Book Review–Mastering Comics: Drawing Words & Writing Pictures Continued

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Posted by Andrew | Posted in book reviews, First Second, graphic novel | Posted on 30-05-2012

Mastering Comics: Drawing Words & Writing Pictures Continued
First Second
Jessica Abel & Matt Madden
May 2012

Matt and Jessica have extensive experience creating and teaching comics and in their first book, Drawing With Words and Pictures, they shared a portable classroom.  Now they come back to us with further lessons in this companion book.  The book covers more advanced topics in creating a good comic, such as story composition; coloring and formatting pictures; and even more importantly it has a section on how to self-publish and getting published, surely to be helpful to young writers/artists just starting out.  Just like the first book, this one is divided into easy to read sections so the book can be used as a textbook or for an individual course study, which is extremely helpful and makes the book very versatile.

This text is heavily illustrated with examples to help guide readers on seeing the lesson in action.  Jessica and Matt use examples, not just from their own works, but examples from other professionally published artists so that readers have an extensive bibliography of images to look at (and look for.)  They also supplement the text with “further reading” sections, which allow a reader/student to continue their learning and more importantly to get an additional point of view from other working artists.  I also really like how they’ve broken down homework assignments in the book.  Not only do they put assignments at the back of each chapter to help readers learn the concepts that they’ve been reading about, but they also put some right after they’ve talked about a particular aspect, such as scriptwriting.  They walk the reader through how to start the process step by step and offer examples of things to do along the way.

My favorite section in this book might just be “The Horror of the Blank Page,” which lists ways to overcome the fear of a blank page and getting some ideas on where to go next.  It’s helpful to know that even the authors, experienced artists that they are, still struggle sometimes with overcoming that scary empty white page.  And I think that’s something else that is helpful, that Jessica and Matt share some of their own personal experiences in this book, which for me helps make reading the book easier knowing that yes, they’ve encountered some of these same issues that have plagued me.  An important addition to this book Matt and Jessica talk about webcomics, even encouraging the students to give them a try to gain experience with not only how they work, but to help artists/writers improve upon their skill set.

This this is a great book for providing practical lessons that will be useful to readers whether they are doing a self study or in a class.  Even more so it’s a great book for fans of comics/graphic novels to see what type of work goes into creating the these items that they enjoy.  I give the book 4 out of 5 stars.

Review copy provided by Gina at FirstSecond

Book Review–Marathon

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Posted by Andrew | Posted in book reviews, First Second, graphic novel | Posted on 29-05-2012

Marathon
First Second
Boaz Yakin & Joe Infurnari
June 2012

Athens faces its greatest battle…the Persian army has come to defeat them and accompanying them is their ex-tyrant of a king, Hippias.  The Athenians are hopelessly outnumbered and their city may fall without help.  They need assistance from the Spartans, who live 153 miles away.  And their army can only hold back the Persians for so long.  They send their greatest runner, Eucles, to ask them to come to their aid.  Eucles must run 153 miles in three days…and back again to Athens.  And thus begins the greatest race ever known…and an event that continues to inspire mankind to greatness today.

What really attracted me to this book was the artwork.  That striking image on the front cover, of a man running as fast as he can, sweat pouring down his brown, and the world seemingly on fire behind him, but he’s on a mission and he won’t let anything stop him.  That evocative art style remains throughout the book, easily capturing the expressions of fear, triumph, and hope on the characters faces.  It’s easy to get swept up in it as you move from page to page to follow the story and getting lost in all of the details.  It’s easy to see that Joe spent a great deal of time creating the art and capturing the detail that makes it seem like the characters are ready to leap off the page with their battle.  And his art style reminds me a lot of Rembrandt’s pen and ink drawings, that lose sketchy feel, but powerful.  I wish more books had this style…but I guess then it wouldn’t be unique. 



While I like the overall content and story told, the execution at the beginning of the book is a bit confusing and jumbled.  In the first 15 or so pages we alternate between present, three days ago, and fifteen years ago seeing Eucles at different points of his journey and the transitions aren’t always smooth.  Sometimes the panels of alternating timelines are right next to each other and it isn’t always clear who we’re looking at.  And I think it’s that switching between three different timelines that bothers me.  Me personally, I would have preferred a small prologue that set up about Eucles past or to have left it out entirely.  Without that then the switching between present and two-three days in the past would have been easier to follow.  Once you get past those first 15 pages though, the story settles into a more recognizable format and presents a gripping tale of one man and what he’s willing to do to help save his city and his people.  I really enjoyed the heart of this tale and it made me interested to learn more about Eucles and his life.  I think it would have been great if a bibliography could have been included in the back of the book.

Even though the first 15 pages are a bit jumbled, overall this is a solid book that I have no problem recommending to readers, especially teen readers who are interested in sports. I give the book 4 out of 5 stars.

ARC provided by Gina at FirstSecond