Graphic Novel Review of “Mary Wept Over the Feet of Jesus” by Chester Brown

Theological Musings in a Polemical World

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By Source (WP:NFCC#4), Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=56243974

Awards

None that I can find, however, Chester Brown is a highly acclaimed author for many of his other works.

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Stats

3 out of 5 stars

Mary Wept Over the Feet of Jesus by 
Chester Brown

Hardcover, 280 pages

Published April 12th, 2016 by Drawn and Quarterly

ISBN 1770462341 (ISBN13: 9781770462342)

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http://www.pastemagazine.com

About

From the publisher, “The iconoclastic and bestselling cartoonist of Paying for It: A comic-strip memoir about being a john and Louis Riel returns and with a polemical interpretation of the Bible that will be one of the most controversial and talked-about graphic novels of 2016. Mary Wept Over the Feet of Jesus is the retelling in comics form of nine biblical stories that present Chester Brown’s fascinating and startling thesis about biblical representations of prostitution. Brown weaves a connecting line between Bathsheba, Ruth, Rahab, Tamar, Mary of Bethany, and the Virgin Mother. He reassesses the Christian moral code by examining the cultural implications of the Bible’s representations of sex work.”

Mary Wept 2

Mary Wept Over the Feet of Jesus is a fitting follow-up to Brown’s sui generis graphic memoir “Paying for It”, which was reviewed twice in The New York Times and hailed by sex workers for Brown’s advocacy for the decriminalization and normalization of prostitution. Brown approaches the Bible as he did the life of Louis Riel, making these stories compellingly readable and utterly pertinent to a modern audience. In classic Chester Brown fashion, he provides extensive handwritten endnotes that delve into the biblical lore that informs Mary Wept Over the Feet of Jesus.”

My Thoughts

This novel is a fitting followup to Chester Brown’s “Paying For It;” a practical and positive look at what it is being a John and hiring a prostitute. Paying For It is hailed by sex workers for its advocacy of Prostitution and normalization thereof.

Brown has been a vocal advocate for many years for sex workers, and it is evident in many of his works. He reminds me of a guy who is obsessed with Star Trek, or bugs, or 16th-century weaponry used in northern France. Nothing wrong with being passionate about something, but you wouldn’t necessarily want to be stuck on a road trip with him. He seems very very intense…

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This collection is fascinating in how he approached nine individual Bible stories, completely turned them on their head, and presented them in a new way. All the while threading them together into a cohesive thesis on his beliefs. Some of the stories featured are of Bathsheba, the prodigal son, Cain and Abel, Ruth, Rahab, Tamar, Mary of Bethany, and the Virgin Mother. One of his stories shows Mary as a prostitute but still very much loved by God and fit to be the mother of Jesus.

Prostitutes, who often are demonized by the Christian church and society are shown as people who just have a job to do. The novel is definitely polemic, and if you are an easily offended reader or prefer to not read something that has religious overtones, maybe this book is not for you.  However, it is a quick read, and sometimes stories need to be turned on their side to see things from a new angle. Whether or not you believe them to be the truth, much as the author does, it doesn’t matter. Enjoy the well-written stories and the simple but still elegant graphics. If these stories intrigue you, and you would like to know more there are 100 pages on notes at the back of the book detailing why he made certain literary and artistic decisions and the research behind them.

I didn’t necessarily like this graphic novel, but it was indeed interesting. Sometimes interesting and thought-provoking are good. I have one of Brown’s other works, Ed the Happy Clown sitting on my shelf waiting to be read. We will see what kind of rabbit hole it leads me down.

Graphic Novel Review of “Mouse Guard Fall: 1152” by David Peterson

“Take no duty of the Guard lightly. Friends must not be enemies
Just as enemies must not be friends.
Discerning the two is a life’s work.”

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Stats

Hardcover, First Edition, 192 pages
Published July 21st 2009 by Archaia (first published May 30th, 2007)
Original Title
Mouse Guard: Fall 1152
ISBN 1932386572 (ISBN13: 9781932386578)
Edition Language English

Awards

Winner of “Best Publication for Kids” Eisner Award, for Mouse Guard: Fall 1152 and Mouse Guard: Winter 1152.

