Not-so-quick comic comments

Rick Geary’s latest entry in the Treasury of Victorian Murder series (NBM Comics Lit), The Murder of Abraham Lincoln, might be the best I’ve read so far. In spite of the familiarity of this particular chapter of history, it’s still very engrossing reading. By translating these events into a graphic novel using his specific gifts as a storyteller, Geary demonstrates that any material can seem fresh in a new medium.

“Part III: Good Friday” is a particularly strong illustration of this. Geary ticks off the events of the day, alternating between domesticity with the Lincolns and conspiracy with John Wilkes Booth. Against all likelihood, the sequence ends up being wonderfully suspenseful, quickly cutting between concurrent events. The combination of inventiveness and detail in these books always impresses me, and this is no exception, but The Murder of Abraham Lincoln achieves an even higher level of pathos than usual.

To find out more about the Treasury series, you can visit NBM’s site, check out Johanna Draper Carlson’s overview at Comics Worth Reading, or look at a couple of my old reviews.

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Part of the fun of the Seven Soldiers books (DC) has been seeing my expectations overturned. It seems like there’s an inverse relationship between my familiarity with DC’s version of a character and reading enjoyment. That isn’t to say that I didn’t like the Zatanna series, but my clear favorite so far has been the relatively obscure Klarion the Witch Boy and now, based on a very entertaining first issue, Frankenstein.

Putting aside whatever it might owe to a certain episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, I love the juxtapositions between teen revenge fantasy and noble monster action. I think this is the best art I’ve ever seen from Doug Mahnke, and the coloring by John Kalisz is just superb.

I’m glad I stuck with the floppies on the Seven Soldiers books. I’ve enjoyed them all to varying degrees, even if Zatanna’s occasional lapses into lectures on magical narrative theory made my eyes droop. And the suspicion that the left hand isn’t precisely sure what the right is doing and vice versa gave The Bulleteer an interesting kick.

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Top Shelf sent me a preview copy of Coffee and Donuts by Max Estes. It’s a mostly sweet, often odd, and rather slight all-ages tale of homeless cats who briefly and disastrously contemplate a life of crime to get them out of the dumpster.

Bespectacled Dwight and silent Jules are friends who have stuck together through thick and thin, and it doesn’t get much thinner than setting up housekeeping in a trash bin. A mysterious benefactor brings them coffee and donuts each morning, which is pretty much the only bright spot in their tentative existence. They see the opportunity to change that in the form of a carelessly guarded armored truck.

Dwight isn’t really criminally inclined, and they botch the hold-up badly. In the process, they run afoul of eye-patched Myles and silent, hulking Moose, actual criminals who had their own plans for the truck. Myles tries to strong-arm Dwight and Jules into helping with another crime, feeling they owe him for lost income. Chases, scraps, and twists ensue, creating an odd fusion I can only call kiddie noir.

Estes’s cartoons are appealingly off-kilter, and there are some funny bits. But after a couple of readings, my reaction is “That’s all?” Estes limits his panel count to one or two per page, with ample white space. While the layout draws focus to the illustrations, it also tends to highlight the slightness of the story. Themes of friendship and loyalty and plot elements like crime and homelessness end up seeming kind of perfunctory.

Despite its length (128 pages) and some strong elements, Coffee and Donuts ends up seeming like a very good mini-comic rather than a $10 graphic novel.

2 Responses to Not-so-quick comic comments

  1. […] The thing about Rick Geary’s Treasury of Victorian Murder series (NBM) is that I’ll mention every book in the series every time it shows up on a shipping list, because Geary is just that good. This week’s re-release is the paperback version of The Murder of Abraham Lincoln, which I reviewed here. […]

  2. […] Rick Geary’s Treasury of Victorian Murder series (and why try), but I think I’ll stick with The Murder of Abraham Lincoln: “Geary ticks off the events of the day, alternating between domesticity with the Lincolns and […]

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