Comics round up: The archaeology of alternative comics

By Tim Martin
Sunday 23 November 2008 01:00

An Anthology of Graphic Fiction, Cartoons and True Stories vol. 2 ed Ivan Brunetti (Yale, £16.99)

Good grief, what a book this is – a hyperactive, periodically insane dive into the archaeology of alternative comics; the sort of book you long to present to people with no interest in the medium and watch as it removes the top of their heads and gives their brains a good stir. More or less everything is here, from Winsor McCay's "Little Nemo" strips, begun in 1905, to the work of Charles Burns, Art Spiegelman, Chester Hines... you name it. Each page has something new, upsetting, wonderful on it,which makes it, along with the equally gigantic vol. 1, pretty much unbeatable.

Sleepwalk by Adrian Tomine (Faber £9.99)

Adrian Tomine's chilly, clean, black-and-white penmanship lends an air of unsettling poise to Sleepwalk, his second collection to be published in the UK. The stories here are short, inconclusive, shot through with pitch-dark humour and a distant compassion that reminds one at times of Raymond Carver. A young man is left in the middle of nowhere after crashing his car; an old woman eats lunch every day in hers, remembering her youth; a voyeuristic couple see something terrible in the sex games of the people next door. Some of the stories are only a page long. All are visually stunning. Most feel absolutely essential.

Che: A Graphic Biography by Spain Rodriguiz (Verso £9.99)

Spain Rodriguez is best known as the creator of Trashman, a legendary far-left underground comic character best described as a cross between Mad Max, Karl Marx and the Punisher. In Che, he brings his distinctive blend of delicate detail and relentless motion to the tale of another somewhat famous Communist adventurer, producing a gleefully partial view of Guevara's life that manages, despite didactic passages shoehorned in from the Collected Works, to hum with activity and design inventiveness from first page to last. It's a blend of realism and stylisation that lights up the form, a positive masterclass in visual narrative. Whatever your politics.

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