Winner of “Best Graphic Album-Reprint” Eisner Award, for Mouse Guard: Fall 1152.

#87 on the Goodreads Best Comics Ever List

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Book Summary

“Take no duty of the Guard lightly. Friends must not be enemies
Just as enemies must not be friends.
Discerning the two is a life’s work.”
― David Petersen

From the publisher,” The forest is a dangerous place for any animal, especially one as small as a mouse. In the past, the mouse world endured a tyrannical Weasel Warlord until a noble band of mouse soldiers fought back. Ever since the Mouse Guard has defended the paces and prosperity of its kingdom. For generations, this league of scouts, weather-watchers, trailblazers, and protectors has passed won its knowledge and skills.

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Now three of the Guard’s finest have been dispatched. The mission seems simple: They are to find a missing mouse, a grain merchant who never arrived at his destination. But when they see him, they make a shocking discovery—one that involves a treacherous betrayal, a stolen secret, and a rising power that has only one goal: to bring down the Guard…”

My Thoughts

“The best solution is always found at the point of my sword.”―Saxon’s belief

If you were walking around a bookstore and came across this book sitting on a shelf you would think that with its cartoonish depictions of animals wielding swords and bright colors that it was a children’s book. You could not be further from the truth. This is a very nuanced story about betrayal, bravery, endurance, and sincerity; it is most certainly not a children’s story.

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artstation.com

To start off, imagine what it is like to be a mouse in the first place they are small, weak, and fearful. Mice are prey animals in nature. Their entire lives are spent in fear of the unknown next predator around the bend. Almost every creature in the forest could be a predator to them. In response, you build your home in the most protected and sheltered spot you can find and hope for the best. Now imagine you are a guard mouse. You are weak and small by nature. However, you have learned to be strong because you have to be.  You must be brave because the smaller you are, the more bravery means and there are mice to protect. Thus flows the story of mice who are brave sent out into the forest to protect the weaker.

Stylistically, the panels are superbly drawn. The illustrations look as if they glow from within like light shining through the trees in autumn. Wind could rush therough my room as a read this and I would not be more convinced that it was fall. The illustrator completely nailed what fall is supposed to feel like.

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Conclusion

I would recommend this to anyone over the age of ten. I think if a child tried to read this before that age, much of the subtleties would be lost on them. But, I would especially recommend this to any comic book/graphic enthusiasts out there. This is a graphic novel that graphic novel lovers, love.

Graphic Novel Review – Preludes & Nocturnes (The Sandman #1) by Neil Gaiman

“What power would hell have if those imprisoned here would not be able to dream of heaven?”

“You get what anybody gets – you get a lifetime.” 

 Neil Gaiman, Preludes & Nocturnes

Stats

  • 5 out of 5 Stars
  • Hardcover
  • 233 pages
  • Published December 1st, 1998 by Vertigo (first published 1989)
  • Original Title Preludes & Nocturnes
  • ISBN 1563892278 (ISBN13: 9781563892271)
  • Edition Language English
  • Series The Sandman #1

Awards

“What power would hell have if those imprisoned here would not be able to dream of heaven?” 

Neil Gaiman, Preludes & Nocturnes
  • #5 on Goodreads Greatest Graphic Novels Ever Written
  • #558 on 1001 Comics to Read Before you Die
  • #2 on CBH Best Comics To Read
  • Sandman has won numerous awards.  Too many to list. It is one of the most decorated series in existence. 

About

From the publisher, “New York Times best-selling author Neil Gaiman’s transcendent series SANDMAN is often hailed as the definitive Vertigo title and one of the finest achievements in graphic storytelling. Gaiman created an unforgettable tale of the forces that exist beyond life and death by weaving ancient mythology, folklore and fairy tales with his own distinct narrative vision.

