June 2nd, 2006

benpeek

Loveless: A Kin of Homecoming

Maybe the problem with Brian Azzarello and Marcelo Frusin's Loveless: A Kin of Homecoming is that I expected too much.

I know writer Brian Azzarello from 100 Bullets and Johnny Double with Eduardo Risso, as well as having written an arc of Hellblazer, Batman, and a Sgt. Rock graphic novel illustrated with Joe Kubert. Out of all of them, only the Batman arc, illustrated by Risso, didn't interest me outright. In fact, I'd probably have to say that Batman: Broken City was pretty forgettable on just about every level. Likewise, I'd been familiar with Marcelo Frusin's artwork on Hellblazer, and I really liked his thick, broad lined work there. So when the two of them came together for their own series, Loveless, a western set in the aftermath of the Civil War, I figured this could only be good.

But Loveless: A Kin of Homecoming, the first collection of the Loveless series, is more confusing than it is enjoyable, and so the slim collection is ultimately unsatisfying.

The premise is simple: after being held in prison at the end of the American Civil War, Wes Cutter, who fought for the South, returns home to find his wife and reclaim his land that the Union have taken. The problem, of course, is that immediately this premise has a bump in it, because trailing Wes is a shadowy stranger who turns out to be the wife he is searching for, Ruth. Only, she's quite found, and is possibly responsible for freeing him from jail. This isn't much of a spoiler, by the way, though the second is just an opinion; but the first is revealed fairly earlier in the collection. The result of this early reveal, however, is that it makes the whole story that Wes gives about looking his wife, often after scenes of both him and his wife in their cabin, a little odd and mystifying, since nothing is made out of it. It might have been slightly more interesting if Azzarello played up this aspect of the story more, and had Ruth dodging in and out of buildings to hide for people--as it is, she is dressed like a 'man', which, given Frusin's curved and beautiful depictions of women, doesn't result in a very convincing deception. Indeed, the first character to meet Ruth without Wes around isn't convinced, either. Given that when Ruth was in town last she was brutally raped by Union soldiers, and the townsfolk did nothing to stop it, I tend to think that there are more interesting ways for Azzarello and Frusin to use Ruth.

I guess the problem is that Ruth's position in the story makes it convoluted. If Ruth had been introduced later, if perhaps both she and Wes had returned openly and the town had reacted to Ruth's new, angry, vengeful presence, then it would have been sleeker. As it is, if feels as if A Kin of Homecoming is very much Ruth's story, and Azzarello and Frusin have picked the wrong point of view character in Wes to narrate it through. Towards the end of the collection, however, the narration begins to fall evenly to the two, while also introducing a third, the freed slave Atticus, who had fought with the Union.

That said, it isn't a bad collection, and there are aspects that work well. Of particular success is the way that Frusin overlaps memories and current events in his art so that you can watch Wes or Ruth or Atticus move through an event, but see the ghostly presence of their older selves, their selves before the war, and see, in the case of Wes and Ruth just how much has been lost in the two (though it should be said that their almost perfect romance is a bit unbelievable). It works nicely, and avoids any confusion, except for one point when Atticus is chased down by a member of the KKK, and it is mixed with his escape from slavers. But like I said, it works for the most part well, and likewise, Azzarello's script does a nice job of introducing Wes' brother, Jonny, to the reader, and positioning him as the antagonist that, when he enters town, will begin the true burning of Blackwater.

Still, as things go, Loveless lacks the emotional weight of Azzarello's 100 Bullets, and while he and Frusin have come together nicely on the book, it doesn't yet seem to be working on all levels. Worth a try if you're curious, however.
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benpeek

Standing in a Bookstore

Today it hit me: I don't really enjoy bookstores anymore.

Which is odd, because at the time when I had this little moment, I was standing in a newly opened Borders, having my senses overloaded with books and itching to spend money. So, in actuality, I was having a good experience in a bookstore, but that just drove home how very often I don't have that experience anymore. I'm not saying that Borders was (or is) a great bookstore, for as S. said, it was kind of soulless, and it, just like every other bookstore in Sydney, had all these books that began at twenty bucks, but were mostly twenty five if you wanted a paperback. I didn't even bother looking at hardcovers. I long ago gave up buying hardcover books in Australia. I buy them from the States and while the shipping cost is high, order a handful, and I'm still coming out ahead in the money world, especially if they're independent press. Because, of course, you can't buy many hardcovers locally--they're mostly trade paperbacks, which are the same size as a hardcover, but big and ugly in their softness...

Wait, I'm getting lost here, aren't I?

It's a kind of a thing for authors to talk about how much they love bookstores, and the people working in them, which, y'know, is nice, but since authors want to be nice to the people who sell there books, of course they're going to say it. Even I like the bookstore operatives who get behind the books I'm in (or the books I've written, but that's something to say later). And like any author wanting to please, I'll do pretty much whatever is asked of me by a bookstore. Likewise, I don't actually want to see the non-chain bookstores go out of business, so while I stood in a Borders, just pretend I stood in a small business. With less books.

Which brings me to my point. It's rare when I go into a bookstore these days that I get that pleasure of seeing books that have some sort of New to them--and by this I mean something that appeals to my jaded, seen too many books appetite--or books I've just heard vaguely of, and so stumbling over them is a pleasure. Even in this big Borders I couldn't find an Octavia Butler book, you know? It just strikes me that there's a lot of repeating in bookstores--a lot of the same authors, same concepts, same publishers... a whole lot of the same old, same old, you know? And that's not really what I want anymore. By and large (and we're speaking in generalities) I'm familiar with the same old stuff, and they've either passed my Interested or Not Interested glance, and so I leave without buying and return to the playground of the internet.

In short, I miss the New.

I miss that feel when I could walk into a bookstore and feel as if there was so much uncharted, unmapped literature that anything I picked up would be all shiny. The Borders didn't really have it either. It was just a big bookstore that was a) local, and b) had a portion of books I would've had to buy online or get ordered if I wanted them. So my impulse purchasing instinct was getting some fresh life.

Anyhow, enough about my internal consumer. In other news, I'm behind on just about everything that I am meant to be doing. Writing, rewriting, everything. I sort of died in May and now I need to get my shit together.
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