by Teddy Kristiansen with Steven T. Seagle
They are not household names the way that other comics collaborator duos are, but Steven T. Seagle and Teddy Kristiansen are among the frequent partners in comics that I would say are particular favourites of mine. Their House of Secrets was a Vertigo classic, and It's a Bird is one of the most original graphic novels DC has ever published. I was excited to learn that they were collaborating again on a new book, although that's not really what happened.
The Red Diary was written and painted by Kristiansen and released in France. It is published here for the first time in English. On the flip-side of the book is Seagle's attempt at transliteration. He used a rather silly approach to translating that he created in college, where he took the epigraph at the front of the book, and turned each word in the Dutch translation into an English word that it resembled it, and from there, came up with a completely different story, using the exact same pages and panels, even attempting to match the length of the text boxes.
In Kristiansen's story, an aging biographer finds himself drawn into the story of a painter whose work has never made a mark on the world. He can't understand why such a talented artist, who he knows, through reading his journals, received many commissions, has left no trace on the records of the art world. His investigations turn up a very interesting story, echoing his own sense of loss after the death of his wife.
Seagle's story seems more straight-forward, about a painter who gets into a spot of trouble for a dalliance with his patron's wife, and who ultimately loses the ability to paint. That's how things seem, but there is a greater secret at play in this man's life, and I honestly didn't see it coming.
The First World War looms large in both stories, having a profound effect on these painters, and on their world. I'm a sucker for a good WWI story, so I found that I loved both takes on this story. Kristiansen is a gifted artist, and the oversized format of this book really shows off his talents. Highly recommended. I'm not even sure which story I liked better...