Good old books. Remember those?


018) Good-bye, Chunky Rice by Craig Thompson, finished February 26

I first read this book not long after first reading Blankets by the same author. Since I had loved Blankets so much, I checked Chunky Rice out of the library. And proceeded to be grossly disappointed. It felt like a brief bit of nothing in comparison to the Grandness of Blankets.

But then, while I was looking for images for my most recent review of Blankets, I found this article about Chunky Rice vs. Blankets. And since I had already ordered Thompson's Habibi from the library (see review below), I decided to pick this one up as well and give it another run.

I liked it better this time.

Perhaps something I didn't recognize the first time around is that this is a smaller story. It's not trying to be about everything in the way Blankets (and especially Habibi do.

(Related: I disagree with the article that Chunky Rice is so much more chock full of comics tricks. I don't think he can prove that.)

So. The turtle Chunky Rice (described in the afterword of the next book down as a "serious animal") whispers, "My home is on my back," and leaves his love for a new life. To what end? He does not know. He feels he may be making a terrible mistake. But he is compelled and he must leave.

This is simply to story of his goodbye.

And while it's supplemented with a couple other parallel tales, essentially, that's all it is: goodbye.

Which is where I got caught up last time. Chunky doesn't even get to the first stop in his journey before the book ends. Not exactly a story, this book. Just a snapshot of goodbye.

And it packs a healthy amount of pathos into that snapshot.

Goodbye, regrets, loss, hope.

Not bad for a little book about a turtle.

about half an hour


018) Madman 20th Anniversary Monster HC by [everybody], finished February 25

As you can see from this image of Mike Allred himself and a couple of kids, this book is physically enormous. And I'm happy to say many of the contributing artists made smart use of the space. Not everyone. Some of the pages are just old pinups and some of those weren't rescanned to get a high enough resolution for this new size, but ah well.

The book celebrates twenty years of Allred's seminal Madman. Basically, everyone from Chris Ware to Craig Thompson to Jeff Smith to a slew of Hernandez brothers wrote brief stories or drew pretty pictures for the book. Unlike last year's Super Ginchy Special, however, this volume's really worth your time. (Whether it's worth the money is another question. This book ain't cheap.) My personal favorite page is Eric Powell's which makes me guffaw fiercely every time I reglance at it. Clearly I need to check out his The Goon.

Which is the secondary reason for the book: to sell the contributor's comics to Madman fans. This is not unreasonable---and really, the book is an expression of love from these artists to Mike and Frank---but there is an advertorial element to the affair.

If you're a fan though, don't let that stop you. This book is a lot of fun. And even the parts that aren't "fun" range from nice on up.

fairly quickly though I took a long time to read that last page in which guest writer complimented the world


017) Billy Hazelnuts and Crazy Bird by Tony Millionaire, finished February 25

like the last in the time before bed

016) Billy Hazelnuts by Tony Millionaire, finished February 25

perhaps half an hour

You'll need to click on this too see both pages in full:

I don't suppose it should be a surprise that Tony Millionaire's surreal style which he has employed for effects both sweetly childlike and graphically obsene can be suitably employed in the service of children. Kids love Oz and Alice and Coraline and L'Engle and every weird thing. Billy Hazelnuts is definitely that. As you can see if you clicked the image above.

Billy's made of trash and he lives in a world where that's not crazy and where a local dump is filled with old planets. Weird crazy cool.

The second book is as violent (though more gently violent, fwiw), but much much sweeter as Billy develops some kind of weirdly caring relationship with an owlet that wants to eat him.

Recommended if you fear your kids spend too much time in the real world. These'll throw 'em out in a moment.


015) Habibi by Craig Thompson, finished February 20

I've been sitting on this review for many a day now and I'm still not sure quite what I think of this book.

Here are some objective observations to start us off:

Habibi is a tour de force of the comicmaker craft. It does so many interested and complicated and disparate yet connected things that studying it in depth could be a master class in style and possibility for anyone entering the field.

Habibi is very much of its comics generation. Like Jimmy Corrigan or Duncan the Wonder Dog or Asterios Polyp or American Born Chinese or Thompson's own Blankets or [many many others], it chops up the stories chronology, moves backwards and forwards, interweaves metafictional/traditional/metaphorical tales along with the primary tale, etc.

Habibi required an amount of work that is staggering to imagine. I remember a panel at Comic Con where a couple guys talked about Habibi when it was a work in process. Jeff Smith was one of them. Can't remember the other guy. Anyway, they were in awe of what he was doing. And, yet, this book is astonishing. Thompson is revealing his phenomenal craftsmanship. He's created a book worthy of a genius.

But is the book a work of genius?

I can't tell. I don't know.

I suppose the thing to do is reread its ~670 pages a few times and work through it, but the book is loaded with so much sex and violence---much of it involving children---that I really don't think I can do that. Not right after having just read it, anyway.

It's almost Finnegan-like in it's complexity (though unlike Joyce, Thompson goes to great effort to make sure no one gets lost, and he even has a bibliography of sorts at the end), and I wonder if that would provide a payoff for those more connected to Middle Eastern culture (or if they will hate it either because Thompson's often wrong or because it's not exactly the most flattering depiction of said culture). For me, it just requires a reread.

So I don't know. Brilliantly made, yes. But is it a "good book"? Is it "a great work of fiction"?

I just don't know.

about five days


014) The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: 1910 by Alan Moore and Kevin O'Neill, finished February 15

The first book? Loved it. The second book? It was okay. This book? Bluh.

This book feels obligatory---like Alan Moore needed a quick buck so he whipped together a new volume. To keep it interesting for himself, he made the unsavory characters refugees from a musical (while at the same time reducing them to a retread of a technique he used in Watchmen.

Just an utter disappointment. Even the characters inside know they're living a disappointing story. But they're pointing us to the next volume so I'm sure the payoff will be awesome. Because that's the way Moore's career is going.

On the bright side, O'Neill's art is keeping its standards up.

an evening

Previously in 2012 . . . . :

Read the reviews of 12-13.
013) Assassination Vacation by Sarah Vowell, finished February 12
012) Black Hole by Charles Burns, finished February 11

Read the reviews of 6-11.
011) The Complete Peanuts: 1979-1980 by Charles M. Schulz, finished February 4
010) Blankets by Craig Thompson, finished February 4
009) Cat's Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut, finished February 2
008) The Millstone Necklace (forthcoming) by S.P. Bailey, finished January 31
007) American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang, finished January 27
006) Across a Harvested Field by Robert Goble, finished January 23

Read the reviews of 1-5.
005) Hark! a Vagrant! by Kate Beaton, finished January 21
004) The Death of a Disco Dancer by David Clark, finished January 12
003) Bucketfoot Al: The Baseball Life of Al Simmons by Clifton Blue Parker, finished January 9
002) Uncle Montague's Tales of Terror by Chris Priestly, finished January 9
001) What of the Night? by Stephen Carter, finished January 5

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