Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Quick GN Reviews

Big Clay Pot
by Scott Mills
Ca. 200 BCE, Sun Kim, a clumsy pre-teen Korean girl, is banished from her village and makes her way to japan, where she is taken in by Kokoro, an aging widower. Kokoro teaches Sun how to care for herself, while Sun brings life and vitality back into Kokoro's life. Yeah, it sounds like it could be boring; but Mills's tale, told through a series of vignettes, is sweet and sometimes funny. His sketchy and oftimes minimal illustration is perfectly suited for the stories he is telling.
Rating: 3.5 (of 5)

The White Lama, book 1: Reincarnation
by Alexandro Jodorowsky & Georges Bess
After the Grand Lama Mipam dies, he is reincarnated in the form of Gabriel, an orphaned child of white explorers in Tibet. As Gabriel grows he is secretly trained by a monk, and after his adoptive father dies he journeys to join the monastary of the previous Grand Lama. But in the intervening years the monks have become corrupt, and as the first volume ends Gabriel learns of his true destiny. There is plenty of action to go around--particularly in Gabriel's adoptive father's life-long quest to destroy a Yeti--combined with philosophy and political intrigue. It's told in a modern style (no captions, no thought balloons) but never feels decompressed; in fact, Jodorowsky and Bess manage to put a lot of story into this first volume of 140 pages. Bess's art is attractive and tells the story well, although the coloring is a bit garish in places.
Rating: 3 (of 5)

Scott Pilgrim's Precious Little Life
by Bryan Lee O'Malley
I'm mad. Why? I was really enjoying this until the last 30 pages or so, when the story went completely off the rocker. For the majority of the book it's a nice little slice of life story, as the titular Scott Pilgrim's life of slacker bliss is interrupted by dreams of a delivery girl whose life crosses his. Then, as the story reaches its climax, we're suddenly in a bad manga story where the characters exhibit heretofore unseen martial arts abilities and magical powers. It's... it's... dammit. It's like watching a romantic comedy, and in the last fifteen minutes it turns into an action flick with a car chase and explosions. I mean, what the %&^! was O'Malley thinking? I'm mad. Mad that such an enjoyable story was ruined in the end by the author. If you ignore the last 30 pages, this is a wonderful story. But they're there, and you can't ignore them.
Rating: 2.5 (of 5)


Anonymous said...

See, I'm far into the loving Scott Pilgrim camp and I think that the jarring fight scene is actually one of the most interesting things going on, because when you then go back and reread the book, you can't be fooled again, if that makes any sense. Basically what happens is that little by little the story is diverging from our reality and yet it's not totally obvious (I originally took Ramona's highway through Scott's dreams as a more metaphorical than literal path) until all of a sudden there's this explosion of weirdness. For me, that's what makes it meaningful slice-of-life, that things don't just go as anticipated, although I tend to think of all the crazy magical realism stuff (and that's a term I'd use since it doesn't seem shocking to any of the characters that they live in the sort of world where these things are possible) as being something that can apply indirectly to real life.

But then that's always been my argument for reading about superheroes, too, that sometimes I'd rather read about the angst of a guy who has to save lives and atone for his uncle's death than the angst of just some guy. I think the over-the-topness can lend a sort of open universality for readers, but I've found many times that others don't agree.

I would be interested to hear what you think of Scott Pilgrim if you read it again, but I can understand how fighting demons might not have been what you were looking for when you picked it up. It certainly wasn't what I expected, but I enjoy it nonetheless.

Rose from Peiratikos

Dave Carter said...

Christopher Butcher of Comics 212 & Previews Review takes me to task for my Scott Pilgrim review, as does Pata at Irresponsible Pictures, and I'm sure there will be several more.

Okay, see, I knew since Scott Pilgrim had been so beloved amongst others I was going to take some crap for my review. But I stand by it. Yeah, there was some weirdness going on earlier in the book, but nothing that would suggest a severe tonal shift was coming, that we would suddenly end up in Real Bout High School land. Strange dream? I have those all the time. Talking about warp tunnels? Big deal. 8-year-old hyperactive drummers? Odd but not unprecedented. And the knocking the audience unconscious bit happened right before the Super Action Manga Fight Scene, and was quite frankly where I started to worry that it was going off track, though I chalked it up to a sight gag. Maybe the clues were there, as Christopher says, but either I was too dense to get them the first time out (quite possible...) or they do'nt add up to the big reveal at the end.

It's not that I don't like super power fight scenes--after all, Christopher himself says of this blog that I have a "strange preoccupation with superhero books." I even like magical realism in my slice-of-life comics; I think that Stragehaven is one of the best comics currently being published (if only it came out more often!), as is Black Hole (ditto).

But Super Action Manga Fight Scene at the end of a comic about a guy in a band with relationship issues? Really, really doesn't work for me. Sorry.

I completely get that some people would enjoy the comic and the ending. I didn't. But that's cool--people can disagree. I can also live with being the Most Hated Person in the Comics Blogosphere for a few days. I still like you all :)

And please, keep commenting on why you liked Scott Pilgrim (or maybe there's somebody else out there who didn't...) I'm always interested in how other people may have perceived a comic differently.

Anonymous said...

I really didn't mean to take you to task, Dave. I know you didn't put me on the list, but still..... There are plenty of much-beloved books I strongly dislike, and I'm not ashamed of that. And there would be something suspicious about Scott Pilgrim if everyone loved it more than life, because we'd have to worry it was all leading up to some sort of suicide cult for the readers, right?

Having read it several times, though, I do think that reading it in different moods can lead to vastly different responses, which I realize is probably a goofy statment since it's true of everything. But anyway, I think that once the element of surprise is gone the transition might not be as jarring or annoying. Or it might be. I normally roll my eyes at goofiness like epic magical musical battles (or I'd like to think I do) and I can't put my finger on why I had no problem with it here, but I think I just trusted Scott and trusted O'Malley enough to roll with it and be a part of the craziness. It's actually refreshing to see a less positive response, because it's helping me formulate my thougths about what works for me a little better.

Rose from Peiratikos

Pata said...

I agree with Rose that it's good to see a less positive response. Because of that, we're actually having a nice little discussion about the mechanics of O'Malley's book, rather than just blindly worshipping it! And by looking into why I like the fight scene or whatever, it gives me greater understanding of the work rather than just saying OMG THIS IS GREAT YO.

James said...

Me, I found that section to be jarring too, but it didn't bother me. I guess because the whole book was calling attention to itself from the beginning (Scott Pilgrim, Rating: Awesome). And so this was just another moment of "Look! I'm a comic!"

In fact, the only part that didn't work for me was when his dreams actually turned out to have a sci-fi explanation. And I think that was just because it wasn't as funny as everything else.