Saturday, November 28, 2009

More things read recently

I don’t know what my deal is, exactly – I’ve been reading a bunch of stuff but just haven’t been revved up to write about any of it with any sort of conviction. It’s not that I haven’t enjoyed or been interested by what I’ve been reading. I guess I’ve either been distracted by the new job and all the new things to do in this new city, or lazy. Could be either one, really. Anyway, this is what I’ve consumed lately.

Saga of the Swamp Thing (Book 1) and Swamp Thing: Love and Death (Book 2) by Alan Moore, Stephen Bissette and John Totleben. I picked this up because in one of the forewards to one of Neil Gaiman’s comics, Alan Moore’s Swamp Thing revitalization was raved about as one of those seminal, game-changing comics that arose in the 1990s. And you know me, I’m all about jumping on a good thing way after the fact (and am fortunate that the SLC City Library has a great selection of comics and graphic novels, including Swamp Thing). I will admit that I don’t love Swamp Thing the way I do the Sandman, and most of the reason is that the illustrations seem old-fashioned to me, pulpy, more comic-y and less art-y. I do like the depth of story, however; I think Moore is a terrific writer. I also liked the crossover with the Sandman stories in Love and Death with Cain and Abel, and Etrigan the Rhyming Demon [note: I’m assuming that Gaiman picked up these Moore characters but I read the Sandman first, so that’s my chronology]. I’m interested enough to see where Moore goes with this series, so I’ll probably pick up the next couple of Books.

The Sandman: Endless Nights is a collection of seven stories, one for each of Dream and his six siblings: Destiny, Death, Desire, Despair, Destruction and Delirium. Each story is, of course, written by Neil Gaiman but is illustrated by a different artist –Craig Russell, Miguelanxo Prado, Milo Manara, Barron Storey, Glenn Fabry, Bill Sienkiewicz and Frank Quitely, with longtime Gaiman collaborator Dave McKean having a creative hand in the book design. This is a gorgeous book. The stories of the Endless siblings are fascinating, giving all sorts of backstory to the Sandman series while existing as a standalone volume. The art is incredible, varying wildly depending on the artist and ranging from classic comics style to elegantly drawn portraits to crazy, trippy collages. I’ve read it through twice now and I think I’ll probably read it again before I have to give it back to the Library.

As promised in my review of Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book, I also recently checked out Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Books, Vol. 1. I must have read this before, decades ago, but I honestly can’t remember if I have. Everyone knows the story from the Disney cartoon: young boy lost from his village, raised by wild wolves, befriended, defended and taught by Bagheera (black panther – my favorite character), Baloo (big ol’ bear) and Kaa (gigantic python) … well, everybody should read the original Kipling version instead. It’s magnificent - elegant, violent and musical (don’t skip the poems in between the chapters). And now, after reading both The Jungle Books and The Graveyard Book so close together, it is readily apparent what a loving homage Gaiman’s book is to the 1895 original, even to the point of the language being a respectful and eloquent echo. Wonderful and accessible tale, even 100+ years later.

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