Veni, Vidi, Vici: 3 great comics you need to read

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Ok, so the title’s a bit dubious, but I thought it’d be nice to have a feature where we look at 3 comics, the criteria being that these are either older books I’ve missed, or smaller, self published work. To kick things off, a top notch trio- I enjoyed each one of these offerings immensely, albeit in different ways. You can usually tell straightaway when opening a comic in that first exchange with the art and writing if you’re going to like it or not and these have the distinction of clicking on the off. If, after reading, you find yourself perhaps hankering after any of these, you can do so guilt-free: they’re all also ridiculously affordable.

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Supposed To by Joe Lambert, One Percent Press: People ‘in the know’ generally agree that Joe Lambert is on the road to being a big deal in comics. From what I can tell this is based on a simple combination of talent and ability. Yeah- hate him. ‘Supposed To’ is another of his mini-comics, distributed by the excellent One Percent Press. In it a lone child/house (the head sits atop the roof, with arms and legs protruding from the side and the house acting as his main ‘body’) relays an internal monologue about the things he is and isn’t supposed to do. I liked it although I wasn’t sure exactly what to make of it. Lambert’s art and tone is appealing as ever, but also typically he doesn’t make things clear and tell the reader what’s going on. The reading I got from it was a child trapped in their body with some sort of illness, stuck in one place, unable to move, as things around him shift and change in ways they aren’t supposed to, perhaps due to the ebb and flow of illness. It could also be a metaphor for gowing up, but it could be anything. It made me think without feeling pretentious and I immediately wanted to read it again. Check it out for yourself here and let me know what you make of it.

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Jonah by Isaac Lenkiewicz: I’m a sucker for folk-lore, myth, fairytale- all those kind of stories. Here, Lenkiewicz combines a bit of all of those elements, telling the tale of three turnip headed brothers, grown in the soil and discovered by chance one day by a farmer. After narrating the fates of two of the brothers, we follow the story of the third, who ends up living underwater in the nearby river. Here he grows up, playing chess with crabs and fishy types. I would have loved for this to be a longer story about the adventures of a turnip-headed boy and his crustacean friends (too Disney?) and Lenkiewicz sets a nice pace, but the way he smartly turns around expectations in the third act, refusing -much like his character- to give people the story-book ending they may want, is pretty nifty. And funny. Also it’s physically a beautifully drawn and produced little mini-comic, and I do like my printed ephemera pretty. *thumbs up*

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Isaac the Pirate 1 : To Exotic Lands by Christophe Blain, NBM Publishing: I’ve been meaning to check out French artist and writer Christophe Blain’s work for ages. Finally got around to it by ordering the first volume of his Isaac the Pirate series and The Speed Abater. This arrived first, so here we go. Pirate stories are not the kind of thing I’d normally read and it seems redundant to say this isn’t a pirate story in the traditional sense, so I’ll try to explain what it is. Isaac is neither a pirate nor a sailor, but an artist in the, erm, truest sense: poor, struggling, unappreciated. Much to his finacee’s exasperation, he’s reckless with what money they do have, meaning she has to take on odd jobs to try and make ends meet. Tricked into taking a painting job on what he thought would be a short voyage, instead he finds himself a crew member of a pirate ship indeterminately, helmed by a idiosyncratic captain intent on carving his name into legend and lore.

It’s rare that a book manages to be so many things without falling off balance, with something giving somewhere. Apart from being frankly downright entertaining, Blain also tells a proper story here, one that is in turns, funny, real and sad. I particularly appreciated the way he portrays both Isaac and Alice: while both love one another and would prefer to be together, neither is saintly in their time spent apart, deep down not knowing if they will see one another again. Their transgressions are believably depicted: Isaac with a woman who means little, but reminds him of Alice in her curiosity, and Alice herself at first resolute, but gradually being worn down by a man who is kind and respectful of her.

Blain served in the Navy, so I’m going to make the jump and say you can see his personal affinity for the ocean clearly in his art: the rendering of the ocean in it’s many guises, the docks, the ships, the sailors. He packs the men in on the boat, giving the reader a feel for life on deck- the sweaty closeness, never a moment alone, always someone around, not a nook or cranny in which to have minute to yourself. It makes it all the more understandable then, for Isaac to release all his frustrations on the page. Blain similarly pours himself on the page, his illustrations brimming with atmosphere and life and sheer vitality. I defy you to read this and not want to read the second volume immediately afterwards. Mine is on it’s way.

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Comments

  1. Carter says:

    Isaac the Pirate is terrific. There are 5 volumes in French and the NBM stuff collects the first 4 (two per NBM book). Isaac is a good enough series that I check for a sixth French volume every few months hoping there will be enough material for NBM to do a third book. It’s been 8 years, so I should probably give up…

    I wish more Blaine was available in English.

  2. Zainab Akhtar says:

    Hey Carter,

    I’m a newly converted Blain advocate, so I’m reading all the English language stuff available. So far, that’s the Speed Abater, Isaac 1 &2, Gus and his Gang and the new cookbook with Alain Passard. I think he’s also done some of Lewis Trondheim’s Dungeon early years, but I’m a completist, so that would mean starting at the beginning of Dungeon!

    I don’t have any French, so I’m just keeping my fingers crossed that someone will translate the rest of Isaac and maybe some of his other stuff too. Not holding my breath, though!

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