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City Paper: “Something Old, Something New”

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Rap content on the way, I assure you. For now, you may want to check out my review of Daniel Clowes’ Wilson and Dash Shaw’s BodyWorld, in this week’s Baltimore City Paper. Shaw’s BodyWorld is masterpiece, just something that totally blew me away–and it’s available for free to read right here–and the new book from Clowes, um, not so much.

Every year–at least since Art Spiegelman’s Maus, and most certainly by the time Chris Ware’s Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid on Earth was a bookstore-ready hardcover–a few sophisticated, sprawling comic books make their way out of the alt-comics echo chamber and into the mainstream. Last year it was David Mazzucchelli’s Asterios Polyp and R. Crumb’s Book of Genesis; April alone saw the release of Daniel Clowes’ Wilson (Drawn & Quarterly) and Dash Shaw’s BodyWorld (Pantheon). Though it won’t replace the great American novel anytime soon, the past 20 years have certainly witnessed the rise of the great American graphic novel.

Both Wilson and BodyWorld are graphic novels in the loaded, fancy sense of the term, but each book also subtly defies the expectations for the kind of smarty-pants comics that get write-ups in magazines and, well, free alternative weeklies. Clowes’ collection of depressive joke strips–a parody of the Sunday funnies–about a middle-aged, out of touch douchebag, shuns comics’ recent fascination with the grand statement, opting for a terse take on America in the aughts. It feels like a relic from an earlier indie comics era when every release didn’t have to swing for the fences. Shaw follows up 2008’s Bottomless Belly Button–a 720 pager about divorce–with an erotic, pulp-obsessed, 384-page book about a strand of weed that makes you psychic: It’s a new kind of comics epic…

Written by Brandon

June 2nd, 2010 at 5:03 am

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