In PRELUDES & NOCTURNES, an occultist attempting to capture Death to bargain for eternal life traps her younger brother Dream instead. After his 70 year imprisonment and eventual escape, Dream, also known as Morpheus, goes on a quest for his lost objects of power. On his arduous journey Morpheus encounters Lucifer, John Constantine, and an all-powerful madman.

This book also includes the story “The Sound of Her Wings,” which introduces us to the pragmatic and perky goth girl Death.

Includes issues 1-8 of the original series.”


My Thoughts

Preludes and nocturnes are a reread for me. I am ending the year as I started it; with one of my favorite series. Sandman is considered by many readers and educators as one of the most important graphic novels ever written. It is also one of the most important series in my life. It literally showed me how great and beautiful the genre could be. 

As far as reviewing goes, I am at a bit of a loss. What can I add that hasn’t been said a thousand times over? 

Let me tell you a little bit about how Sandman has affected me as a reader.
As far as the graphic novel genre goes, I came to it a bit late in life. I didn’t “discover” comics until my early thirties. I have however read many, many books. As a child, I was a voracious reader. A habit that continued into adulthood and played no small part in shaping who I became as a person. You can learn much from fiction, as much or more than you can from non-fiction. But, like many readers out there I deemed comics childlike and inappropriate for the discerning reader.

 I was a snob. I was wrong. Comics are a combination of two of my favorite things: art and words. They can be as childlike or adult as the author sees fit. Sandman is an adult comic with adult themes steeped in dark fantasy. Gaimon took legends and mythos from various religious and mythological backgrounds and cobbled them together into a cohesive plot. It is definitely dark, adult, and a perfect book to jump into the genre from.

“CHORONZON: I am a dire wolf, prey-stalking, lethal prowler.

MORPHEUS: I am a hunter, horse-mounted, wolf-stabbing.

CHORONZON: I am a horsefly, horse-stinging, hunter-throwing.

MORPHEUS: I am a spider, fly-consuming, eight-legged.

CHORONZON: I am a snake, spider-devouring, poison-toothed.

MORPHEUS: I am an ox, snake-crushing, heavy-footed.

CHORONZON: I am anthrax, butcher bacterium, warm-life destroying.

MORPHEUS: I am a world, space-floating, life-nurturing.

CHORONZON: I am a nova, all-exploding… planet-cremating.

MORPHEUS: I am the Universe — all things encompassing, all life embracing.

CHORONZON: I am Anti-Life, the Beast of Judgment. I am the dark at the end of everything. The end of universes, gods, worlds… of everything. Sss. And what will you be then, Dreamlord?

MORPHEUS: I am hope.” 

Neil Gaiman, Preludes & Nocturnes

Preludes and Nocturnes follow Dream also known as Morpheus, who is the younger brother of Death. As an Endless, one who lives forever,  he becomes trapped for seventy years in an evil magician’s basement. The evil magician thought he was trapping Death to live forever, but what he conquered instead was “little death.” Dream escapes captivity after 70 years and searches out his lost tools; The helm, the sand, and the ruby. He is much weakened from his years trapped, but once he regains his strength he begins his quest to require what was stolen from him and in the process rebuild his crumbling realm.

Preludes and Nocturnes is an opening book to many stories to come. This story reads fairly straightforwardly. However every page is setting up the future books; Dream loses power, dream gains power, and Dream seeks revenge. As straightforward as that seems there are overarching themes about family and what death and sleep actually are. Death is very secure with herself, while Dream lacks that security. Often he questions himself and his actions. There is a beautiful sequence later in the volume where Death and Dream are talking. Death mentions how everyone fears her while the same people go into Dream’s realm with no complaint. His response, “And I am far more terrible than you, sister.” Highlighting that Dream holds incredible and terrible power while Death is a release from pain and could even be seen as a kindness.  The irony is not lost on either of them. Dreams relationship with family and specifically his older sister Death play a large part in how Dream views the world and how future stories play out. Death’s opinion of dream’s actions and who he is are one of the few opinions that he cares about.

