Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Funny white men with big noses, Blankets and Belly Buttons

I've been reading a few graphic novels this year, and I'll cover a few briefly here.

Bottomless Belly Button

This is a lovely fat comic book, over 700 pages, but much of the story is portrayed eloquently with pictures, and there is little dialogue, so this is a quick read. The main story is of a married couple breaking up after decades of marriage, which to them seems natural if sad, but to their oldest son seems traumatic and affects him deeply. Inviting the family to join them for perhaps one last family reunion, they announce the divorce.

My favourite character is the youngest son, Peter. An awkward geeky kid, portrayed with a frogs head, literally, emphasising perhaps that he feels different and exposed in a world where everyone else seems to be confident and cool. He has his first sexual relationship with a young woman he meets on the beach near his parents house, and comes of age belatedly.

It's an engaging and charmingly told story and definitely worth reading.



Blankets is in a very similar vein to Bottomless Belly Button, covering coming of age and first love in much the same way, but capturing and conveying the emotions of that time extremely well. Craig Thompson wrote this autobiographical account of growing up in an Evangelical Christian family, making it a very person and vivid story.

He has certainly captured the joy and magic of first love, and of finding a special person to sneak away from the world with, which they do quite literally in the story. The Blanket from the title, a gift from his girl, is like a symbol of the warmth and comfort they give each other.

Sometimes the art itself tells the story, as the size of the panels grows to emphasise the emotions of the characters. For example, when he is driving away from her after a long visit, knowing his heart will be breaking in two, there's a beautiful full page image showing the world as if rent in two, with the family car plummeting off the edge into the void. Great stuff.


Bone (Parts 1 - 9)

I picked book one of Bone up on a recommendation by a friend, and read it to my son at bedtimes. We soon got hooked and bought the whole series. It's a fun adventure, originally drawn in black and white, but coloured and printed in great glossy pages.

Bone and his cousins, the only funny looking Smurf characters in the story, had to flee their home, Boneville, due to the illegal antics of his cousin. Arriving in a mysterious valley they wind up in an unravelling adventure.

This story is filled with slap stick humour, the bad guys rarely hurt anything but their own pride. There are a few scenes I had to read over and over to my son as he hooted with laughter, much as I often play the same Road Runner cartoons to him twenty or thirty times.

There's plenty of depth to the story however, and it gets dark in places. Never really straying far from the Asterix the Gaul comic violence, yet always thoughtful and and with an authentic vibe.

Although I bought this to read to my seven year old son, it's certainly something I'd have read to myself.


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