10 May, 2012

What I Read Last Month…

This is what I read in… 
January 2012

Star Wars: Invasion, volume 2: Rescues, by Tom Taylor and Colin Wilson. Dark Horse Comics. 
This is the second trade paperback from the team of Taylor & Wilson telling the tale of the Yuzhan Vong invasion of that galaxy long ago and far away. I'm no Star Wars fanatic, but even for me it's fun to see fondly remembered characters like Luke, Leia and Han have cameos. More importantly though, the cast of characters that I've never met before are engaging and likeable. 
It's a fun ride with enough twists and turns, revelations (both in plot and character), and action, that I'll happily be coming back for volume 3. 

The Adventures of Tintin — The Crab with the Golden Claws, by Hergé. 
I was particularly taken with the cartooning in this volume of Tintin's adventures, especially the faces, and Tintin's the most. For something so simply constructed, there's a wealth of expression there and a lot to find attractive. Numerous characters are delineated with lovely, clearly formed caricatures, and this is wonderful cartooning in that respect. It doesn't quite hold true across all racial depictions unfortunately, with what looks to me as a more clumsy approach to Middle Eastern and Asian characters. 
There are some wonderfully funny bits in the opening scenes, which can be very difficult to do in comics. The fun continues throughout with the drunken shenanigans of the obviously alcoholic Captain Haddock, who is introduced nicely for the first time in this story. If I were Tintin though I would quite happily have never seen him again after the way he acquits himself during their time together! I'm not sure how they ever became such great friends. 
For some reason this adventure of Tintin didn't grab me. Despite the exotic locations, fun action, tight scrapes and adventure, and I'm not sure why. Perhaps there wasn't enough rise and fall in the tension. Maybe the stakes didn't seem high enough. It might've been that Tintin himself was taking it all too much as 'business as usual'. At any rate I wasn't as interested in coming along for the ride or seeing where it took me this time, despite everything else this book had going for it. 

Celadore, by Caanan Grall.
This is a really fun book and a really great ride. From my experience fun is what Caanan does best. That and the voice of children, and children make up a large percentage of the cast of this 192 page book. 
Celadore is named after the pivotal protagonist of the three stories collected here. All three of which are fabulous, with plenty of real danger and sacrifice for the characters mixed in with jaunty dialogue, believable, emotional relationships, and fun action. There's never a status quo, not within each of the stories, and not from one story to the next, which I really appreciated. It gives a more palpable tension and believability to the dangers faced by the cast knowing that things will indeed be different by the end.  
And what a great cast. Quite large, very interesting, always introduced and used purposefully. It grows naturally and well, until it's quite an ensemble. The central members are so great that it's hard to say that Celadore is even the "main" character, even though the book bares her name. Again, great evidence of good character writing making me care about them all so much. 
There's a great concept that ignites this book, but even better than that is the fact that Caanan doesn't rest on it, but evolves from it and builds on it in what really is quite an exciting and believable manner. It kept me as a reader on my toes and keenly interested. 
I love Caanan's cartooning style too. It's deceptively simple, full of life and bounce, and he has a great handle on character poses and expression. The character acting is really good. 
Unfortunately there are a couple of issues with this volume, the biggest of which being the printing. It's dark and muddy, and for a story that often takes place at night or in other gloomy settings, this is unforgivable and very disappointing. It's way too often out of register as well. 
They are the technical issues. Regrettably there's one creative issue as well. Far too many times I was confused and lost by the storytelling. This is a fabulous rollicking set of stories and I just wanted to go with them, but I was too often hampered by having to reread pages, trying to figure out what I had missed and why I'm confused. I even reread the first half of the first story in an effort to "get in the groove" of the storytelling style, assuming I just wasn't hearing the book's voice correctly, but in the end I think Caanan simply didn't always allow the rungs in the monkey-bars to be close enough together for me. 
This is a sad stain on an otherwise brilliant trio of stories. I would love to hear more from Celadore and her friends in the future if Caanan could swing it. 


  1. One note on that volume of Tintin, it's one of the infamous 'occupation comics', drawn during the time when the Nazis were in Belgium, "and all that that implies". Though Herge had been getting more interested in politics and more adult themes in previous volumes, for this one, as Herge biographer Harry Thompson wrote, Herge dropped politics like a hot brick and did a 'normal' story. It may be the reason the story didn't grab you; it was too 'safe'.

    It's not one of the stronger volumes, though it does contain one of Herge's two favourite panels; page 38 panel 2, because it conveys a lot of action and movement, yet very simply.

    1. Hah! What great info! It begins to make some sense then, doesn't it? Thanks so much.

      And what a great panel that is too – it has a kind of step-by-step of the action of the gunmen reacting to Haddock's yelling. Thanks for pointing it out as I wouldn't have even noticed otherwise. Truly genius, huh?