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Monthly Comic Reviews - August 2016

Monthly Comic Reviews - August 2016

Ratings out of 5 stars.

 

The Magician’s Wife

Story: Jerome Charyn

Art: Francois Boucq

Dover (2015)

Some things you need time to appreciate. Like good wine and whiskey that aged well. Like Bob Dylan. The Magician’s Wife, one of the first magic realism graphic novels, is one of those works. I first read this in the 1980s and you don’t quite get it. But it left a deep impression. So when Dover re-released this book again last year, it was on my grab list. It is one of the most wonderful things I have read for a long time. A tale of love and betrayal, obsession and redemption. A magician wrongs his wife and both need to seek forgiveness for all that had gone before. Jerome Charyn’s story has stood the test of time while Francois Boucq’s art is simply stunning to behold. There is a certain purity to his lines that he has not quite returned to in his later books. For example, his art in Bouncer can be too cluttered at times.

The Magician’s Wife is essential reading.

(5 stars)

Bouncer

Story: Alexandro Jodorowsky

Art: Francois Boucq

Humanoids (2016)

Alexandro Jodorosky is the legendary Chilean director of The Holy Mountain (1973) and El Topo (1970). He tried to make Dune but failed. He also pioneered psychomagic and psychoshamanism, which has yet to catch on in Singapore. In the field of comics, he wrote The Incal series, which was drawn by Moebius and other artists. The original Incal adventure of John Difool was translated and published in English by Epic Comics in the late 1980s. Since then, Humanoids have taken over the publication with Before the Incal and Final Incal.

Jodorosky has created other comic series like The Metabarons and also other titles drawn by Moebius like The Eyes of the Cat and Madwoman of the Sacred Heart. He has worked with Milo Manara on Borgia. So his comic stories have spanned from the deep space to historical fiction in medieval Europe. But if you find his space operas to be too much mumbo jumbo, try Bouncer, his Western epic of a one-armed gunslinger.

Not sure if Jodorosky was inspired by The One-Armed Swordsman, but just imagine a Wang Yu roaming in the wild wild west of 19th Century America instead of the jiang hu in olden times China. The anti-hero is a hard assed bouncer of a saloon, a hangman of the corrupt town and terribly unlucky in love. Bouncer gets drunk, gets beaten up and still manages to shoot the bad guys. His family history is a mess and his friends are the lowlifes and scum that hangs out at the saloon. He is a reluctant hero, but that sense of justice and fair play in him will always make him stand up for the little guys and the underdogs. Sounds like my kind of guy.

It is a coincidence I read this after The Magician’s Wife. I was looking for more Francois Boucq’s artwork.

This hardcover 408-page trade collects all seven books in the Bouncer story. A classic in the vein of Moebius’ Blueberry series.

(5 stars)

Law of the Desert Born

Original short story: Louis L’Amour

Adaptation: Charles Santino

Art: Thomas Yeates

Batam Books (2013)

Since I read Bouncer, I continued with Law of the Desert Born, a graphic novel adaptation of a short Western story by Louis L’Amour, the famous writer of the American West and frontier tales. A story of loyalty and betrayal, of old ways versus new mercantile values, the shoot-outs represent the conflict not between the good guys and the bad guys (a killer on the run and the law men are catching up with him with the help of a half-breed Apache with his own vendetta), but between the good guys and the unfortunate ones caught in a bad situation. The West sucks you in and chews you out good – for both the hunter and the hunted. The desert is relentless in its heat and punishment. Charles Santino’s dialogue is terse and the script is tight. Thomas Yeates (Swamp Thing, Tarzan) makes you feel you are right in the desert with all the dust and blood. The grey tones are just beautiful.

No one knows much about this Western graphic novel published by Batam Books. The latter is not known for publishing graphic novels and the Western is an underappreciated genre in comics. Law of the Desert is highly underrated. You will not regret picking it up.

(4.5 stars)

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