Week ending November 22, 2013
Berg, Dave (text & illus.). MAD’s Greatest Artists: Dave Berg; Five Decades of “The Lighter Side of….” Running Pr. Nov. 2013. 272p. ISBN 9780762451616. $30. COMICS
Collecting five decades of his work, this substantial volume comprehensively demonstrates the voice, wit, and artistic talent of one of MAD Magazine’s star creators. Berg (1920–2002) began his career at MAD in 1957 and several years later created a feature called “The Lighter Side of…,” which ran continuously in the publication until his death in 2002 and is a phenomenal series for a few reasons. For one thing, it is an invaluable snapshot of America, the American people, and the country’s values over the second half of the 20th century. It takes serious, everyday issues that cause people stress, such as getting promotions at work or winterizing your home, and shows how ridiculous these experiences are from afar. Reading these stories the reader is simultaneously aware of how far society has come over the past decades and also how much the routine of daily events remain the same. As times and trends changed, Berg showed his versatility, dealing with new fads and trends with the humor and candor seen in all his work.
Verdict For anyone who wants to read Berg’s work, this book provides brilliant insight into his cartoons and his life via interviews and testimonials from daughter Nancy and others he influenced.—Alger C. Newberry III, Genesee Dist. Lib., Flint, MI
Wilson, Sean Michael (text) & Akiko Shimojima (illus.). The 47 Ronin. Shambhala. Nov. 2013. 160p. ISBN 9781611801378. pap. $14.95. HISTORICAL FANTASY
In this historically based Japanese legend from the early 18th century, daimyo (feudal lords) Asano and Kamei receive etiquette training from Kira, a rude official, in the capital of Edo. While Kira becomes more polite to Kamei after a bribe from Kamei’s followers, his insults to Asano increase, resulting in Asano’s failed attempt to kill him. For this crime, the shogun orders Asano to commit suicide, leaving his followers as ronin, or masterless samurai. Outraged that Kira received no punishment for his role in the tragedy, 47 of the ronin hatch a successful plot to kill him and avenge their master. Though many people consider their actions just, the shogun can’t ignore the murder they’ve committed, and he orders them all to follow their master in honorable death.
Verdict Wilson uses exactly the right scenes to tell this famous story, creating a quick, engaging read. Shimojima’s detailed manga-style artwork lends itself well, although some of her character designs are a little difficult to tell apart. Recommended for Japanese history fans and for those who plan to see the more loosely based Hollywood film this December.—Heather Williams, Whatcom Community Coll., Bellingham, WA