Profile: Modern Fantasy, Urban, Middle Eastern, Graphic Novel
After Action Report:
Cairo is, in many ways, a prototype for G. Willow Wilson’s later novel, Alif the Unseen. They are stories of clashing cultures. Both the complex internal clash between Islamic hardliners and the culturally diverse youth of the Middle East, and the more external, if no less complex conflict between encroaching western culture and the entrenched lifestyles of Muslims. By necessity, Cairo is more spare, crashing through a much simpler plot at breakneck pace, but it manages to hit the same powerful notes that Alif does.
The comic starts as the story of Ashraf, an Egyptian drug smuggler who makes regular runs across the border into Israel. On one such run, he wrecks his car on a stoned camel (exactly as funny as it sounds), loses his shipment and ends up stealing a hookah from his employer to make some fast cash. But the hookah is home to a jinn, Shams, a beneficent creature who owns a box that could give control of the entire Middle East to anyone who possesses it.
Profile: Autobiography, Manga, Graphic Novel
After Action Report:
A Drifting Life is a wonderfully thick tome of a graphic novel. Equal parts autobiography, national history and understated drama; the book chronicles the story of one of the founding fathers of Japanese Manga. The style pioneered by Yoshihiro Tatsumi was one of the first attempts to turn cartoons into a medium for serious works. Appropriately, his story is a serious one, touching on the themes of artistic integrity and the struggles of living in postwar Japan. It is an exquisite novel, and only feels unfocused because that’s how life sometimes is.
While A Drifting Life is an autobiography, Tatsumi authored the book as if it were about someone else. His fictional stand in, Hiroshi Katsumi, is the central protagonist, and a brief editor’s note remarks that a number of other names have been changed. The book picks up at the end of World War II with the surrender of Emperor Hirohito. Hiroshi is ten and has already developed a love of Manga and drawing. Along with his brother, Oki, Hiroshi starts on the path of a Manga-ka, submitting amateur comic strips to various publishing houses. To his surprise, he is published.
Profile: Graphic Novel, Speculative Fiction
After Action Report:
If you look around online, the reviews for RASL are decidedly mixed. There are complaints about the pacing, the protagonist, and a laundry list of other, minor issues that plague the graphic novel. But the real problem most of these readers seem to have with the book, is that it isn’t Bone. Jeff Smith really carved out a place for himself with Bone, capturing the attention of fans and critics alike but now those same fans can’t seem to move past it. That being said, I haven’t read Bone. So with any luck, this review will be a little less biased.
RASL opens with the narrator/protagonist, a man only identified by his calling card, a graffiti tag with the letters RASL in green and pink, stealing a Picasso from a loft apartment. The heist goes wrong and RASL escapes into an alley where he straps on four miniature jet engines and an African mask. When the police round the corner and fire on him, he vanishes in a flash of light. RASL can ‘Drift’ between dimensions courtesy of technology he developed from the notes of Nikola Tesla. He makes a living stealing parallel copies of famous painting and selling them on Earth Prime. But the jumps between dimensions are taking their toll on his body, and now someone is chasing him between the worlds.
Profile: Graphic Novel, Philosophy, Nonfiction
Summary: From the inner cover, “This innovative graphic novel is based on the early life of the brilliant philosopher Bertrand Russell and his impassioned pursuit of truth. Haunted by family secrets and unable to quell his youthful curiosity, Russell became obsessed with a Promethean goal: to establish the logical foundations of all mathematics. In his agonized search for absolute truth, Russell crosses paths with legendary thinkers like Gottlob Frege, David Hilbert, and Kurt Gödel, and finds a passionate student in the great Ludwig Wittgenstein. But the object of his defining quest continues to loom before him. Through love and hate, peace and war, Russell persists in the dogged mission that threatened to claim both his career and his personal happiness, finally driving him to the brink of insanity.