Book review: WE3

April 2, 2010

Title: WE3
Writer: Grant Morrison
Artist: Frank Quitely
Pages: 104

WE3 is a graphic novel about 3 pets that are kidnapped by a U.S. Air Force research team and turned into killing machines. Their senses have been greatly enhanced and they have been equipped with armor exoskeletons, they have even been taught to talk. They are referred to as “biorgs”.

The team, a dog, a cat and a rabbit, carry out a number of missions (mostly assassinations) and it has been decided to decommission the team and put the animals to sleep. Their trainer however cannot bear to see the animals killed and so she sets them free.

The animals, led by the most intelligent among them – the dog, manage to elude capture and so the Air Force decides to use another, newer and much improved, biorg to take them out.

Although the animals are trained to be killers they do not attack unless provoked. This, along with the fact that they were once pets makes it easy to empathize with them.

At 104 pages this is a short book but it is full of touching scenes. I felt compassion for the poor dog who berates himself as “Bad dog, Bad dog”. I would love to see a movie based on this book.

Title: Paul Has a Summer Job
Author: Michel Rabagliati
Pages: 145

This is easily one of the best graphic novels i’ve read. It tells the story of a Canadian teenager called Paul. He is a rebellious teenager who drops out of school after being refused permission to work on a art project because of his poor grades.

Paul starts working at a printer’s shop as an apprentice. After a year of drudgery Paul is offered the opportunity to work at a summer camp for poor kids. Paul jumps at the opportunity and goes off to work as a camp counsellor for two months.

His time as a counsellor marks his transition from a teenager to an (not yet fully matured) adult.

Although this book has no plot as such and it is most likely made-up, it was still funny, interestig and moving. Highly recommended.

Book review: Laika

August 23, 2009

Title: Laika
Author: Nick Abadzis
Pages: 203

Laika is a touching graphic novel about the first animal to be launched into orbit, a dog called Laika.

It was decided that a dog would be launched into space soon after the Russian’s successfully launched the spacecraft Sputnik into orbit. Nikita Khrushchev, the soviet leader, wanted the launch to coincide with the 40th annivesary of the Bolshevik Revolution.

As a result the designers were hard pressed for time and decided that the spacecraft would not return to earth, Laika was sent to die in space. Laika was a stray dog who was found wandering the streets of Moscow. Russian scientists preferred stray dogs for their experiments because they were already used to extreme cold.

Although the Russians claimed that Laika lasted several days and was euthanized using poisoned food the truth is that she (Laika was female) died after a couple of hours in orbit. She died from stress and overheating, definitely not a painless death as the Russians claim.

Abadzis has researched the book well but a lot of it is fictional. He does a fantastic job of creating a fictional account of Laika’s early life.

Title: A History of Violence
Author: John Wagner
Artist: Vince Locke
Pages: 286

A History of Violence is the story of Tom McKenna, a small shop keeper from a small town in rural America. His life is peaceful and Tom is well respected. One fine day however, Tom’s life is disrupted and dragged into the glare of the media when he fights off some thugs who try to rob his store, he kills one man and puts the other in the hospital.

Tom becomes something of a celebrity and his story is flashed all over the country. Unfortunately, in a life he ran away from, Tom had crossed the New York mafia. He had run away and assumed a new identity with which he started a new life.

The mafia recognizes his face in the media and decides to come to his town and take revenge.

A History of Violence is a little weak plot-wise but it was still very entertaining. Recommended.

Title: Disappearence Diary
Author: Hideo Azuma
Pages: 194

Disappearence Diary is a manga (a type of Japanese comic) that tells the true story of Hideo Azuma’s disappearences from his home. Azuma is a manga artist who could never handle the stress of drawing unique, interesting and high-quality comics week after week. When the stress got too much he just walked away from his life and became a bum.

While the story is essentially one of cowardice its value lies in the fact that it has a positive outlook: the art is deliberately made as far from reality as possible and Azuma focuses on the funny parts of his life as a bum.

Azuma eventually returned to his wife after the police picked him up but he ran away several times after that too, eventually landing up in the alcoholic ward of a hospital.

This would have been an excellent graphic novel if Azuma had given some sort of explanation before each chapter like “This was my 3rd time running away, I moved to a different town”. That would have made the story much more lucid.

Also, Azuma spends way too much time babbling on and on about his work like “I did Hideo’s fairytale collection in Manga Action Special Edition”. I found the details of his work to be too much to bear and skipped over 2-3 pages.

Overall, its an interesting graphic novel. Not very lucid but still quite good.

Book review: Blankets

June 8, 2009

Title: Blankets
Author: Craig Thompson
Pages: 582

I decided to read Blankets when I found it on Time magazine’s list of All-TIME Graphic Novels.  It is a semi-autobiographical novel on the author’s childhood and his first love.

Thompson grew up in a fundamentalist Christian family in rural America. His family wasn’t exactly well-off and his father was a very strict man.

The art in this book is black-and-white and is quite detailed in many places. It looks rough and sketchy in many places, which is probably intentional. The story is interesting and the author is open about his weak points, fears and doubts.

At 582 pages, this graphic novel must have taken a monumental effort for the author to complete.  Definitely worth reading.