There is much more to this story. It is stacked with beautiful but subtle nuances. However, it is up to the reader to find those subtleties for themselves. I don’t think that this series is for everyone, but it is a great place to start reading and appreciating graphic novels. Stick a toe in, see how the water is.

The End of the Year TBR Pile

Ten off the Top

I am so excited as I have found some much sought after copies of novels from around the world. Some of these books have been really hard to source.  Can I get an “AMEN” for libraries?


All Quiet in Vikaspuri

by Sarnath Banerjee


Bitch Planet, Vol. 1: Extraordinary Machine

(BITCH PLANET (COLLECTED EDITIONS) #1)

by Kelly Sue DeConnick, Taki Soma (Illustrator), Valentine De Landro (Artist), Robert Wilson IV (Artist)


Color Engineering

by Yuichi Yokoyama


Flood!: A Novel in Pictures

by Eric Drooker, Allen Ginsberg (Introduction)


Garden

by Yuichi Yokoyama


Gods’ Man / Madman’s Drum / Wild Pilgrimage

(Woodcuts #1-3)

by Lynd Ward, Art Spiegelman (Editor)


Hip Hop Family Tree, Vol. 1: 1970s-1981

(Hip Hop Family Tree #1)

by Ed Piskor


The Living and the Dead

by Jason


The Boxer: The True Story of Holocaust Survivor Harry Haft

by Reinhard Kleist


Skin Deep

(Legion #2)

by Brandon Sanderson (Goodreads Author), Jon Foster (Illustrator)

The Five Best Books I Read This Year

Johnny “Is this milk still good?!!”
The victim “Huh?! *sip* Uh…yeah.”
Johnny “THIS LETTUCE! HOW CRISP IS IT? HOW CRISP GODDAMMIT?!
The victim “It’s Fine!”
Johnny “THESE FUDGE-POPS! FREEZER BURN?! FREEZER BURN?!”
The Victim “umm..”

Squee’s Wonderful Big Giant Book of Unspeakable Horrors (Squee!)

by Jhonen Vásquez

About

From the publisher, “Squee’s Wonderful Big Giant Book of Unspeakable Horrors collects together the four issues of the Squee comic book series from SLG Publishing. It also contains reprints from the popular Jhonny the Homicidal Maniac series that didn’t appear in the JTHM: Director’s Cut book.”

My Thoughts

My God! My brain my brain. My poor abused brain. I feel like I should have a few hours of cat pictures after reading this book. I don’t think this is my brand of humor which I normally go for. Mine is more along the line of, “Blacks Books,”  This is more Ren and Stimpy? I am having a problem finding something to compare this book too. Very dark satire. It also might be that I need to be in a proper frame of mind to read this, and I wasn’t. It was terrible and abusive and I kept thinking, “that poor kid needs a hug that is not going to turn into molestation or aliens sticking something up his butt.” It is horrific, but not in a horror movie sort of way. More like, “I can’t believe I am reading this. That poor kid. No wonder he neurotic. I would be neurotic too if I had aliens chasing me to do anal probes and giant dust mites waking me up in my sleep.” All the while, nightmares. But it is awesome. The dark humor is still hopeful and you can’t help but cheer Squee on the whole time. 

For me the highlight of this book was Pepito. I could get a print of the strip of Pepito being introduced to his class and melting the other kids in the class with his mind when they were jerks. Kinda cathartic I think. I too have wanted to melt classmates in middle school and elementary.

Johnny “Is this milk still good?!!”
The victim “Huh?! *sip* Uh…yeah.”
Johnny “THIS LETTUCE! HOW CRISP IS IT? HOW CRISP GODDAMMIT?!
The victim “It’s Fine!”
Johnny “THESE FUDGE-POPS! FREEZER BURN?! FREEZER BURN?!”
The Victim “umm..”
Johnny “EAT THE FUCKIN’ WEENIE!!!”
The Victim “mmph… It tastes okay.”
Johnny “Whew! Thanks. I haven’t cleaned my fridge out in a while, and well… You know.


