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Book & Comic Recs, 2/18/15

In Books:

The Sculptor, words and pictures by Scott McCloud: I read this book deliberately, one chunk at a time, until I reached the 2/3 point, and then I could not stop; the story became so urgent that I almost felt like stopping reading would mean leaving the main characters alone to die, and I couldn't bear the thought of that. I still wish I could have parceled it out a little more slowly, though, because now I will never have the chance to read it for the first time again. What a wonderful story, told by a master, and a meditation on art, love, and life. It's never maudlin and puts neither of its main characters onto pedestals; furthermore, it's nice to read a story where the hero's actions aren't universally treated as the correct Be-All and End-All to all the story's problems. (In fact, the main characters' actions contribute to some of his problems, in the messy, complicated way that often happens in real life, and I really appreciated that angle of the plot.) I'm also amazed that McCloud managed, in every instance, to show in two dimensions a story that I could feel in all three. Not literally, of course, but I could imagine all the textures that are part of the story beneath my fingers, and this is a rare thing for any work, graphic novel or not. The final twenty pages or so are some of the most beautiful pieces of art I've seen in years.

When I finished this book, I sat on the couch for a few minutes, wiped away the tears, and went to hug my son. It's that kind of book, the kind that makes you value what you have and remember how life, although tumultuous and sometimes troubling, is a gift. It's absolutely worth paying the hardcover price for. Run, don't walk!

The Bone Clocks, by David Mitchell: Like the The Sculptor, this is a work that deals in huge themes and it's hard to reduce it to a few sentences of plot and critique. In some ways, it's as good as Cloud Atlas, although I don't think anything will ever knock that book out of my favorites list. It's the most Buddhist work of science fiction I've ever read. It's filled with characters of all sizes and shapes, although it sticks with one character throughout in thought-provoking ways. Unlike Cloud Atlas, I ended up liking all of the characters, including one who I never thought I would come to tolerate, much less like. It's also one of the more depressing visions of the near future that I've read in some time, and I'm sorry to say that the final installment of the story is the one that sticks with me most of all, when I think it should be the work as a whole.

Both The Sculptor and The Bone Clocks are masterful at capturing in macro- and micro- the ways that life slides by, and they both feel epic in similar ways, even though their subject matter is completely different. While The Sculptor is more accessible than The Bone Clocks, they're both wonderful reads for story and character, and that amazing sense of grandeur that a lot of works lack.

In Comics:

Marceline Gone Adrift, Issues 1 & 2: The story is unfolding slowly so far, but the wonderful artwork is more than enough to make up for it, and I have faith Meredith Gran is going to spin a marvelous second half. There have been some great flashbacks to Marceline and Bubblegum's past so far, and I'm sure there are more to come.

Help Us! Great Warrior, Issue 1: I wasn't sure what to make of this comic until the last two panels of the final page, in which this amazing line of dialogue resides: "Ssshh! Do you hear that? It's the sound of me believing in myself." At that point, I was totally sold. The whole work is impossibly adorable and squishy, and there are a lot of fun asides like this one. I'm really excited to see where the story goes!

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