Bob's Comics Reviews September 2003 Arrows


Jason Little : Shutterbug Follies
Bee on the job Bee, orange-haired and 18 years old, is a clerk in a photo store in New York, with a bad habit of making extra copies of the pictures she processes, to chuckle over with her friend Lyla. And then she finds that the pictures taken by a Russian guy named Oleg, who claims to be an artist and a journalist, may point to a murder, and she can't help investigating...

Bee is essentially a Tintin for the '00s: plucky, resourceful, and occasionally a step behind rather than ahead of the suspicious folks she investigates. Although she's not quite so focussed as the boy reporter: while trailing bad guys, she finds the time for a date or two.

The art is stylized, with beautiful colors, and some neat comics tricks (e.g. the use of the photographs and negatives Bee is looking at as panels). It makes a satisfying thriller, with a bittersweet ending. I've never heard of this guy before, but I hope he does much more of this.

Bill Willingham : Fables
Sometimes someone has a killer idea. Suppose all the characters from fairy tales-- Snow White, Bluebeard, the Big Bad Wolf, Beauty and the Beast, and many more-- had to move to New York, bury their differences, and make a living. Cool, eh? This is such a good idea that even Hollywood could hardly muck it up. And it gets better: murder mysteries!

Snow White's sister Rose Red is missing, and her apartment is full of blood. B. Wolf, Fabletown's chief of security, is on the case. And pay attention: it's an honest detective story, where you can put the book down just as the hero announces he's solved the case, and match your wits with his.

It's a lot of fun, and my wife loved it too (which I usually take as a good indication of whether non-comics-geeks will like something). My only cavil is the art. It's competent, about the level of the majority of Sandman... but that's simply not very exciting-- illustrative rather than evocative. Occasionally, for instance, there's an attempt to jazz up the panel borders, but it only makes Promethea look that much better. The original covers are gorgeous, though.

There are two TPBs out, and I hope more to come.

Marjane Satrapi : Persepolis
Marji in class A kid's eye view of the Iranian Revolution. Marjane is about ten when the revolution breaks out. She lives with her parents in a good neighborhood in Tehran, and goes to a French school; her family is fairly Western-oriented-- and for a Third World nation, somewhat spoiled-- and has a number of leftist friends, including an uncle who was imprisoned by the Shah.

Slowly but surely the revolution intrudes on their enclave: the colleges are closed; gangs of religious enforcers hassle beardless men and unveiled women; schoolteachers begin teaching Islamist boilerplate. And then the war with Iraq begins; soon teenage boys are being sent en masse to die at the front, missiles bombard Tehran, and the government takes advantage of the confusion to kill off dissenters.

It's grim when the situation warrants; but the tone is usually light (aided by Satrapi's cheerful cartoonish drawings). The revolution fascinates Marjane, but as a kid it's hard to take seriously-- as in the scan, where she and her classmates can't resist having fun even as they're made to knit hoods for the fighters. Marjane is an Islamist one day, a resister the next; at the same time she's discovering boys, and listening to Kim Wilde and Iron Maiden.

Don't be afraid of the alien language there; Persepolis has just been published in English.

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