Daytripper

by Fábio Moon, Gabriel Bá, Craig Thompson (Introduction), Dave Stewart (Colours), Sean Konot (Lettering)

About

From the publisher, “What are the most important days of your life? Meet Brás de Oliva Domingos. The miracle child of a world-famous Brazilian writer, Brás spends his days penning other people’s obituaries and his nights dreaming of becoming a successful author himself—writing the end of other people’s stories, while his own has barely begun. But on the day that life begins, would he even notice? Does it start at 21 when he meets the girl of his dreams? Or at 11, when he has his first kiss? Is it later in his life when his first son is born? Or earlier when he might have found his voice as a writer? Each day in Brás’s life is like a page from a book. Each one reveals the people and things who have made him who he is: his mother and father, his child and his best friend, his first love and the love of his life. And like all great stories, each day has a twist he’ll never see coming… In Daytripper, the Eisner Award-winning twin brothers Fábio Moon and Gabriel Bá tell a magical, mysterious and moving story about life itself—a hauntingly lyrical journey that uses the quiet moments to ask the big questions.”

My Thoughts

What if you thought about life as just a series of profound moments interspersed with filler? How would you live your life then? Would you look for the moments? Or would you wait for those moments to happen to you? Death is very much a part of life, and you have to die, so you know that you lived. The authors, Fábio Moon, and Gabriel Bá explore these ideas in the form of a spectacular and beautiful graphic novel.

This is one of the most profound and well-written comics I have read in years, maybe my whole life. Cliche I know, but so right. The authors took each of these great moments that the main character, bras, experiences and turns the end of each chapter into a crossroads. Bras dies at the end of each chapter (each moment), but in the next section, he lived. So he dies and lives in each subsequent episode. As a reader, you know what is coming at the end of every chapter, but you want to know what is going to happen. How is Bras going to handle this moment? I know it is a seems a little confusing, but when you are amidst Bras life, it is anything but.

Why the hell did I wait this long to read this? Daytripper is a must read. Not only does it stand tall among it’s peers in graphic novels. It absolutely holds its own in fiction in general.

It is breathtaking, moving and beautiful…


I Killed Adolf Hitler

by Jason, Kim Thompson

About

From the publisher, “In this full-color graphic novel, Jason posits a strange, violent world in which contract killers can be hired to rub out pests, be they dysfunctional relatives, abusive co-workers, loud neighbors, or just annoyances in general — and as you might imagine, their services are in heavy demand. One such killer is given the unique job of traveling back in time to kill Adolf Hitler in 1939… but things go spectacularly wrong. Hitler overpowers the would-be assassin and sends himself to the present, leaving the killer stranded in the past. The killer eventually finds his way back to the present by simply waiting the decades out as he ages, and teams up with his now much-younger girlfriend to track down the missing fascist dictator… at which point the book veers further into Jason territory, as the cartoonist’s minimalist, wickedly dry sense of humor slows down the story to a crawl: for long patches absolutely nothing happens, but nobody can make nothing happening as riotously entertaining as Jason does… and finally, when the reader isn’t paying attention, he brings it together with a shocking, perfectly logical and yet completely unexpected climax which also solves a mystery from the very beginning of the book the reader had forgotten about. As always, I Killed Adolf Hitler is rendered in Jason’s crisp deadpan neo-clear-line style, once again augmented by lovely, understated coloring.”

My Thoughts

Spoiler alert, Adolph Hitler dies… Big shocker I know.  The title is very much in the writing style of the novel: minimalist, terse, and concise. No need for grand allusions or literary whatnot; Jason writes indeed very well and does not need to be wordy. The writing could almost come off as cold, but it isn’t really. It is just succinct. Why write a paragraph, when one word will work. Using this terse writing style he explores themes of love, loss, moving on, and assassination and morality in equal measures throughout the book.

You would think that with a plot like the assassination of Adolph Hitler through time travel via a for-hire assassin, it would be difficult to add in a romance element to it. But Jason makes it work rather well. Again the romance is bare bones, but the emotions are subtle, raw, and very thoughtful.

