isn't your "normal" serial killer. Thomas Mauer, the letterer, gets equal billing with the writer and artist, and it's easy to see why: the lettering is superb, and contributes to the success of the brooding and eerie settings. Mauer's influence on the success of Awakening is particularly evident in the way he handles the "voice-over" text and other layering effects. If you like hardboiled and you don't mind zombies and situations that will make the ttle hairs on the back of your neck stand on end, Awakening's adult approach to crime and to the supernatural should be a good fit.
Mouse Guard: Winter 1152 by David Petersen - Some detractors say the Mouse Guard series is just standard medieval adventure with talking mice. I'm not sure I agree with them after experiencing this second volume. First of all, Petersen's artwork is just stunning. I really didn't much care about the words, although they were pretty good, too. The visual of a mouse in a cape sleeping atop a field of bones that prefaces chapter four is one of the most incredible full-page bleeds I've seen all year. The subsequent renderings of mice with icicles forming on their fur is palpably tactile and leaves a lasting impression. Times are tough in the winter of 1152, and the members of the Mouse Guard are not only starving, they have to deliver medicine to the sick. The quality of detail and inventiveness Petersen displays made my jaw drop from time to time. Your eye could linger on a single panel for literally a half-hour this is so good. Much as I enjoyed the first volume, this second one, just as a work of art alone, is a highlight of my year to date.
Some New Kind of Slaughter (or, Lost in the Flood and How We Found Home Again) by mpMann & A. David Lewis - The title's a mouthful, and it comes with a subtitle of "Diluvian Myths from Around the World" as well, but once you get past the hoopla, this is an interesting and thought-provoking, well, collection of diluvian myths from around the world. The dust jacket and introductory references to the Indian tsunami and Hurricane Katrina don't really add too much to the proceedings, in my opinion--the myths are so universal it's really tough to make a connection to the contemporary that doesn't seem overwrought or simplistic--but the spare yet lyrical artwork combined with the spare but lyrical words make for a strong reading experience. The source material ranges from Middle Eastern to African to Asian, and the diversity of their choices provides a corresponding diversity of tone.