Those stories you won’t tell mommy

If you frequent comic book shops and bookstores then you’ve probably spotted this shamelessly pink graphic novel on the shelves. You’ve probably taken a closer look (or pretended to “accidentally” glance at it) and found that the gold font on the cover says BIG HARD SEX CRIMINALS. And maybe you got curious about it but you just can’t bring yourself to actually pick it up and bring it to the counter. I know. I’ve been there too.

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The thing with sex stories is that they have to be good. Otherwise, it’s just porn on print. What Matt Fraction and Chip Zdarsky did with Sex Criminals is pretty smart. Yes, the book has lots of nudity. Yes, the book is packed with silly sex jokes. Yes, there are pages that made me a little embarrassed to be reading it in public. But beyond all that, the characters are surprisingly relatable and the story does make enough sense for you to take it seriously.

What I liked the most is the way the characters break the fourth wall – that is, they literally speak to the reader in some panels – and it feels like they’re sharing their lives with you.

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You become their confidant and you find yourself deeply engaged in their lives. You know their problems and frustrations, their fantasies and fears, their childhood stories of curiosity and discovery, and then you realize how honest the book is. That, although it is a wild, dirty, sex sci-fi story, there is something very human to it.

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So you do the thing that humans do: you sympathize. And that’s when you realize you’re willing to tag along no matter where their sexed-up adventures take them. Sex Criminals is what you get when two very talented guys decide to get a little crazy – I really doubt you’ll read anything like it. So go ahead and pick up that pink book you’ve been eyeing. You might just find yourself quite satisfied once you finish it.

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The protagonist dies (and that’s not a spoiler)

I just finished reading Daytripper, the 2011 Eisner Award winner for best limited series, written and illustrated by Brazilian twins Fábio Moon and Gabriel Bá. I must say, I didn’t expect to be THAT entertained by it. Partly because it’s about everyday life, partly because I haven’t read anything from the duo before so I didn’t really know what to expect.

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Daytripper deluxe edition from Vertigo Comics. Collects all 10 issues of the award-winning series.

First of all, let me praise Vertigo Comics for producing such a beautiful hardcover volume. I’ve always liked their deluxe editions but this is definitely one of my favorites as far as physical appearance goes. The art on the dust jacket is very inviting – colorful in a most soothing way, dynamic but gentle on the eyes.

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The design for the hardcover is the exact opposite, being black and white, but it is equally delightful. I like the clean white surface with the Bá’s illustration of Brás de Oliva Domingos, the book’s main character.

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I also like the black spine, accentuated by silver lettering, which gives the book its simple elegance.

Now, on to the story. Or, more accurately, stories. The book revolves around Brás who works as an obituary writer for a local newspaper. He dreams of someday publishing a book and following the footsteps of his father, who happens to be a world-renowned Brazilian writer. Sounds normal enough, right? Except each issue tells a different story from a different point in Brás’ life, and what makes it more interesting is that he dies at the end of each chapter. (Yes, you read that right.)

In one issue, Brás struggles with his job and his relationship with his father, and then he dies.

In another issue, Brás is a kid without a care in the world, and then he dies.

In another issue, Brás is a successful writer, recognized by everyone, and then he dies.

And each of his deaths happen at the most inconvenient, unexpected moment. You might find it weird, unappealing or even nonsensical, but taken as a whole, the book expounds on the fleeting nature of our existence, invites us to question the things we value, and ultimately dives head-first into the discussion on what living life really means. It is one of those rare works that can be considered a must-read for everyone – truly an emotionally-charged masterpiece.

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My favorite quote from the book: “There is no one way to live or to die. Will the choices you make to do the former affect how you’ll do the latter?”

Check out more from the creators on their blog: http://fabioandgabriel.blogspot.com/

The creepy comics of Emily Carroll

A couple of weeks ago I picked up Through the Woods by Emily Carroll. I didn’t know what to expect. The cover looked innocent enough to be a children’s book and it wasn’t until I read the back cover that I found out it was a horror book. And I’ve never encountered or heard of Carroll’s work before so it felt like a gamble when I decided to get this one.

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But boy did my gamble pay off. Her stories are extremely entertaining and her style definitely sets her apart. I like how her illustrations are brilliantly laid out on the page with the text, flowing seamlessly from page to page. Her seemingly childlike illustrations  give her comics that storybook feel, but this only adds to the creepy vibe of her work.

The book features five short stories which are perfect for those nights when you just want a good quick scare. Cleverly written, eerily drawn, and overall a great read. You may also check out her web comics for free at http://www.emcarroll.com/.

The early works of Jeff Lemire

I still remember the very afternoon when I first encountered one of Jeff Lemire’s works. I tend to spend my lunch breaks at the mall and as you might guess, I frequently end up checking out bookstores during such trips. So there I was, carefully examining what’s new on the shelves, looking for things I might have missed during my last visit. That time, I checked the bottom shelf of the graphic novels section hoping to find a hidden gem; I was not disappointed.

I pulled out Lemire’s Underwater Welder from a row of books that seemed to have been forgotten, tucked away beneath Superman, the Walking Dead and the other more popular books that were deemed worthy of the more visible shelf space. At the time, I had no idea what it was about. I don’t have any particular interest in underwater construction either, but the cover just drew me in.

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The story is about a man who struggles with the demands of his job while trying so desperately to be a good husband as he deals with the pressures of his impending fatherhood. As everything seems to be falling apart, a supernatural encounter at the bottom of the ocean sends him to a Twilight Zone type of world.

I would describe Lemire’s art as rugged – not the most technical, not the smoothest drawings you’ll see in today’s comics. But his style communicates the human emotion so strongly. The brilliance of his drawings is that they have the ability to be so striking, so effective in delivering the message in spite of being remarkably simple. The impeccable use of the eyes, some well-placed lines on the face and you find yourself empathizing with the character.

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The use of black and white also adds to the emotion of the book by creating an eerie atmosphere, characteristic of his earlier works.

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Lemire can write about the most mundane things and still manage to captivate his audience through his emotionally charged works. Later on I picked up Essex County, his first graphic novel under Top Shelf Productions and a predecessor of Underwater Welder.

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Again I got more of those expressive looks and Lemire’s trademark gloomy atmosphere.

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It never gets old though, and it’s no surprise he was able to transition into mainstream comics with his masterful storytelling. Since releasing his earlier works under Top Shelf Productions, Jeff Lemire has worked for various comic book publishers including Vertigo, DC Comics and Image.

What’s changed, what’s to come

Hey guys!

It’s been over a year since I last wrote here. If you’ve been following my blog you might have noticed some significant changes on my site. I initially set up this blog to showcase my comic book collection and to share my hobby with the rest of the world. Little did i know then that my passion for reading would grow into what it is now. I’m still a huge fan of the comic book genre and I will continue to publish posts on that subject. But on top of that, I’ll also be talking about novels, both classic and current.

If you want to read about how I got hooked on pretty much every form of written fiction over the past year and a half, click here. In the meantime, here’s a preview of some of the books I’ll be featuring in the coming weeks. Talk to you soon.

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