Thursday, May 6, 2010

Off the Shelf

Daniel Clowes returns, via D&Q, with 'Wilson,' a witty, terse, and entertaining story about the eponymous loner Wilson, his views on life, his relationships, and his shortcomings (though Wilson would never admit to any). Clowes delivers an acerbic satire that is both funny and depressing; he mixes styles of art - from realistic to cartoon and styles in between.

Both approaches - style and substance - work amazingly well. We have at once a caricature of Wilson, a curmudgeonly wisenheimer, and an in-depth portrait of his intellect, compassion, and desires. All the while, Wilson alienates everyone around him and yet he is still able to find love. The story is broken down into one-page, six panel vignettes, each ostensibly disconnected from the next though Clowes weaves a very intricate theme and ominous tone throughout the graphic novel. As the story plays out, Wilson continuously has the last word - and a very catty word at that.

'Wilson' reads like a fresh approach by Clowes, but classic nonetheless. He shows his diversity as an artist and a storyteller, and creates a character that is both reprehensible and endearing at the same time. 'Wilson' is one of Clowes more realistic works, which makes it resonate with more depth and emotion and makes it one of my favorite publications - both of his and so far this year.

One of my most anticipated releases quickly turned into a major disappointments in Marvel's 'Strange Tales.' A consortium of revered indie comic creators contributed eccentric pieces to an anthology series showcasing Marvel properties as you've never seen them before. A who's who roll call of writers and artists provided work that ranged from the good, the bad, and the lame.

Entries by a small handful of creators standout, notably Matt Kindt, Brian Maruca and Jim Rugg, Jason, Paul Hornschemeir, and Stan Sakai. Paul Pope, Jeffrey Brown, James Kochalka, and Dash Shaw turned in fun pieces. The rest of the book, however, is forgettable. A lot of promotion and book space was wasted on Peter Bagge. The layout and flow of the entire book was cumbersome. Most of the creators seemed to be taking jabs at both the characters and the people who read them: simple jokes for simple folks. The pieces that standout are either A) Cute stories told in a fun way or B) Dense, character driven plots that highlight the keystones of certain characters.

The book seems to be tailor-made for a very select audience: readers who straddle the threshold of both superhero and indie comics. Hardcore superhero nerds won't care for the critically favored indie creators meddling with their favorite characters, while the indie fanbase either won't touch a Marvel book (after having been brought up on the material to begin with) or won't dirty their hands on something so 'mainstream.' In both cases, the reader is right to skip this collection.

No comments: