Monday, November 28, 2016

City of Clowns

Written by Daniel Alarcón
Art by Sheila Alvarado

I picked up the graphic novel adaptation of Daniel Alarcón's short story, City of Clowns.

It is the story of a young man in Lima, Peru, named Oscar, but called Chino.  His father has recently died, which has made it impossible for Chino to hide from the fact that his father had another family.

Chino's mother has become close with her husband's mistress, and has even gone to live there, while Chino feels himself somewhat lost, and prone to wandering the streets of Lima.  He is supposed to be on an assignment, reporting on the ubiquitous clowns that fill the streets, but is largely unable to concentrate.  He ends up posing as a clown himself for a while, while also sharing with the reader his memories of his father and his childhood.

Chino, whose family had come to Lima from a poor mining town, had been given the opportunity to receive a quality education thanks to the kindness of his mother's employer, yet he never quite felt a part of his peer group.  Having to help his father renovate and maintain his peers' homes did not make it any easier (although his inevitable involvement in the robbery of their homes did help salve his wounded ego).

This is a hard story to describe without the benefit of Sheila Alvarado's expressive art.  She lays things out beautifully, and uses the images to enhance the story in a way that is uncommon in literary adaptations.

I'm a big fan of South American writers like Roberto Bolaño, and see some clear parallels between some of his writing, this graphic novel, and the brilliant Daytripper, one of my top five favourite comics, by Gabriel Bá and Fábio Moon.  Perhaps it's just because Chino ends up writing his father's obituary, but I thought of that book numerous times while reading this.

I highly recommend this comic.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Think Tank Vol. 1

Written by Matt Hawkins
Art by Rahsan Ekedal

I tend to stay away from Top Cow comics because of some bad experiences in the past, but had heard some good things about Think Tank and thought I should check it out.  This first volume of the series is pretty delightful.

David Loren is a scientist working for the US military.  He was recruited as a child prodigy, alongside his closest friend, and has basically spent his adolescence and early adulthood in a hidden lab, where he has worked to develop some serious next generation weapons.  As he's gotten older, David has begun to feel the guilt of his complicity in mass death, and as such, has begun to rebel a little against the system.

After sneaking out to party, he meets a woman, and then decides that it's time to retire from this job forever.  The problem is that the military doesn't let people with his type of knowledge leave, nor are they too happy to learn that he shared some secrets with this young woman.  David has to use all of his skills to escape, and that leads to a pretty exciting sequence of events.

The tagline on the cover of this book says that reading it will "make you smarter", and while I don't know about that, I can say that Matt Hawkins displays a great deal of intelligence and thoughtful planning in writing this.  David is both a likeable and scorn-worthy character, and it's a little hard to decide to what degree the reader should be on his side.  Rahsan Ekedal is a very skilled artist.  I loved his Echoes with Joshua Hale Fialkov, and am pleased to enjoy this stuff here.

I do have the second volume of this book in my to-read pile, and am looking forward to it, but at the same time, I feel like this volume closes things off perfectly, and that Hawkins could have easily finished the story here and it would all be fine.