Category Archives: Reviews – Drawn & Quarterly

Father Blows It Best

A User’s Guide to Neglectful Parenting softcover graphic novel
Writer/Artist/Cover artist: Guy Delisle
Translation: Helge Dascher
Publisher: Drawn & Quarterly
Price: $12.95 US/CAN

I’m almost ashamed to say this is my first exposure to Guy Delisle’s work. I’ve heard his name uttered in glowing terms often in recent years, and on top of that, he’s Canadian (though apparently now living in Europe). I wish I could say it was as a patriotic Canuck that I put my cash on the counter to buy this book, but in reality, it was the title alone that grabbed my attention. I can’t imagine there’s a parent of a baby, toddler or pre-teen that wouldn’t have his or her interest piqued at the title. Delisle’s sense of humor is thoroughly relatable, as are the scenarios he presents here of lazy or impatient parenting. I was entertained from start to finish when reading this book. My main problem with it, though, is how short-lived that entertainment was. As a father, I know real life offers no shortage of material on the subject of bumbling parenting, but this book struck me as surprisingly brief. I suppose in a way it’s a good thing. The book was fun enough that I didn’t want it to be over — they say always leaving them wanting more — but I was also left with the impression the digest didn’t merit the price on the back of the book.

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Change of Clowes

Wilson original hardcover graphic novel
Writer/Artist/Cover artist: Daniel Clowes
Publisher: Drawn & Quarterly
Price: $21.95 US/ $23.95 CAN

Wilson does a lot of things well, not the least of which is showcasing cartoonist Daniel Clowes’s versatility as an artist. Not only does he offer multiple styles over the course of the book, but he also effectively combines short-form strip comics with a long form story. The book is also replete with social commentary and criticism, much of which hits the mark quite effectively. Taking centre stage throughout the book, though, is the title character’s negative personality. It’s clear the cantankerous central figure is meant as a stand-in for all of us; his hypocrisy and laziness, his apathy and outrage — it’s meant to be our own. Wilson is an engaging read — I couldn’t stop turning the pages as I began reading — but the effectiveness of the characterization also serves as something of a detriment. Wilson is such a loathsome figure, I almost didn’t want to read about him. But only almost.

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Eye on the Eisners: Optic Nerve #12

The nominees for the 2012 Eisner Awards were announced about a month ago, and as I did for a couple of Eisner-nominated books last year, I decided I’d offer some reviews of some 2012 nominees as well. There’s no way I could review all of the nominees; I just don’t have the time or resources for such an endeavor. However, I thought it would be interesting to spotlight comics selected by the Eisner judges as being the cream of the crop of the past year. By the way, the Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards 2012 will be presented July 13 at Comic-Con International in San Diego.

First up for the 2012 “Eye on the Eisners” is Optic Nerve #12, which contains “A Brief History of the Art Form Known as Hortisculpture,” a piece nominated in the Best Short Story category.

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Beaton the Odds

Hark! A Vagrant hardcover
Writer/Artist/Cover artist: Kate Beaton
Publisher: Drawn & Quarterly
Price: $19.99 US/CAN

I was a bit late in the game when it came to discovering and appreciating Kate Beaton’s cartooning, as I’m not one to spend a lot of time checking out webcomics. It’s not that I have a problem with them; it’s just that I haven’t the time to read all of the printed comics that cross my path. I can’t imagine where I’d find the time if I expanded my purview to a wide array of webcomics. Still, Beaton’s work is the kind of thing that demands one’s attention. She’s been posting her comic strips online since 2007, and in just four years, she’s really joined an exclusive club of rock-star-level cartoonists and comics creators. Her quick success is a testament to the cleverness of her writing, the accessibility of her work and the simple appeal of her emotive figures. At first glance, Beaton boasts a crude artistic style, but it’s deceptive. This collection of strips — most polished, but some quickly dashed off — demonstrates how she brings texture and nuances to her cartoony cast of historical and literary figures. Hark! A Vagrant covers a diverse array of topics but always with the same inimitable sense of humor. Beaton is a unique talent who merits the acclaim and quick rise in prominence that have come her way.

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How’s Tricks?

Paying for It original hardcover graphic novel
Writer/Artist/Cover artist: Chester Brown
Publisher: Drawn & Quarterly
Price: $24.95 US/CAN

It was my wife who made me aware of this book indirectly; she pointed out a review/feature about it in a recent issue of Macleans (basically, Canada’s answer to Time), to which we have a subscription. I’ve long been aware of cartoonist Chester Brown’s work and the recognition he’s received for it. I’ve always meant to familiarize myself with his storytelling, and this latest project seemed like a good opportunity to do so. I enjoyed what I found here, but it wasn’t at all what I expected. There’s a much more matter-of-fact, linear and detached tone to the writing. I was impressed with Brown’s honesty but also surprised by what he’s really writing about here. The subtitle for this original graphic novel is “A Comic-Strip Memoir About Being a John,” which would seem to suggest something of an education on the world of prostitution. Brown definitely shares some enlightening though simple and grounded information about how some of the business of prostitution is conducted and who the people are who find themselves performing such work. But in reality, Brown examines himself and his own emotional shortcomings… or are they his strengths?

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