Graphic Novels from Cho, Delporte, and Kafka & Godbout

Week ending June 20, 2014

starred review starCho, Michael (text & illus.). Shoplifter. Pantheon. Sept. 2014. 96p. ISBN 9780307911735. $19.95; ebk. ISBN 9780307911742. F
shoplifter062014Cho (Back Alleys and Urban Landscapes), already a popular illustrator, proves that he’s just as adept a storyteller in his first full-length project as both writer and artist. The story follows Corinna Park, an advertising copywriter jaded by the industry and frustrated at her failure to achieve her dream of becoming a novelist. She feels isolated, bitter, and alone; her only real joy in life is occasionally shoplifting magazines from the convenience store near her apartment. Where did it all go wrong? Can Corinna find happiness? Romance? The story might seem like straightforward urban ennui, but Cho uses Corinna’s struggle to explore issues such as corporate culture and responsibility and the way that the intersection of consumerism and social media commodifies interpersonal relationships. Cho’s style of illustration is reminiscent of Darwyn Cooke’s—cinematic and filled with detail and expert uses of light and shade, especially in several cityscape spreads that you’ll want to tear out and frame.
Verdict A moving, beautifully drawn, and thought-provoking book perfect for fans of indie cinema, graphic design, illustration, and comics in the Adrian Tomine and Dan Clowes vein.—Thomas L. Batten, Grafton, VA

Delporte, Julie (text & illus.). Everywhere Antennas. Drawn & Quarterly. 2014. 112p. tr. from French by Helge Dascher. ISBN 9781770461543. pap. $19.95. F
When we first meet the narrator of Everywhere Antennas, she seems like another angsty twentysomething. She is tired and confused and spends much of her time with debilitating headaches while she tries to study for her teaching exam. She assumes she is depressed, but when she learns of a rare condition that makes its sufferers sensitive to electromagnetic radiation, she realizes that her illness is far more complicated. Delporte (Dans ta Bulle radio show) uses spare writing, a jarringly vivid color palette, and naive drawings to take readers into the diary of her narrator. Loopy, crooked cursive and a pastiche of tape and smudges create intimacy. The artwork ranges from innocent outlines of the city to more nuanced sketches of nature to dreamy impressionistic landscapes as the narrator struggles to come to grips with her disease and what it means for her future. The use of color and tone is exceptional in this surprisingly affecting and thought-provoking graphic novel that forces readers to consider the role technology plays in their daily life.
Verdict Fans of introspective comics will enjoy this distinct work.—E.W. Goodman, Art Inst. of Pittsburgh

Kafka, Franz (text) & Réal Godbout (text & illus.). Amerika: The Man Who Disappeared. BDANG: Conundrum. 2014. 184p. tr. from French by Helge Dascher. ISBN 9781894994811. pap. $20. F
Kafka (1883–1924) is well known for writing dark allegories such as The Metamorphosis and head-scratchingly confusing stories such as The Trial. Amerika is a bit different—a seemingly straightforward tale of a young, naive German man trying to make his way in the United States at the turn of the 20th century. The story challenges the vision of America as a promised land where anyone can succeed. At every turn Karl is either helped without cause or attacked without reason, and the ups and downs of his experience get stranger and stranger as he moves from millionaire’s doted upon nephew to hotel elevator boy to a shut-in opera singer’s slave. His encounters are an examination of the odd underbelly of the American dream, and it’s still relevant today. Godbout’s graphic interpretation is skillful—each character is fully realized, the landscapes and architecture of the Northeast feel lived in, and the narrative moves at a satisfying, suspense-building pace. Godbout’s precise illustrations complement the plot without overwhelming it and, in doing so, capture the spirit of Kafka’s novel perfectly.
Verdict A great, fitting adaptation of a strange and prescient story of the American dream gone slightly awry, as it so often does.—Emilia Packard, Austin, TX