Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Displaced Persons

Written by Derek McCulloch
Art by Anthony Peruzzo

There are just so many good graphic novels out there that it's almost impossible for them to make enough of a splash.  I don't remember ever seeing this 2014 album-sized book being solicited by Image, but did see it on a sale table a while back and figured, because of writer Derek McCulloch's Gone to Amerikay OGN, I'd give this a chance.  It's really pretty good, so I'm glad I did.

Displaced Persons is a multi-generational family drama set in San Francisco.  It tells the story of the Price/Abramowicz family, focusing on three eras, with a few forays into other times and places.

The first third of the book is more or less a straight-forward private eye story, as Garland Price is hired to look for a missing heiress, and discovers some weird goings on in the 1930s.  After that, we move into the late 1960s, as Garland's two grandsons, one a cop and the other a little shady, find themselves in conflict with one another.  Later still, in the 1990s, we check in on one of Garland's great grandchildren as she deals with an abusive relationship.

There are some constants to this story - the family has remained in the same house throughout the century, and there is a recurring theme of people disappearing.  Much of this book is about examining the way the people left behind cope with those losses.

McCulloch very lightly uses a magical realist touch in this story that helps link the various strands together, and provide it with its odder moments.  The plot fits together nicely by the end, explaining the slightly confusing opening, and the characters stand out as being distinct.

The art, by Anthony Peruzzo, is fine, but not terribly memorable.  I like the way the book is coloured monochromatically, with each era being given a different tint.  Beyond that, Peruzzo's work is a little unfinished looking, but still manages to tell the story well.

This book worked very well overall, and I'm saddened that I didn't hear more about it when it was first published.

Monday, July 23, 2018

Sally Heathcote Suffragette

Written by Mary M. Talbot
Art by Kate Charlesworth and Bryan Talbot 

I'll be the first to admit that I knew almost nothing about the struggle to gain women the vote in Great Britain.  I'm a little more familiar with the Canadian struggle, which to my knowledge, was neither so protracted, nor so bloody.

In Sally Heathcote, Suffragette, Mary M. Talbot uses a fictional character to explain and explore the various and fractious groups that fought for decades to get the vote, and the beginnings of some respect as equals, for women.  We meet the upper class women who threw themselves into the movement, as well as some of the lower class women, like Sally, who joined them and sacrificed much to gain enfranchisement.

Beyond demonstrating and publishing newsletters, the women used violence to further their cause.  I was surprised to see campaigns of window smashing and even the firebombing of the Prime Minister's unoccupied home.  As well, I was surprised to learn about how these women entered into a revolving system of imprisonment, hunger strikes, torturous force feedings, and eventual release, only to start all over again at the next possible demonstration.

Talbot's Sally has a strong narrative voice, and reports as much on the internecine rifts within the movement as on the advancement towards their goals.  Of course, it is the coming of war that led to increased opportunities for women, as men were either away or killed in such numbers that women needed to take on many of their social roles.

The art team of Kate Charlesworth and Bryan Talbot works great.  The washes of colour on high quality paper make this book really stand out, and the artists (I'm not that clear on who did what) imbue each character with a great deal of personality.  No one radiates displeasure like Mrs. Pankhurst.

This was a great book shining a light on a topic rarely seen in comics.

Friday, July 13, 2018

The Private Eye

Written by Brian K. Vaughan
Art by Marcos Martin

When Brian Vaughan and Marcos Martin started serializing The Private Eye on their website, panelsyndicate.com, I started to read it there, and loved it, but my deep aversion to reading books online left me downloading chapters but never actually getting around to reading them.  Luckily, the series was eventually printed as this lovely landscaped hardcover, and I finally got the time to sit and pore over Martin's art the way I prefer to - on paper.

The Private Eye is a pretty cool science fiction detective story.  At some point in the future, the cloud will burst, and everyone's secrets, photos, and search histories will come pouring out, ruining a whole lot of lives.  A while after that, all of American society will become obsessed with privacy, to the point where people adopt 'nyms' and walk around wearing masks all the time.  There will no longer be an Internet, and most interestingly, policing and journalism will meld, with the 4th Estate investigating and prosecuting crime as well as reporting it.

The series is centred around P.I., a paparazzo (independent private investigator) who, when a former client is killed, ends up getting swept up in a conspiracy involving teevee.

The mechanics of the plot are fine, but not that important in a lot of ways.  Vaughan's idea of the future is bizarre but always believable, and his characterizations are spot on, as always.  P.I. is an interesting character, with great t-shirts, and his Internet loving, tattoo sleeved grandfather is a wonderful addition.

Martin is the big hero here though, as he gets to design some incredible looks for people, and is given plenty of opportunity to do some wide-screen action sequences.

This is a very good series, and if you aren't looking for the book, I strongly suggest you hunt down the comics online.

Friday, July 6, 2018

The Pervert

Written by Michelle Perez
Art by Remy Boydell

I was a big fan of Island, the comics anthology edited by Brandon Graham and Emma Rios that Image put out a few years ago.  Each issue was guaranteed to have something interesting in it, but one strip that really stood out to me was one about a transgendered sex worker by Michelle Perez and Remy Boydell.

I was pretty happy to see that strips were being collected and added to the rest of this character's story, as The Pervert.
To that end, this book does a lot to normalize, in a wider publics' minds, trans people and sex work.  The main character has friends, sexual partners, and clients, and sometimes those people can be all three things.  She also has to deal with awkwardness at her work when she decides to come out and begin living as a female, and with a level of harassment on the street that is hard to understand.

The story jumps around some, and that works as a way to slowly build up the character and help us better understand her situation.  Boydell's work is simple and straightforward, but often more affecting because of that.  This is a good book.