Read it, it will take you an hour at most. Jason comics are among the best graphic novels have to offer right now. They are profound without being egotistical and pompous. Jason gets you thinking about things without it clouding over your day. They are perfect.


Lake Silence

(The Others #6)

by Anne Bishop

About

From the publisher, “In this thrilling and suspenseful fantasy, set in the world of the New York Times bestselling Others series, Vicki DeVine and her lodger, the shapeshifter Aggie Crowe, stumble onto a dead body . . . and find themselves enmeshed in danger and dark secrets.

Human laws do not apply in the territory controlled by the Others–vampires, shapeshifters, and paranormal beings even more deadly. And this is a fact that humans should never, ever forget . . .

After her divorce, Vicki DeVine took over a rustic resort near Lake Silence, in a human town that is not human controlled. Towns like Vicki’s have no distance from the Others, the dominant predators that rule most of the land and all of the water throughout the world. And when a place has no boundaries, you never really know what’s out there watching you.

Vicki was hoping to find a new career and a new life. But when her lodger, Aggie Crowe–one of the shapeshifting Others–discovers a dead body, Vicki finds trouble instead. The detectives want to pin the man’s death on her, despite the evidence that nothing human could have killed the victim. As Vicki and her friends search for answers, things get dangerous–and it’ll take everything they have to stay alive.”


Habibi

by Craig Thompson

About

From the publisher, “From the From the internationally acclaimed author of Blankets (“A triumph for the genre.”Library Journal), a highly anticipated new graphic novel.

Sprawling across an epic landscape of deserts, harems, and modern industrial clutter, Habibi tells the tale of Dodola and Zam, refugee child slaves bound to each other by chance, by circumstance, and by the love that grows between them. We follow them as their lives unfold together and apart; as they struggle to make a place for themselves in a world (not unlike our own) fueled by fear, lust, and greed; and as they discover the extraordinary depth—and frailty—of their connection.

At once contemporary and timeless, Habibi gives us a love story of astounding resonance: a parable about our relationship to the natural world, the cultural divide between the first and third worlds, the common heritage of Christianity and Islam, and, most potently, the magic of storytelling.”

My Thoughts

“You’re more than a story.”
― Craig Thompson, Habibi

When trying to make an argument about why graphic novels are richer, deeper, and more complex than the spandex-clad superhero saving the day; this is the book I hand you. A tome that is nearly 700 pages long. It is filled to the brim with an intricately woven tapestry of middle eastern lore, myth, and culture. It isn’t perfect, but it is incredible.

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It revolves around Dodola and Zam. Two individuals who at the beginning of the story are eking out an existence on a ship buried in the sand that is stranded in the desert. Oddly enough. Dodola prostitutes herself out to traveling caravans to bring food to their home. While zam is said to have the power to find water. His job is to bring water home to them. Both jobs equally necessary and symbolic in keeping them alive. Like two halves of a coin, this duality is present in much of the book. Armstrong deftly jumps from character to character creating this universe that they live by switching back and forth chapter by chapter. As the story progresses Dodola and Zam are parted after Zam witnesses Dodola get raped. Zam does not understand what he has seen so he tears himself apart psychologically trying to repress his feelings. The culmination of which is him becoming a eunuch and attempting to cut that part out of his psyche.

By the end of this book, I guarantee it will be like nothing that you have read before. Whether classifying it as a love story, religious text, or historical doctrine; the story will resonate.  Just know what you are in for. You will be rung out by the end of it.

Graphic Novel Review – Johnny Cash: I See a Darkness by Reinhard Kleist

“The first and only illustrated biography of “The Man in Black,” Johnny Cash, the most famous country singer of all time.

Stats

Five out of Five Stars
Paperback, 224 pages
Published October 1st, 2009 by Harry N. Abrams (first published 2006)
Original Title Cash – I see a darkness
ISBN 0810984636 (ISBN13: 9780810984639)
Edition Language English

Awards

  • Max Und Moritz Award –  2008
  • Sondermann Prize – 2007

About

“Never. Don’t believe everythin’ you read in the papers. But I tell you this Johnny Cash knows what it’s like to be behind bars. The man is a story-teller. He lives his songs.”

