Friday, January 11, 2008

Book Review | Graphic Novel "Unbeatable"

Is a nightmare just a dream gone wrong, or does the cause lie somewhere else? What if you wake up in a padded cell and then slip into endless nightmares day after day? Nightmares that don't make sense. Nightmares that have you dying day in and day out. How do you get out of the cycle and try to make sense of what is going on? How do you stop yourself from going insane? Wait a minute...what if you are already insane?

Matthias Wolf's first effort at a Graphic novel titled "Unbeatable" starts off really well. It shows a young man in pain, waking up in a padded cell with no memories of what has transpired. Before he realizes it, he is launched into dream after dream where all he does is fight the most famous warriors in history with a predictable outcome -- his death at their hands.

The book is slick -- well crafted images, great start with the plot unwinding slowly at times but with large leaps and bounds at other times.

He remembers growing up in a small town, his first crush, his mild mannered father who guides him along the various pitfalls of life that only a high-schooler can experience, when things seem to go wrong in seemingly small ways.

His father, the epitome of non-violence breaks loose and unleashes his fury and is then immediately paid a visit by a mysterious person whom he recognizes, but our protagonist has never seen before. A "creature" is helped in his escape from a highly secure facility who then rampages across the countryside and finds our hero's girlfriend as a victim after he has been knocked unconscious. To top it all, he wakes up in a padded cell with no memories and gruesome battles and deaths to follow.

The storytelling and art are great, with styles reminiscent of manga artwork -- somewhat comic, yet deadly serious. The coloring is fantastic - invoking exactly the kind of mood and feelings that the author intended. 

The only problem I had was when the plot unwinds towards the end -- it seems too sudden and too convenient. While there are no doubts in the reader's mind as to what has been happening, perhaps a couple of more pages and panels could have been dedicated to explaining the concept in a more careful manner.

All said and done, this is a great first effort and if there is a sequel (or even other titles from the same group) then I shall definitely like to get my hands on it.


Thursday, January 10, 2008

Book Review | Complete Graphic Novel version of Clive Barkers "The Great and Secret Show"

Did you ever get the feeling that there is something other than what seems "real"? A vague feeling of undercurrents in everyday life? That something lies beneath the surface, and yet cannot be seen, heard or touched? What if that something is a source of unimaginable power and yet we cannot know of its existence?

The real scary part -- what if by being at a particular point in time or place you chance upon the existence of this seemingly endless source of power and worse, misery?

Clive Barker is a master of horror. He can weave stories around you while you are busy concentrating on something else -- concentrating on something as dull as a post office clerk working in the middle of nowhere. Nowhere becomes somewhere for Randolph Jaffe the aforementioned post-office clerk. He becomes aware of something called "the art" which can help him gain access to a mystical sea known as "quiddity". To gain access to this source of supposedly infinite power, he calls upon Richard Fletcher to help him. Fletcher, through scientific (or other) means, is able to find a way through to the "art".

Here begins a battle for control of the art -- a battle that calls upon huge resources of power and energy from Jaffe on the one side and Fletcher on the other...a classic good vs evil battle.

But, is that what this book is all about? Does it come down to that overabused concept of good vs evil?

The answer: doesn't everything come down to that quintessential question? Choices must be made in life and sometimes those choices are black and white. What you choose defines you and if you are the source of great power, then it probably defines an entire generation, if not more. Barker is able to conjure up these ideas by having his chief characters fight it out over various realms of the real and unreal. But his genius is the fact that he doesn't leave the storyline at such a simplification.

Four teenage girls frolicking in a countryside are raped by the "spirits" of both Jaffe and Fletcher -- to impregnate them so that their progeny can continue the battle. Yes, that's correct -- both of them fall to the level of raping the young girls. Here's where the gray comes into the battle. No one side is "pure" anymore. They are both willing to do whatever it takes to win. Does the end justify the means? That is what both sides seem to believe in this tale...

Well, guess what - eighteen years later, their progeny answer the "call" and come out on one side or the other. Or do they? What if they don't want to take the roles chosen for them by their powerful fathers? What if they are attracted to each other?

A whole host of characters go in and out at a dizzying pace in the story. We can see that Clive Barker did not intend for us to sit still and follow single lines of thought. There are subplots within subplots. For instance, who is the woman in the desert? Who is this Kissoon character really, and how is he able to exist in a single moment over and over? What happens if Quiddity is breached?

Do not worry -- Barker and his host of characters have answers to everything in this first (and yet complete) book in the "Art Trilogy". 

Adapted into the graphic novel version by Chris Ryall (who adapted "Shaun of the Dead") and Gabriel Rodriguez (who adapted "George A Romero's Land of the Dead") the storytelling reaches new heights. IDW has a history of great titles, and this is definitely one of the top graphic novels from their stable. The artwork and visual images evoked in the adaptation heightens the understanding of the original story and also makes us involved in the sequence of events. It is extremely difficult to put down and makes for fascinating reading. I now want to get my hands on the second book in the "Art Trilogy" -- "Everville", or even its graphic novel adaptation.