Celebrity OGN Trade Post: Get Jiro & Greendale

get jiro Get Jiro! (Vertigo/DC)
Written by Anthony Bourdain & Joel Rose, drawn by Langdon Foss
Original Graphic Novel

Call me crazy but I’m one of those people who gets a little peeved when general news outlets refer to comics or trade paperbacks as graphic novels. Aside from simply being the wrong term, it also carries with it a sense that the writer is trying to make comics sound more mature, a distinction that’s unnecessary to anyone even remotely familiar with the adult-oriented medium. What’s the difference? Well, a trade paperback is a collection of single issues brought together for an easier read while a graphic novel was created all at one time. It’s basically the difference between calling a short story collection exactly that versus a novel (well, not exactly because the issues are serializing one big story usually, but you get the idea).

The two books I’m writing about today actually are graphic novels, though and they also both happen to have been written or inspired by well known people. How much involvement said celebs actually had in the creation of the book itself, I have no idea, but that’s not really important.

I started off with Get Jiro because I needed a tonal shift after finishing another book of Y: The Last Man and this certainly gave it to me. As regular readers of UnitedMonkee and Monkeying Around The Kitchen know, I’m a pretty big fan of Anthony Bourdain having read both Kitchen Confidential and Medium Raw and regularly watched No Reservations. One of the interesting aspects of reading through Jiro was that he and Rose put in a good deal of elements seen on various episodes of Reservations. You’ve got the little eels from Spain that only exist for a few weeks cooked simply over fire and the little birds you eat whole (except for the head) while wearing a towel over your head, plus others. This was an interesting experience because, while the thing being done was more described than shown, I had the images already in my head from watching the series.

But, I’m getting ahead of myself, what’s the book about? Set in a future version of Las Angeles, Get Jiro takes place in a city completely obsessed with food and nothing else. LA has become a zoned area where only the privileged can live on the inside eating amazing food made by one of two camps: money hungry Bob or ultra-hippie Rose. Niether are particularly likable  but that’s okay because they’re the bad guys. Our hero is Jiro, a sushi chef on the outer rim who garners the attention of both who want him in their camps, but more so don’t want him to join the other guys. All in all it’s a hyper-real, satire with healthy doses of blood and violence. The book really felt like a more light-hearted Frank Miller/Geoff Darrow book in both look and feel which is by no means a bad thing.

But, it’s not perfect. I thought the world-building was pretty light. I didn’t need everything completely laid out for and actually enjoyed the opening text the succinctly explained the world’s super foodie culture, but wish they would have explained the set up of the city in a little more detail or maybe just showed a map, that would have done it. It also felt like a lot of set up for a relatively quick payoff, I could have done with more of the big battle at the end, but I guess that wasn’t the story they were going for which is fine.

For his part, Foss is a delight to read. He packs so much into panels that he really is Darrow-like, a trait that more comic artists should aspire to and a trait that fits in really well with the graphic novel idea because guys like this tend not to be able to hit monthly deadlines. Still, I’d rather get larger doses of these kinds of artists a few times a year than one issue every year. There are times, though, when Foss lets his background characters look a little dead in the eyes which can be a little off-putting, but that’s a minor complaint.

I’m not sure how well this book would go over with people who aren’t fans of Bourdains because of all the cooking stuff, but it felt like there was enough explanation to bring in new readers (though the big blocks of text explaining such things might turn some people off) but if you are a fan or just like the gonzo craziness of something along the lines of Crank, then give this movie a watch. I just realized how insane a Neveldine and Taylor adaptation of this movie would be and now I want to see it!

Greendale Neil Young’s Greendale (Vertigo/DC)
Written by Joshua Dysart, drawn by Cliff Chiang
Original Graphic Novel

Greendale was pretty much on the opposite end of the spectrum in every way from Jiro both as a piece of fiction and as a story that I interacted with. Neil Young’s name is on this book, but it’s basically based on his concept album-turned-movie from earlier in the 00s, neither of which I have any experience with. It’s also tonally and artistically different from the kinetic, hyper-real portrayal of reality seen in the other book. This is a much more grounded fantasy done in a softer artistic style. This is pure Cliff Chiang and looks exactly like anything else you’ve seen of his, but there seems to be a strange softening effect added to every single page, which was kind of a bummer because these pages really sing and could have used some brightness even given the darker elements of the story.

Speaking of the story, this one focuses on Sun Green who lives in the fictional West Coast town of Greendale. She’s a teenager trying to figure out who she is, how she fits into the grand scheme of things and how she really feels about all of the war and environment issues that went on during the Bush Administration (and still do, this story’s just set in that time period). She also comes from a family of women who tend to display supernatural abilities tied to nature and disappear when they feel like it. Sun meets a boy and starts thinking about heading to Alaska to try and stop off shore drilling when a mysterious man (who looked a like like Neil Young to me) shows up and starts messing with her cousin and brother.

After reading this book, I’m not completely sure how I feel about it. I think I liked it, though it was a little heavy handed at times. On the other hand, I like how it kind of presented the weirdness of this world as the story progressed and didn’t feel the need to front load everything. You’re just kind of thrown in, given a little information and figure things out as you go. I like that, I’m just not quite sure how I feel about that journey itself. It’s got a good “we can do it” message, but, at the end of the day, so does every high school/college movie pitting a bunch of kids against a corporation like Step Up Revolution. Does the way a message is conveyed make it any more or less meaningful? Maybe when it’s presented so many times that it becomes noise. On the other hand, it sure is a pretty looking book and did make me feel something, so I think I’ll keep it around for at least one more read.

