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Review: The Butchery

The Butchery
The Butchery, Fantagraphics

The press release for French cartoonist Bastien Vivès contains an interesting phrase that perfectly sums up what his new book, The Butchery, is about: “the emotional bloodbath of a romance gone awry.” It’s beautiful in its description and cruel in its promise of delivering a story about how happiness and sadness cannot exist independently from one another.

The Butchery, published by Fantagraphics, centers on a couple that’s experiencing the commonly natural life and death cycle of a relationship. It’s lyrical in its pacing and poetic in its visuals, which come to us as hazy memories of the couple’s pivotal moments. They’re subtle and they show love at its most blissful stage and pain at its most cutting phase.

Reading The Butchery requires reflecting on the unique wounds love and romance have left behind, some wide open and still pulsating, and contemplating just how much of the good and the bad is shared between one’s personal experience and that of the characters in the book. Having a history in failed relationships heightens the range of the book’s emotional spectrum, but there’ something to learn along the way no matter the life experiences brought to the reading.

Vivès keeps to an economical but precise approach to the amount of text in the story. Being that it’s a book the reader is meant to feel, the visuals are given free reign to linger as much as they want while leaving more questions than answers in their passing. Each page only contains about two or three images at most and they’re not bound by panels or any other connecting tissue.

The Butchery

This changes when the book turns into a more metaphorically playful space with its subject matter. After certain events transpire, Vivès resorts to darkly funny, comic strip-like sequences where the results of a fight or a disagreement play out in a way that’s directly in opposition to the vague realities of feelings and communication reserved for the main story.

These interventions go from blunt reactions to bad news to how confusion can manifest in a fantasy of violence and cruelty that one can’t avoid laughing at (if only to keep the tears at bay). They offer a nice break from the all-too real aspects of the relationship’s trials and tribulations and they end up being some of the book’s most memorable sequences.

The Butchery

The Butchery lives up to its title and expands upon the preconceived definitions of the word that gives the book its name. Vivès goes to well-traversed territory regarding love and loss, but he brings a different tool set to explore where our minds often go to when experiencing such things. It’s designed to make readers feel every emotion known to humans in love or who have loved and it leaves you no choice but to keep reading.

Story/Art: Bastian Vivès Translation: Jenna Allen
Overall: 10 Recommendation: Read and get ready for pain…necessary pain
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Fantagraphics provided Graphic Policy with a free review copy. The Butchery is on sale now wherever books and comics are sold.


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Book Review: Outlander by Diana Gabbledon

Kindle-7-book-coverWritten in the early nineties, Outlander by Diana Gabbledon is older than I am. With the television show which premiered on Starz last summer, the series spiked my interest. After seeing the first episode I was hooked, but decided to read the book first. As months went by I finally picked it up a few days ago.

Outlander, or Cross-Stitch as it was originally published, centers around Claire Randall — a nurse during World War II who, after the war ends, goes on a honeymoon with her husband(Jack Randall) to Scotland. There, after a series of events, she falls through time and goes back about 200 years and is forced to make the best out of a situation I would never survive. What follows is an incredible adventure involving history, romance, action and sex. All the spices needed for a gripping read.

The author puts the main character though tough situations like attempted rape, murder, suspicion of being a spy. Although having a slow start, the first book in the series picks up pace really fast and thus becoming a page-turner. Some chapters are slower than others but that’s due to fantastic build-up and beguiling character development. At almost 900 pages, Outlander is quite hard not to be intimidating knowing there are seven more books in the series. But then again, same goes for Game of Thrones.

Though marketed as a romance in the beginning because the publisher did not know how to do it otherwise, the novel is much more than simple romance. Being historical fiction, there are many things one could learn from reading it about England, Scotland and France. Of course, it is not perfectly accurate though if that was the case, it wouldn’t be nowhere near as thrilling and suspenseful. Outlander jumps into deep lengths, exploring some very mature themes and is quite dark and gritty at times. It is not recommended for people who can’t stand graphic depictions of violence and sex.

Diana Gabbledon’s writing is so addicting and beautiful, you can hardly stop reading. In addition, the many twists and turns make Outlander much more than a simple time-travel romance. With complex and powerful storylines, terrific character development and exceptional world-building, it is perfect for fans of Game of Thrones.

The Lipstick Incident and a Short History of Lipstick in Comics

lipstick003

Captain Marvel, maybe wearing “Cherries in the Snow” or “Toast of New York”?

Lipstick is one of the strangest objects when it comes to comic book characters, specifically its female characters.  If one looks at an average female character, the color of their lips is almost always one which could be achieved by women in the real world only with lipstick.  On the other hand, the modern female character almost never actually applies any lipstick, or at least is not seen to be.  Normal lipsticks would be at least smeared in basic fistfights, and would be subject to all kinds of weird forces from other superpowers.  Imagine Captain Marvel flying at super speeds while wearing lipstick.  Lipstick is basically a thick wax or oil applied to the lips, and it is hard to imagine that anything resembling a liquid oil which would stay put at that speed and pressure, even if it was designed to be somewhat sticky or to stay in place.  The only times that some superheroines might be seen to be applying lipstick (or any cosmetics for that matter) is if they are going out, usually for a night on the town, under the guise of their alter egos.  These moments are rare enough though, and don’t really have any bearing on the superheroics.  The only other uses of lipstick are those as poison, primarily through the Joker and Poison Ivy.  Strictly put lipstick does not exist in comics except as it applies to something else, and never to superheroics.  It is always on but never put on.

lipstick001There is an exception to the lipstick question in comics though, and that is through the role of romance comics.  This is perhaps the flip side of the argument, because as opposed to being rarely shown, it is quite often shown.  In the old time comics, lipsticks were often shown, but more so their application was used as a setting in themselves, as many lovestruck girls wondered into their vanity mirrors whether they should be date Darren or Brad, or whether Tom next door would ever find the courage to ask them out.  The role of romance comics was so strong as to infiltrate even superhero comics, as the Lois Lane series from the 1960s was primarily focused around the same concepts as romance comics.  Romance comics have obviously come and gone from the mainstream of the comic medium, even if there seems to be a minor resurgence underway.  The last major romance comics with any following were the major holdovers from the earlier days into the early to mid 1970s, with series such as Young Romance or Secret Hearts holding out until the end that a resurgence was coming.  The only remaining stalwart in the romance department has been Archie Comics, who have managed to continue their long run in romance by infusing it with a healthy dose of humor.  Nonetheless lipstick has often shown up in these comics in modern years, as they often have a feminine enough approach while also focusing on the romantic side of teenage life.

lipstick004This all ties together to make the new Archie series all the more interesting.  After a long run it was finally decided to reboot Archie with a new look and modified background into a new series.  Apparently gone is the focus on humor, to be replaced instead with a focus on storytelling.  Things are not looking as good for some of them, as Archie and Betty are facing a rocky road after a long time dating.  What made them break up?  No one knows yet, not the characters inside the book, nor the readers outside, but there is one clue, which is incidentally one which the company has cleverly used to create its own buzz, #lipstickincident.  It is not exactly clear what this is, although there are several mentions of the incident throughout the issue, as various characters react to the news and and speculate as to reasons and meanings.  While it is interesting as a hashtag, it is also interesting as it throws an otherwise unknown or ignored item to the forefront of comic books, at least for a short time.  It might not be as engaging as trying to guess the identity of Thor, but lipstick is being used to explain the tumultuous times in a relationship for two of comics’ longest running sweethearts.

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