Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Second Thoughts: You might or might not have any

Elsewhere: I've got a review of Marvel's Young Allies Special #1 over at Comics Bulletin.

Links! You can read the entire first issue of Jeff Parker and Steve Lieber's Underground at the series' official site. That was quick.

I really liked Anders Nilsen's story about what got him interested in making comics. Also, I wouldn't mind reading that book, if he ever finishes it.

Cartoonist Neill Cameron is doing a series of alphabet-themed posts starring comics characters. If the first few entries are any indication, they should be tons of fun.

Okay, getting caught up:

Second Thoughts
By Niklas Asker

A strong debut is always an exciting thing in any art medium, announcing a talented creator's entry into the field and planting seeds of anticipation for future works. And that's exactly what this book does; Niklas Asker is a young Swedish cartoonist, and this is his first graphic novel. Right out of the box, he's got a really good grasp of character art, making the people that populate his story move and breathe and inhabit real-feeling space. He also does some great street-level views of the urban environment; while there are occasional skyline shots, the best stuff is simple, gritty views of sidewalks, gutters, alleys, and storefronts:

It's a great visual look for the story, which sees a young man and woman meet at the London airport, with him on his way out of town and her there to meet somebody. When the flight they're both waiting for gets cancelled, they leave and go their separate ways, with the story following them both in turn. We find that the man, John, had planned to abruptly leave town, and so he's staying in a hotel until he can catch the next flight, but he can't resist going out for a drink and reminiscing about the beginning of the relationship that he's in the process of fleeing. Jess, on the other hand, is a writer, and she's having relationship problems of her own.

But something seems fishy here, and soon enough, the revelation comes that [Spoiler?] the part of the plot involving John is actually a story being written by Jess. Some hints lead to that conclusion, but it becomes obvious when we see that that Jess's rock star girlfriend is the same character as John's girlfriend, and they both share the same relationship dilemma involving jealousy and infidelity. The story becomes a fascinating depiction of how a writer can work out, or at least explore, personal issues through their work. And in the end, it all comes full circle, as the "real-life" John reads Jess's book and finds his own inspiration in its pages. [end spoilers]

It's a nice little book at around 80 pages, and Asker fills them all with very well-realized characters and settings, and an extra layer of metafictional interest coming from the fact that, judging by the back-flap author photo, John is obviously modeled on Asker himself. All the locations feel fully lived-in, and watching the characters move about them seems less like reading a comic and more like just watching people in their natural environment. Some early scenes from Jess's point of view are especially effective:

Yes, Asker is quite a talent; if there's any justice, this is only the first shot in what will prove to be a volley of exciting work. He's got the storytelling chops, now he just needs to tell some more stories.

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