Saturday, October 3, 2009

Short Reviews: Jan's Atomic Heart; West Coast Blues; Refresh, Refresh; and Give It Up!

Here are four quick reviews of comic books that I read recently:

1) Jan's Atomic Heart, by Simon Roy, 2009, New Reliable Press, 56 pages, $5.95

Tucker Stone's review alerted me to the existence of this book, and I went to SPX on the lookout for it. It's about a guy in the future whose consciousness has been placed in a robot body while his real body recovers from a car accident. Unfortunately for him, the robot body has some hidden problems. It's a fun, fast read, and Roy's art is great. He does an excellent job creating an beat-up near-future, and his story is engaging and has an interesting mood to it. I'm looking forward to his next project.

Here are the first twenty-two pages of the book. Here is an interview with Roy on the Inkstuds podcast and another interview at Comic Book Resources (it also has a long excerpt).

You can buy it from New Reliable Press or from Heavy Ink.

2) West Coast Blues, by Jacques Tardi, adapted from the novel by Jean-Patrick Manchette, 2009, Fantagraphics, 80 pages, $18.99

This French noir comic is about two hitmen targeting an average shmoe. He's married with kids and a boring job, spending his vacation at a crowded beach, and all of a sudden two dudes in Speedos are trying to drown him. There's some good humor, like the hitmen's inability to find their mark as he wanders around Paris, and some grisly violence. It's nothing revolutionary; just a well-crafted piece of genre entertainment. I dug it.

Here is a ten-page excerpt, and here's Jog's review of the book.

You can buy it from from Fantagraphics or from Amazon here: West Coast Blues

Disclaimer: This review is based on a complimentary copy provided by the publisher.

3) Refresh, Refresh, by Danica Novgorodoff, adapted from the screenplay by James Ponsoldt, based on the short story by Benjamin Percy, 2009, First Second, 144 pages, $17.99

I didn't read Novgorodoff's first graphic novel, Slow Storm, which was apparently about a firefighter and an illegal immigrant in a small town in Kentucky dealing with a tornado's impact. This one is about three boys in a small town in Oregon dealing with their fathers leaving to fight in Iraq. It's a solid story, and Novgorodoff's straightforward art is a good fit. One particularly interesting character is the local armed forces recruiter, a young vet who also has to deliver the news to the town's families when their loved ones have died in Iraq. That's some serious internal conflict right there. My only issue with the book was that it was a little predictable. I mean, it's about three boys hoping to hear from their fathers, and being forced to grow up too quickly while they wait for the dads to return. What do you think is going to happen? Other than that, it's good.

Here is an eleven-page excerpt. Here is an interview with Novgorodoff about the book.

You can buy it from the publisher or from Amazon here: Refresh, Refresh

Disclaimer: This review is based on a complimentary copy provided by the publisher.

4) Give It Up! and other short stories by Franz Kafka, by Peter Kuper, 1995, NBM, 64 pages, $15.95

A friend from work lent me this after I mentioned that I liked comics; it's very interesting to consider that something like this might be this person's only exposure to comics. Anyway, Peter Kuper adapts a bunch of short stories by the fun-loving Franz Kafka, and lots of yuks result. Just kidding, lots of powerless people are beaten down by society, government, and other powerful people. I mean, look at that cover (taken from an interior image). That's a cop with a gun barrel nose, telling our lost protagonist that no, he won't give him directions. Yikes. Kuper obviously loves the source material (he later adapted Kafka's The Metamorphosis) and his style is perfect for it. The art and tone of the book kind of reminded me of Art Spiegelman's Prisoner on the Hell Planet, by the way. This originally came out in 1995, but it looks like NBM recently republished it in softcover.

Here is a four-page excerpt and here's another excerpt.

You can buy it from NBM or from Amazon here: Give It Up! and other short stories by Franz Kafka

Disclaimer: Fantagraphics sent me a copy of West Coast Blues, and First Second sent me a copy of Refresh, Refresh.

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