Aside from reaching the final pages of Thief-Taker General #2 and keeping on top of the day job I have been reading through my usual diet of comic books and graphic novels. My regular titles include Northlanders, Captain America, Daredevil and 2000AD to name but a few. Graphic novels I’ve recently bought include Joe Sacco’s Palestine, Howard Chaykin’s American Flagg vol 1, Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis and The Dylan Dog Case Files. My indy titles you can find about from the Smallpress link on the regular site. But for today’s blog I thought I’d write a bit about my growing love for the work of Brian Woods.
The first book I came across by this US creator was Local. Published in a lovely hardcover edition and drawn by Ryan Kelly, it has the appearance and feel of a professionally made independent comic and is miles away from the usual superhero/detective noir/ magical mumbo-jumbo themes of many American comics. Here the authors focus on 12 years in the life of Megan McKeenan with each chapter representing a moment of each year as he hops from one state to another to both escape and to find herself. We watch as she evolves from a naive, emotionally insecure girl to a mature and sorted young woman, ready to return home and take on the responsibilities that will take her into adulthood. In so doing she becomes an unusually rounded character, one whom you can feel you almost know. The art is rendered in heavy blacks and lends itself well to the story. It is tribute to both Woods' and Kelly's talents that the stories remain in the head long after reading them and I moved from initially disliking Megan to eventually caring for what happened to her. This is a great book and definitely one I will be returning to again and again.
On the basis of that I picked up Demo volume 1, very similar in tone to the sort of stories told in Local but much more fragmentary. By that I mean that each chapter stands alone and features a different cast of characters, all of them rounded and well-drawn both in a literary sense by Woods and in the literal sense by Becky Cloonan. The catch here is that one of the characters in each of these stories has some sort of secret power and is attempting to find ways to live with it bar dressing up in a leotard and cape and saving the world. These stories are rooted in the real world and concern themselves with the day-to-day affairs of ordinary people that we can all relate to. Unlike Local, each story is drawn in subtly different ways, some of them dark and bold, others lighter and some with hints of manga about them. Again another top read that rewards repeated reading.
Earlier I mentioned Northlanders, a series about the world of the Vikings, published by Vertigo and again written and drawn by Brian Woods and Ryan Kelly. Stories vary in length; so far there have been two six-parters and a two-parter. Each tale follows its own theme with its own set of characters, something which appears to be a hallmark of this creative duo. The stories are weighty, bloody and very dynamic to look at. Despite any stereotype images we have of the Vikings and their world, these characters are again very well written and drawn out. In the six-part ‘The Hammer and the Cross’, our perceptions of the three main characters and their motivations are constantly challenged and questioned; by the end of the tale our allegiances have almost (but not quite) reversed as the true nature of events is revealed. Unlike their other work this series is in colour rendered in muted tones that suits its subject. And the painted covers are some of the most glorious and eye-catching ones currently being produced anywhere.
I would heartily recommend any of the above titles and I for one will certainly be looking out for more of their new and previous work. All of the above mentioned tomes are available to by on Amazon.