Trade Post: B.P.R.D. 1946 & Catwoman Crime Pays

2008-12-17
1:37:54 am

Okay, time for another installment of trade post:

B.P.R.D. 1946 Volume 9 (Dark Horse)

Written by Mike Mignola & Joshua Dysart

Drawn by Paul Azaceta

I love me some Hellboy, you guys and, of course, that includes B.P.R.D. I didn’t get into the Hellboy-verse until a few years ago, which was pretty good timing because I was able to read all the trades at Wizard and I was able to hop over the long gap when there weren’t any new books and Hellboy was spending a few years under the ocean. I’m a big fan of how intricate the history is. There’s elements in 1946 that resonate later on, though I can’t point all of them out, because it’s really hard to keep everything straight in my head. I do like to re-read the books every year or so, but I haven’t done that in a while and even right after I do it’s hard to remember.

This story follows Hellboy’s adoptive pops Trevor Bruttenholm in one of his post-WWII adventures with a group of soldiers in a bombed out Germany. This one’s got everything from vampires and werewolves to little girls in white dresses leading the Russian version of the B.P.R.D.

One of the great things about Dark Horse’s Hellboy and B.P.R.D. trades is that you can pretty much pick any of them up, understand what’s going on and enjoy a great story with a beginning, middle and end. Sure there are smaller elements that you might not pick up on, but might also drive you to check out other books. The other thing I love about these books is that they almost always have extras. Usually that includes an intro by Mignola along with a sketchbook with commentary in the back by Mike and whoever else is drawing the book. Unfortunately, this volume lacks the intro, which usually has Mignola explaining the genesis of the idea (where the mythology came from, that kind of thing). I really like those and was bummed to see there wasn’t one. There was, however an Afterward by Dysart explaining his first 1946 meeting with Mignola and the sketchbook.

Oh, one more thing, I really dug Paul Azaceta’s art. Like a lot of the non-Mignola or Dan Davis Hellboy/B.P.R.D. it took me a while to get used to his style (what can I say? I’m used to my superhero artists), but Azaceta seems like the perfect artist for this project. I look forward to seeing him on future B.P.R.D. projects almost as much as I’m looking forward to all the other Hellboy-verse books.

CATWOMAN: CRIME PAYS (DC)

Written by Will Pfeifer

Drawn by David Lopez

Catwoman’s one of those characters that I have an on-again off-again relationship with. I actually had a subscription to the Jim Balent-drawn version for a year which I dug. I’d also grab whatever crossover issues came out. I completely missed out on Brubaker’s relaunch and still want to go back and read it, but I have read a few of Pfeifer’s trades, this being, I believe, the second to last of the current run (it’s getting canceled right? I’m super behind).

Anyway, this story follows Selina’s attempt to start a new life with her baby, then get rid of the baby and finally waking up in her empty apartment which then explodes, leaving Cats on the run in Gotham without her mask or whip. There’s a character called The Thief who disappears due to Catwoman’s involvement in the Salvation Run storyline which feature supervillains being sent to a crazy planet far far away.

I was actually pretty interested in the Thief storyline and seeing Catwoman stripped of everything and on her own, but it got cut off by the Suicide Squad getting the jump on her and sending her to the prison planet. I wasn’t a big fan of the whole Salvation Run storyline, partly because it seemed a bit too close the Marvel’s Negative Zone prison (did they even really flesh that out? All things Civil War are a blur thanks to the Civil War Room column), even though it’s a pretty sound idea in theory. I don’t even know how that mini-series ended and this trade doesn’t offer up much insight. You get an issue of Cats wandering around from faction to faction only to end up with Luthor’s crew, but then she ends up in this weird world where’s practically SuperCat and runs everything. Once she’s out, she presumably rejoins the Salvation Run storyline. I feel bad for Pfeifer because it doesn’t feel like the Salvation Run stuff was very organic, probably more dropped on his plate. But he handled it well, though the story itself doesn’t hold much consequence (even though it’s pretty cool).

I’ve liked Pfeifer’s writing in the past, his Aquaman Sub Diego stuff was rad and HERO is one of the coolest books from the past five or six years not yet collected (seriously, what’s the deal with that? come on DC, where’s my omnibus?!), but for whatever reason Catwoman hasn’t really absorbed me yet, though I’ll probably grab the next trade when it makes its way into the Wizard office. I also like David Lopez, he’s a solid artist with a distinct style that makes him stand out. He seems equally adept at drawing grim and gritty street-level stuff as huge superhero group shots, which he also gets to do in this book.

I can’t really recommend Crime Pays to non Catwoman readers. There’s a lot going on in this book that’s not only connected to past Catwoman continuity, but also a part of DC’s last year that seems generally ignored (seriously, I read a ton of DC books, how did the villains get back?). Hopefully the next volume will wrap things up with The Thief (I’m seriously interested in that storyline, as well as what the heck Catwoman’s supposed to do with all her stuff gone).