Markley’s Fevered Brain: World View

Wayne Markley

Wayne Markley


by Wayne Markley

As of late I have been reading a lot of graphic novels from around the world, in addition to the way too many weekly books I read. The collections have been both all new stories and collections of previously published stories. The three I am going to discuss today are three of the ones I have enjoyed the most. Well, to be honest, if I did not enjoy them I likely would not mention them as I try and keep this blog positive. The first book is a standalone graphic album from France, recently released in English and it was great, and unlike anything you will ever find in American comics. The second is by a pair of creators I also greatly enjoy and it is far different from their other work or the first album I am going to discuss. The third is a collection of stories from the old (1960/1970s) Warren magazine Vampirella, and while an American source material, the artists are all Spanish.

Stay

Stay


The first book I am going to talk about is called Stay and it is written by Lewis Trondheim and beautifully drawn by Hubert Chevillard. This is an English translation of a French graphic novel from Lion Forge and is a full color hardcover. This book is almost perfect. It is a standalone story with characters that you gradually get to know and care for. By the time you get to the end you really want to know more about them. It has all the charm and beauty of a small independent film. I have never read an American independent comic or graphic novel that comes close to this tale, with perhaps only Love and Rockets at times coming closest to the emotional impact this book has. The story involves a young couple who are on vacation at the beach. Fabienne and Roland have been looking forward to this for some time and a Roland has everything planned out and pre-paid for. Sadly (spoiler warning, even though this happens in the first three pages), Roland is accidently decapitated by a piece of metal caught in a gust of wind. From there the story tells Fabienne’s tale as she continues on Roland’s planned holiday without him. At times Fabienne comes across as a cold and heartless, but by the end I do not think so. She does all of the activities they had planned and meets some interesting people along the way, who you land up questioning their motivations, but by the last page you are left longing for more. There are no car crashes, no fights, barely any words, yet this is a beautifully crafted tale that I would have expected to read in a Jeffery Archer story. Hubert Chevillard’s art is amazing. It looks like it is drawn in colored pencil or pastels. It is soft and warm and while be no means realistic looking, it is almost cartoony, and it works perfectly for this story. While the premise of this story is very sad, the story itself is not. While there is not a traditional “happy ending,” it does have a satisfying conclusion that I admit I did not expect but suits the story perfectly. Lewis Trondheim is in my opinion one of the most underrated writers in comic, at least in America. He has written a couple of my other favorite graphic novels, including Mickey’s Craziest Adventures (A Mickey Mouse story), and the Infinity 8 series of graphic novels. I think some of his earliest work to be reprinted in America was his Dungeon series which he drew in a very cartoony style (but he did not write them) and people (me) took that as being what he does, but his writing is just amazing and to me, he has become one of my favorite authors. Stay may be the best French book I have read since March of the Crabs, which still rates among my favorites.

Atar Gull

Atar Gull


Next we have a book from Titan books imprint Statix called Atar Gull. It is written by Fabien Nury and drawn by Bruno. These are the same two creators behind the Tyler Cross series, also from Titan, both of which I greatly enjoyed. While at first glance this book looks like the Tyler Cross books, it is in fact very different. While the Cross books are basically hard boiled crime stories, this is a tale of love and revenge. It is broken up into two parts, the first part tells the story of Atar Gull, a massive slave who is bough in Africa and sent off to be sold in Jamaica with a hundred of his fellow tribesmen. This first chapter explains the whole slave trade in the 1800s and the motivations of the people involved and what hell the slaves went through. It is in no way preachy and it barely takes a stand for or against slavery, but merely lays out why it happened and how they were treated and shipped across the sea. The second half of the story takes place at the plantation where Atar Gull is sold and where his life goes from there. The story covers all of Atar’s life into old age. The second half of the story is very, very dark (even compared to the slavery half) and not anything is as it seems in the first half. Fairly early on in the second half you see where Atar is going, but the end is a real surprise. I really liked this book, even though it is quite dark in places and the subject matter is disturbing. Bruno’s art is very distinctive and I would not have thought would have worked for this kind of story, but the more I read the more I was drawn into Atar’s struggles and the art seemed perfectly suited to the story. Perhaps not a book for everybody, and definitely not for children as there is nudity and extreme violence, it is a very powerful story about one of humanity’s many low points.

The Best of Pantha: The Warren Years

The Best of Pantha: The Warren Years


Finally we have a book from Dynamite that came out a few years ago called The Best of Pantha: The Warren Years. This is an oversized hardcover collection of the solo Pantha stories from the pages of Vampirella when Warren still published it. First, my main complaint: While this book collects the Pantha stories, it skips the Pantha/Vampirella crossover stories which had a big impact on the direction of the character. Reading this book it feels like there are three different Pathra’s and the stories take sharp turns in both direction and style. Most of these major turns take place because of events in the Panthra/Vampi stories that are footnoted but not reprinted here. It is also fairly obvious that with each new writer they go in a very different directions, often dropping the whole supporting cast. When the strip starts out, written by Steve Skeates and beautifully drawn by Auraleon, it is a story of a young woman who works as a stripper to pay the bills while trying to make it in New York. She discovers she turns into a panther at night or when threatened. These are dirty and grimy stories such as you would see in a grindhouse movie. These are stories that caught my attention as a kid in the pages of Vampirella. Plus, Auraleon’s black and white art was a joy to behold. Skeates was replaced with Bill DuBay who started to flesh out the character and the stories became far less urban and more almost science fiction with her origin being set in ancient Egypt. He also tied her more into the Vampirella mythos. The artists tended to vary a bit here but did include contributions from Jeff Jones and Jose Gonzalez. The third arc was written by Rich Margopoulos and drawn by Jose Ortiz. Here, to me, the stories fall apart. Now Pathra has the Vampirlla supporting cast with her, and she is living with Adam Van Helsing, and the stories are as far from the first arc as you can get as there are zombies and mad scientists. While this was my least favorite of the three books I have written about here, over the 200 pages collected in this volume there is enough for me to recommend it. I particularly enjoyed the first third of the book, and I suspect if they had included the crossover stories, the transition in tone and direction of the stories would not have seen so stark. Still it reminded of my of my childhood and that is not a bad thing. For mature readers due to nudity.

That wraps it up for this time. Here are three very different stories from very different sources and countries, ranging from fantastic to good, and all worth reading, or at least checking out. Am I the only one to have read this books? Have you? What did you think? I would like to hear from you and I can be reached at MFBWAY@AOL.COM or on Facebook at Wayne Markley. All of the thoughts and words written here are mine and do not reflect the opinions of Westfield Comics or their employees. As always…

Thank you.

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