Today we have a double-shot of columns for you. First comes the long-awaited return of our European correspondent, Matthias Wivel, who writes about the winners of the main categories at this year's Angoulême festival—Christophe Blain and Willem—and what their respective books say about the current state of French cartooning and satire:
Blain is no doubt one of the most talented draftsmen in comics today, his line and color always exquisitely tasteful on the page. Eye candy. But he convinces less as a cartoonist. His facility seems to affect his panel-to-panel storytelling, in that it comes so easy that he never appears to think much about the choices he makes. It reads clearly enough, but the narration is gassy and distended—it seems as if he lets one panel follow the next without much premeditation, an easy overflow. This results in endless sequences of talking heads, with each panel showing only limited invention in terms of carrying the dialogue (some of which could easily have been cut in the first place). And although his dashing interpretation of de Villepin has iconic qualities, his limits as a caricaturist are revealed in his more true-to-life approximations of such central players as George W. Bush and Colin Powell, who are stilted and jarring in the company of their eloquently rendered co-stars.
Look, the French are justified in being proud of their government’s stand on the disastrous war in Iraq, but does it need any more vindication? Ultimately, Quai d’Orsay is little else than an attractive-looking stroke book for the French national ego. A cinch to get rave reviews, sell out print runs, and win the award for best comic at the biggest French comics festival, but hardly worth the attention of anyone genuinely interested in the politics it claims to lampoon.
Then comes Frank Santoro with a Riff Raff riff on comics made by fine artists—Katherine Bernhardt, Gary Panter, and Matt Leines, to be precise. A sample:
Matt Leines can draw his ass off. He can fill a gallery full of drawings and paintings and make solid artist's books: zines, mini-comics, the usual. That's fairly uncommon, I think. To be able to do both so well. I don't know many mini-comics or zine makers who can scale up and present their work in a gallery setting. A few. But not many.
This untitled booklet of drawings is essentially a comic because the images unfold in sequence. Each spread is one drawing. It moves forward similarly to, say, Moebius's 40 Days in the Desert. If you've seen that book then you know that the images sort of repeat and change as they fade into each other as we, the reader, turn each spread. A familiar but fairly uncommon way of doing comics.
—Interviews. Alex Dueben talks to Dash Shaw, Zack Smith talks to Eric Reynolds and Philip Nel about Barnaby, and Robin McConnell talks to Sam Henderson. Also, Dan Casey talks to Brian Michael Bendis and Josh Fialkov, with Bendis revealing he's now an Adrian Tomine and Michael DeForge fan.
—Reviews. Sean T. Collins writes about Boulet's The Long Journey. Bully undertakes a too-rare bit of extended analysis comparing the recent Age of Ultron Marvel "event" unfavorably to a promotional Avengers comic given away at Wyndham hotels. And then Alison Hallett at Slate reviewed Ryan North's To Be or Not To Be, the Choose-Your-Own-Adventure-style Hamlet adaptation that raised more than $580,000 on Kickstarter. (Warning: that last review is very Slate-y.)
—News. New Republic pinup Mark Millar is shutting down Clint magazine. Ahmad Akkari, one of the leading critics of the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten's decision to publish caricatures of the prophet Muhammad seven years ago, now says he was wrong. As he's also apparently no longer a fundamentalist, and his former colleagues are unrepentant, this is perhaps more of a personal story than a sign of anything large, but it seems worth noting.
—Miscellaneous. The just-announced deluxe edition of Junot Diaz's This Is How You Lose Her features illustrations from Jaime Hernandez. Some chain of links I no longer remember led me to a June Bookforum interview with the Norwegian author Karl Ove Knausgaard. In it, Knausgaard compares his acclaimed autobiographical novel series My Struggle (Mit Kamp) in both theme and approach to feminist women writers from the 1970s. Which reminded me of this Gabrielle Bell strip from just a week earlier, which references Knausgaard. The two dovetail together nicely.