This Week’s Comics: Anime Kids Coming of Age, a Memoir of the Future, and a Middle East Treasure Hunt – Slog
I spend a lot of time reading old newspapers and I will probably never stop being fascinated by the fact that human nature seems to be immutable.
For example, a few months ago I came across a weird mid-1930s fashion that graced newspapers across the country: Apparently there was a brief period when the pinnacle of comedy was composing “who is this lady?” jokes. Citizens would submit jokes to their local newspaper, which would collect them and print them like, “Who was that lady I saw you with last night?” “She wasn’t a lady, she was an elevator girl and let me down.” Or “who was this lady?” “She was not a lady, she was a waitress and served me well.”
After a while the jokers got tired of this form and it started to mutate into some weird nonsense: “Who was that lady I saw you with?” “It wasn’t a saw, it was a chisel.” And even more bizarre: “Who was that ladle?” “It wasn’t a ladle, it was a knife.”
This nearly century-old mutation of memes is virtually identical to how memes evolve today on Twitter – the only difference is that now it’s happening over a weekend, in instead of being dragged around for weeks by physical media. At one point in the film The Muppets take Manhattan the character Pete observes, “Peoples are peoples.” He is so right.
This week’s comics feature characters from very different times and places – Americans intersecting with Japanese culture, humans in a future apocalypse, and treasure hunters digging into the distant past. In every story, the peoples are the peoples. Thanks to Phoenix for helping sort out this week’s releases!
I don’t mean this as a negative, necessarily, but coming of age stories tend to paint with similar colors. Settings can vary, but in the end, you’ll likely see the plot rhythms delivered in familiar palettes: budding romance that pits friend against friend; teens realize it’s okay to be their real myself; a gifted man who collapses and cries out to his parents “why don’t you ever ask me what I want ??? “To keep such stories fresh, an innovative twist is needed – American graffitithe very specific nostalgia for; Mary Tyler Moore plays the nasty mom in Ordinary people; Abducted as if by magic‘s enchantment, etc. I am happy to report that Weeaboo Masterfully captures the unease of American teens navigating impending adulthood against the backdrop of their shared obsession with Japanese pop culture. It is Freaks and Geeks in addition to manga! Three teenage friends approach their senior year with different flavors of drama, with their real angst contrasting with the anime tropes in their favorite media. One suffers with an emotionally abusive family, another struggles with an accidentally toxic romance, a third finds his darkness a burden. Everything is built on an anime convention that takes the place usually occupied by a graduation party in the third act; John Hughes would be proud.
Rating: 🎌🎌🎌🎌🎌 (5/5)
Written and illustrated by Alissa Sallah.
Can’t wait to have some of the best nightmares of my life after reading The labyrinth, a post-apocalyptic science fiction art memory book. What a special kind! This beautifully bound, beautifully printed, and beautifully terrifying hardcover is a fascinating hybrid of literary styles. The pages alternate between fantastic illustrations and poetic prose, and at first glance I thought it was one of those ‘The Art of’ tabletop books full of concept art from a movie or of a video game. But no, this is an independent story – appropriate, because it is about independent people. The world is mired in death, following the appearance of mysterious poisonous orbs. Humanity has moved past the initial chaos and collapse of society, and our story is set in the aftermath of desperate wars. The survival of the planet has become a project of the few remaining humans, a project made possible by ruthless violence. If we have to give up our humanity in order to survive, will the survivors even be human? This book is one of the saddest stories I have ever loved.
Rating: ⚫⚫⚫⚫⚫ (5/5)
Written and illustrated by Simon Stålenhag. Edited by Amanda Setterwall Klingert. Project managers: Nils Karlén, Tomas Härenstam. Layout and prepress: Dan Algstrand. Translation: Ebba Segerberg. Proofreading: Brandon Bowling. Walpurgis Night translated by David McGuff.
A fascinating archaeological adventure in which an unlikely / uneasy alliance of Palestinians and Israelis rush to find the Ark of the Covenant. I am not a fan of the artistic style, which I would describe as “Tintin-grotesque”, but the story is a winding spell with echoes of Indiana Jones. While the characters are rendered with eerie visual simplicity, they are written with great depth, with reasons to seek out both competing and compatible treasures. The juxtaposition of antiquity and today’s political conflicts is equally impressive, offering a singular perspective on the eternal cycle of violence in which the peoples of the Middle East live. Although I enjoyed the book very much, I suspect that much of its meaning has escaped me due to my lack of historical and cultural knowledge. The actual context of the story is fleshed out in an afterword; How I wish there had been a longer advancement to update myself before diving into this otherwise fascinating pursuit. I also wonder how a Palestinian reader might receive this very Israel-centric work.
Rating: ⛏️⛏️⛏️⛏️ (4/5)
Written and illustrated by Ruto Modan. Translation by Ishai Mishory. Story writing by Noah Stollman.
ALSO: SUPERMAN IS BI, CITY OF ILLUSION, and EROTIC MASOCHISM
A few more intriguing new features this week: You might want to take a look at the new Superman, in which our hero kisses a boy – but be warned, this is the fifth in a series, so you might be a little confused if you don’t. don’t get caught up in back problems first. There is a new Robin adventure, or maybe I should call it a Robins adventure, as it has many variations of the hero. (Marvel doesn’t own a multiverse.) I like the look of City of Illusion, a fantastic magical adventure for young people that looks like a cross between Miyazaki and Pixar Luca. (No connection to the similarly titled LeGuin novel, as far as I know.) I also can’t wait to check out The furry man, an intriguing glimpse of Leopold von Sacher-Masoch, the 19th century figure whose name and private sex life would come to describe a whole genre of sexuality.