Sunday, February 12, 2017

comics and the reading habit

For a while now, I have had to boostrap my reading habit. Short stories have usually sufficed in the past. But I might have hit a new low when I reached out for a stack of unread graphic novels this time. This isn't to reflect my view about comics and graphic novels. Quite the contrary. They are a bit easier on me as a reader. I can cheat with a readymade visualisation of ideas instead of trying to do that in my head while reading the words in a short story or a novel. Of course there are many exceptions. Luckily, my stack wasn't biased in favour of exceptions.

I started off with the rather interesting compilation Knight and Squire: For Six, a limited series from writer Paul Cornell with some great art by Jimmy Broxton. This explores the world of Cyril Sheldrake/Knight ("Batman in England!") and his sidekick Beryl Hutchison/Squire. The British atmosphere is a refreshing shift from the darkness of Gotham (although the darkness does survive, balanced by glib takes) and there are generous doses of Cockney slang (none of which is really meant for young eyes and ears) and to top it all, there is the not-unexpected welcome reference to Monty Python.

Next up in the stack came the only example of the exception I wrote about earlier. It was Kissing Mister Quimper, the sixth volume in the Invisibles series. Grant Morrison is clearly on a trip. The work is loaded with references, many of which I am sure I missed; it's also quite graphic; there's a reference to a real-life celebrity that has been redacted by the publishers (a little bit of Googling will tell you what that was). The volume succeeded in leaving me confused. And a tad unsettled. Given that it has been more than 10 years since I read Volume I in the series, I have to wait till I -- if ever -- read all the volumes in a reasonable span of time, before I decide if the point of the series is to send the mind down tunnels where no mind has gone before.

The next item was something from more familiar territory. Tarnished Angel, the fourth collection in Kurt Busiek's excellent series Astro City. Busiek continues to make impressive exploration of the idea of regular life in a world filled with super heroes (and super villains). Good art from Brent Anderson and lovely covers from Alex Ross.

The final item in the stack was a great way to finish off my boostrapping. Neil Gaiman's The Books of Magic. Just like the Sandman series, there's a load of great writing balanced by the style of a different artist in each entry in the collection. And there are appearances from several familiar characters from the DC Comics Universe, including Gaiman's own creations and interpretations for the Sandman series. It all comes through cohesively instead of feeling like a pencil holder of creative flourishes.

After all this, I found myself adequately invested (a fancy way of saying "past the introduction and well into chapter one") in my first Elmore Leonard novel after all these years. It's called The Hunted and it's part of a collection called Dutch Treat. Not a bad way to rejuvenate the reading habit. All I have to do now is keep the flame burning. Otherwise, I'll have to hope I get lucky in the comics section of the local used book store for another kickstarter.

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