Neil Young’s Greendale

I’ve read a lot of graphic novels in my time, and I’ve seen a lot of names appear as authors or inspirations of graphic novels that haven’t taken me completely by surprise – such as Stephen King, John Woo, Gerard Way, or Nicolas Cage.  But one name that did not seem to fit, at first, was that of Neil Young.  Neil released an album in 2003 called Greendale,  which was the direct inspiration for this graphic novel.  The story here is a blend of environmentalism, politics, personal awakening, and a little bit of magic.  The adaptation is by Joshua Dysart, a great writer, and the art is by Cliff Chiang, one of my favorite artists working today.

This is a really cool take on an almost perfect encapsulation of what Neil Young represents: a look at the world through the lens of politics, war, environmentalism, and a beleaguered sense of optimism.  If you’re up for something a little different, give this one a try.  And if you’re a fan of Mr. Young and you didn’t know about this book until know, what the heck are you waiting for?!

Some new Gaiman

Okay, maybe not new to the world, but these graphic novels are certainly new to HPL.  The great Neil Gaiman is nothing if not prolific, and we recently added two more of his adapted works: Neverwhere, Coraline.

Neverwhere is actually written by Mike Carey, but it’s an adaptation of Gaiman’s novel of the same name.  Neil was even a consultant on this project, so it certainly received his seal of approval.  It’s a classic Gaiman-esque tale where an ordinary man meets and extraordinary person and is drawn into another world far beyond his reckoning.  It’s a perfect match for an illustrated version, as is Coraline, another story written by Neil that was collaboratively adapted and illustrated by P. Craig Russell.  Some people know Coraline only from the beautifully animated film that was released a few years ago, but the novel came first, then this graphic novel version, and then the film.

Basically, these are just as good as Gaiman originals, and a treat for any lover of comics, regardless of your connection to Gaiman.  So take a moment and enjoy.

Jack of Fables

With the recent end of one of my favorite spin-offs, I thought I’d take a moment and extol the virtues of Bill Willingham’s Fables universe, specifically Jack of Fables.  This series, that just concluded after 50 issues, began when Jack was exiled from Fabletown.  This series works quite well on its own, but I think it’s a much fuller experience if you’ve already read the Fables series, which is simply one of the best series being published, today.  There is also a major crossover that impacts the whole Fables universe during the sixth and seventh book of Jack.  The whole saga of literary characters, themes, and tropes come to life is just a brilliant concept from graphic storytelling and this character in particular must be a blast to write.  Jack is the ultimate egoist, who thinks he is the greatest character in the history of literature and legend, and acts accordingly.  The twist here, is that he’s not entirely wrong.  The things he gets away with are hilarious, and his interactions with the Page Sisters, Mr. Revise, Gary the Pathetic Fallacy, and the other folks unlucky enough to be caught in his wake make for hours of entertainment.  So, if you want the full ride, head back to Fables v.1, and follow along.  You’ll wind up with 25 fantastic collections to read, from one of the best writers working today.

Dark Entries

Back in February I mentioned Jason Starr’s book The Chill, which was one of the first entries in Vertigo Comics’ new “Vertigo Crime” series.  I just read another one last night, and it’s a killer.

Ian Rankin, bestselling novelist, has written a graphic novel called Dark Entries, and it’s a John Constantine story!  That got me excited right off the bat, but it was even better than I expected.  For starters, you don’t have to have read a word of Hellblazer or Swamp Thing to understand this story.  If you’re a Constantine follower, however, it’s pitch-perfect to his character.  Basically, there’s a new reality-game show where a group of people are locked in a house and the producers are going to start messing with their minds, in a sort of haunted house, Agatha Christie, kind of way.  But they notice the contestants are starting to see very strange things, on their own – without the producers help – so they call in good old John to get to the bottom of things.  And get to the bottom he does!

This new series of graphic novels by Vertigo is long overdue, as I’ve always felt these kind of crime or mystery stories would work very well as stand-alone books rather in an ongoing series.  There are more titles coming out from this line in the next few months, so keep an eye out.

the Air up there…

Sometimes it’s tricky to find something new to write about for this blog.  I’ll soon be bringing a lot of new titles that are truly “graphic novels” – not a cape in sight – but there’s just so many times I can hail a Batman or Spider-Man title without feeling like I’m mining the same vein over and over.  THEN, I realized I had never talked about Air, the fantastic series by G. Willow Wilson.  This critically acclaimed gem from Vertigo just wrapped up at 24 issues, and is available in four trade collections.

It’s hard to summarize this story, but let’s just say that what started as a mysterious story about a flight attendant with a fear of heights who may – or may not – be involved with an anti-terrorist group, evolved into something even more mysterious and intriguing as Amelia Earhart showed up, and the flight attendant in question, Blythe, realized she could bend realities at will.  It is an exceptionally well written series, wonderfully drawn by M.K. Perker, and may be the perfect antidote for those of us who need a break from aliens and capes and super-hero movie madness.

So, if you haven’t picked it up already, check out Air, and let your imagination run wild.

The saga of Swamp Thing

When I first got into comics, over 25 years ago, one of the first issues I ever bought on my own was an Alan Moore issue of Swamp Thing.  I’ve tried to explain my continuing love and devotion to this character to numerous people over the years, but many of them just don’t get it.  Regardless of the blank stares, I’m going to try to do it, again.

Simply put, Swamp Thing is one of the coolest creations in the history of comics.  No bias, there, right?  All of the creation stories, Moore’s inspired revamp and metaphysical sci-fi/horror elements aside, Swamp Thing is an artists dream.  Because his body is formed out of nature, he is of where he is, if you follow.  If he morphs into the earth and comes up in a rose-bush, his body is covered by roses and thorns; if he emerges in a redwood forest, he contains and exemplifies the redwood.  Some of the greatest art I have ever seen has been in the pages of Swamp Thing.

There have been four different series runs of Swamp Thing between his creation in 1971 and the conclusion of the fourth series in 2006, and the quality of the stories has gone up and down just like any long-running series, but of the collections we have here at the library, the Alan Moore run from 1984 to 1987 has been cited by people much wiser than I as one of the most inventive and exciting storylines in comic history.  Moore combined suspense, horror, science fiction, romance, and a real sense of the mythic nature of… well, nature… to create something truly original and far beyond the vision of Swamp Thing’s original creators, Len Wein and Berni Wrightson.  So if you’ve never given these books a try, do.  Alan Moore pushed this character as far and wide as any character has ever been pushed, and the ride is worth every word, every panel, every rose and redwood.

John Constantine, Hellblazer

Originally spawned in 1985 from the eternally fertile mind of Alan Moore in issue 37 of Swamp Thing, John Constantine instantly became a fan favorite, and was traded up to his own series in 1988.  Hellblazer is a horror comic, a detective comic, a balancing act between all that is good and evil between heaven and hell.  Plus, John is one of the most fascinatingly mercurial and morally ambiguous characters in the history of comics.

This series has been going strong since its inception back in 1988, which says something about the fan base for these books; 22 years is a long time for a modern title featuring a non-superpowered character.  There are over 30 collections of this series, and while a few of them are sadly no longer in print, all available titles have recently been added to our collection.  This is certainly more of an adult title – the Vertigo imprint, alone, should tell you that – and the occasionally gruesome or sexual context makes this a reading experience unlike your average web crawler.

Battling demons or avoiding the spawns of hell, trying to avoid being killed while those around him aren’t so lucky, Hellblazer is a tour-de-force of late-night cable programming combined with the surreal and inventive storytelling one can only find in comics.  Take a ride with the cursing Brit and see the world through his reckless yet determined eyes.

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