Random Comic Reviews: Bios

It's time once again to vent my opinion on 3 more books picked up through that god-send Sequential Swap and 1 through dear old Mark. This time, the theme is comics as biography, as the creator(s) draw on life experience to develop interesting and believable characters with rich life histories. Each of the following selections is worth your time. North Country by Shane White follows White as he flies home for the holidays. The narrative is largely a recap of his life and memories of growing up in a lower middle class family, weaving back and forth betwen life's struggles and the drudgery of modern air travel. Told in 16-panel pages, White evokes strong feelings of identification even while only showing us snippets of the larger story. And although there's nothing particularly unique about the events in this autobiography, it's nevertheless a fine use of the comics medium. North Country is published by NBM which is quickly becoming my favorite publisher.

Also from NBM, Ordinary Victories by Manu Larcenet is a French import that tells the story of Marc, a disaffected photographer who doesn't quite fit with the artworld he aspires to and isn't quite ready to commit to the woman who wants him. With artwork that is part cartoony and part photorealistic, Larcenet creates characters that are sympathetic and heartbreakingly real, as Marc struggles with his anxieties of family, lover, career, and cat. With complexities that you usually don't see in the 4-color medium, Ordinary Victories is an extra-ordinary success.

Dave Gibbons gives us The Originals, the story of a couple of mod rebels living in a retro future and trying to make their place in the world. Despite its odd genre trappings (sci-fi, 1950s biker gangs, and 1970s fashions), Gibbons creates an accessible world where Lel and Bok work hard and being hip, tough, and becoming members of the hoverbike gang known as the Originals. It sounds ridiculous, and yet the premise leads to a intriguing tale of tragedy told in gorgeous grey tones.

Part wistful, part regretful, Brooklyn Dreams follows Carl Santini as he looks back on his adolescence and the mundane realities of growing up in Brooklyn with his hypochondriac mother, his fire-breathing (but ineffectual) father, his worldly sister, and a best friend who led him into temptation. J.M. DeMatteis (writer) and Glenn Barr (artist) provide human demons and human deliverance in this coming of age story. It's a lot like DeMatteis' Moonshadow, but without the fantasy and sci-fi.