Summer readings 2021, part 2 (Comics)

This summer I finally caught up with a bunch of small comics I had kept on the side, but it would make little sense to discuss all those.

Rather, I’d like to mention a few larger things which had been recommended to me. Spoiler: I liked them all.

Providence

This is a completed 12-issue series written by Alan Moore. It’s part of a larger trilogy (with Neonomicon and The Courtyard) of Lovecraft-inspired stories, and I found it quite entertaining. Basically, Moore plays with the Lovecraft material by having the main character encounter various elements of his legendarium, and tying them up with some of Moore’s favorite obsessions.

I think it’s a good comic, but not fantastic, but if you like either Lovecraft, Moore, or In the Mouth of Madness you will enjoy this one too.

6.5/10: bit more than a passing grade, saved by the ending.

Les Indes fourbes

This is a french comic book (and indeed, the only page on wikipedia for it is in french) but I read the version in italian by Rizzoli Lizard (Nelle Indie Perigliose §).

It’s a picaresque graphic novel inspired by an actual novel from the XVII century, and if you like the genre (I do!) you will love it. The plot is good, the characters entertaining, the writing is great.

As a visual thing: this thing is gorgeous. The art is outstanding, rich in details, cleverly structured, and it makes full use of the medium, as a comic book should. Moreover, the edition is a thing of beauty, as a 33.2 x 24.8 (cm) hardcover it might be a bit hard to fit on a shelve, but I’d leave this thing laying around for the sheer joy of looking at it.

9/10: almost perfect.

The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage

This is an odd book, and by the end I enjoyed it but.. I’m unsatisfied. I went into the book expecting to find either a semiserious account of Lovelace & Babbage’s life, or a made up story using them as character.

What the book actually is: a series of episodes, using a cartoon/steampunk/uchronic version of the titular characters, with no actual plot. They’re entertaining, I really like the drawings and I loved the characters, but I’m left wanting more of them.

The other oddity is that each page is about 30% drawings and 70% footnotes explaining them. And each footnote has references to end-of-chapter notes. This is frustrating§ because you have to choose how to read this

  • read comic -> read footnote -> read endnote (requires you to keep a mental stack)
  • read comic -> read footnote; ignore endnotes (never!)
  • read comic -> read footnote; read all endnotes at the end (you will have forgotten what they’re about by the time you read them)

No choice is satisfactory, and I missed the effortless way you can follow up nested footnotes in, say, Terry Pratchett’s Discworld.

At the end of the book you have some appendixes on various things which I found quite dull, but might be of interest to some people.

So, the book is quite interesting, and if the author decided to actually write a steampunk novel using the characters I would run to buy it; but I got to the end of the book feeling that I had a lot of appetizers, and never got the main meal.

7-/10: could be great, but does not deliver.