A moving but also very funny meditation on time, age and grace.

DISPLACEMENT

A 20-something cartoonist with a unique sense of humor sets off on a cruise to the Caribbean with her nonagenarian grandparents.

In this follow-up to her graphic memoir An Age of License (2014), the talented Knisley offers a pointed juxtaposition to her earlier travelogue set in Europe. When her grandparents Phyllis and Allen decided to take a cruise ship to the Caribbean, the author (recovering from a recent breakup) accompanied them on the 10-day journey. And she worried—a lot. Among Knisley’s concerns were her grandparents’ progressive dementia, their physical limitations, the potential for norovirus (“puking/pooping virus”), her own insomnia and anxiety, and the virulent rudeness of the thousands of other passengers. “This is not at all like my last trip,” writes the author. “I traveled around Europe on my own, drinking wine, learning languages, and having a passionate love affair. That trip was about independence, sex, youth, and adventure. This trip is about patience, care, mortality, respect, sympathy and love.” In between her amusing drawings depicting life on the ship and the strange comedy that came with taking care of her elders, Knisley offers excerpts from her grandfather’s World War II memoir. This inclusion lends the book an interesting contrast between her grandparents’ worldview when they were her age and Knisley’s frenetic, impatient, all-too-busy inner self. It’s also worth noting that the narrative storytelling is delightful, combining easy-to-follow layouts with the artist’s unique visual style, vivid watercolors and quirky sense of humor. The result is an impressive high-wire act that balances observational humor and a highly tuned sense of self with a moving portrait of the ways compassion can affect even the most self-aware among us. Knisley says these books lock into place a certain time in her memory. Readers are fortunate she brought her notebooks with her on these unusual journeys.

A moving but also very funny meditation on time, age and grace.

Pub Date: Feb. 8, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-60699-810-6

Page Count: 168

Publisher: Fantagraphics Books

Review Posted Online: Nov. 18, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2014

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Chwast and Twain are a match made in heaven.

A CONNECTICUT YANKEE IN KING ARTHUR'S COURT

Design veteran Chwast delivers another streamlined, graphic adaptation of classic literature, this time Mark Twain’s caustic, inventive satire of feudal England.

Chwast (Tall City, Wide Country, 2013, etc.) has made hay anachronistically adapting classic texts, whether adding motorcycles to The Canterbury Tales (2011) or rocket ships to The Odyssey (2012), so Twain’s tale of a modern-day (well, 19th-century) engineer dominating medieval times via technology—besting Merlin with blasting powder—is a fastball down the center. (The source material already had knights riding bicycles!) In Chwast’s rendering, bespectacled hero Hank Morgan looks irresistible, plated in armor everywhere except from his bow tie to the top of his bowler hat, sword cocked behind head and pipe clenched in square jaw. Inexplicably sent to sixth-century England by a crowbar to the head, Morgan quickly ascends nothing less than the court of Camelot, initially by drawing on an uncanny knowledge of historical eclipses to present himself as a powerful magician. Knowing the exact date of a celestial event from more than a millennium ago is a stretch, but the charm of Chwast’s minimalistic adaption is that there are soon much better things to dwell on, such as the going views on the church, politics and society, expressed as a chart of literal back-stabbing and including a note that while the upper class may murder without consequence, it’s kill and be killed for commoners and slaves. Morgan uses his new station as “The Boss” to better the primitive populous via telegraph lines, newspapers and steamboats, but it’s the deplorably savage civility of the status quo that he can’t overcome, even with land mines, Gatling guns and an electric fence. The subject of class manipulation—and the power of passion over reason—is achingly relevant, and Chwast’s simple, expressive illustrations resonate with a childlike earnestness, while his brief, pointed annotations add a sly acerbity. His playful mixing of perspectives within single panels gives the work an aesthetic somewhere between medieval tapestry and Colorforms.

Chwast and Twain are a match made in heaven.

Pub Date: Feb. 18, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-60819-961-7

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: Nov. 3, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2013

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An original project worth watching as it shapes up to something that may be quite magnificent.

BERLIN

BOOK ONE

This black-and-white historical narrative, written and illustrated by Lutes, collects eight volumes of his ongoing comic book set in Berlin during the late ’20s. It’s a multilayered tale of love and politics at the beginning of the Nazi era, as Lutes follows the stories of three characters: a 20ish art student from the provinces, a textile worker, and a young Jewish radical. Their lives intersect in only the subtlest way—Lutes depicts them crossing paths at some great public events, such as the Mayday march that closes this part of his book. And Lutes plays with perspective in a visual sense as well, jumping from point-of-view frames to overhead angles, including one from a dirigible flying above in honor of the Kaiser. At street level, Lutes integrates his historical research smoothly, and cleverly evokes the sounds and smells of a city alive with public debate and private turmoil. The competing political factions include communists, socialists, democrats, nationalists, and fascists, and all of Lutes’s characters get swept up by events. Marthe, the beautiful art student, settles in with Kurt, the cynical and detached journalist; Gudrun, the factory worker, loses her job, and her nasty husband (to the Nazi party), then joins a communist cooperative with her young daughters; Schwartz, a teenager enamored with the memory of Rosa Luxembourg, balances his incipient politics with his religion at home and his passion for Houdini. The lesser figures seem fully realized as well, from the despotic art instructor to the reluctant street policeman. Cosmopolitan Berlin on the brink of disaster: Lutes captures the time and place with a historian’s precision and a cinematographer’s skill. His shifts from close-ups to fades work perfectly in his thin-line style, a crossbreed of dense-scene European comics and more simple comics styles on this side of the Atlantic.

An original project worth watching as it shapes up to something that may be quite magnificent.

Pub Date: June 1, 2001

ISBN: 1-896597-29-7

Page Count: 212

Publisher: Drawn & Quarterly

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2001

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