Johnny Cash: I See a Darkness
by Reinhard Kleist

From the publisher, “The first and only illustrated biography of “The Man in Black,” Johnny Cash, the most famous country singer of all time Cash was a 17-time Grammy winner who sold more than 90 million albums in his lifetime and became an icon of American music in the 20th century. Graphic novelist Reinhard Kleist depicts Johnny Cash’s eventful life from his early sessions with Elvis Presley (1956), through the concert in Folsom Prison (1968), his spectacular comeback in the 1990s, and the final years before his death on September 12, 2003.
Already a bestseller and award-winner in Europe, Johnny Cash: I See a Darkness vividly portrays the unpredictable life of a loner, patriot, outlaw, and music rebel, making this unique biography a compelling read for multiple generations of graphic novel and music fans.”

My Thoughts

We open on a familiar scene. A man in black is facing mysteriously off into the distance. A guitar is leaning against his legs. A car driving furiously towards a sign reading, “Reno. Home of Gambling.” Already the reader is enticed by a shot of who we know as Johnny Cash fighting and shooting a man in Reno, being arrested and heading off to a foreboding prison. Anyone familiar with Johnny Cash’s music knows what this introduction is referring to.

“But I shot a man in Reno
Just to watch him die
When I hear that whistle blowin’
I hang my head and cry
I bet there’s rich folks eatin’
In a fancy dining car
They’re probably drinkin’ coffee
And smokin’ big cigars
But I know I had it comin’
I know I can’t be free
But those people keep a-movin’
And that’s what tortures me”

Folsom Prison Blues – Johnny Cash

If you aren’t familiar with this bit of music history, it matters not. Kleist is building a mental image for you. Johnny Cash, the man, the brooder, the singer. While the movie “I Walk The Line (2005) concentrated on Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash’s romance, “I See Darkness” concentrates on a darker, more brooding, and drug filled Cash. All this happens before his days when he became clean and sober and a devout Christian. Whether this is an accurate portrayal of Johnny Cash during this part of his life is up to interpretation. Cash passed away in 2003 taking much of his mysterious life with him. Even though this is billed as an illustrated biography, Kleist is telling a story and building an image of the almost fictional music legend through selected pieces of Cash’s life. Occasionally to preserve the dramatic tone of the story, facts get skewed.

“Sometimes I am two people. Johnny is the nice one. Cash causes all the trouble. They fight.”

Johnny Cash

The story is told chronologically from Cash’s beginning up until his first kiss with June Carter Cash. Much of it is centered around Cash’s iconic performance at Folsom State Prison in 1968. There he met the narrator of his story, Glen Shirley. Later Sherley was made famous by Cash during Cash’s performance of Sherley’s song, “Greystone Chapel” at Folsom Prison. Throughout the novel, Music is used as a means to network and increase Cash’s social clout elevating himself from a poor cotton farmer to a famous musician known the world over. Also, it allowed Cash a vehicle and an audience of fans that Cash can exercise his proverbial demons on.

The imagery is cinematic in scope. Often the story depicts scenes that look as if they have been shot by a movie cinematographer. One of the earliest settings in the story is the Cash family attempting to drive to their new home in the south. The car is set akimbo to the road while rain that falls from the heavens splashes the ground like gunshots and in the foreground is a lonely gravestone marked with the letter 25. That level of emotional storytelling of  Cash’s life is wrung from every word and panel. We the readers are living these moments as much as John is. We are plowing through the rain leaky busted family car. Praying that we will make it to the new farm ok. Or we become enraged inside watching our beloved older brother Jack speak his last words, “A beautiful river… is flowing both ways.

No, I ain’t going that way…Ya, that’s the way I wanna go. Ma, can you see it?” Or later in the story when Johhny is attempting to become clean from all his drug use and his figure is torn and ripped apart by scraggly lightning bolts arcing from his boy. As a reader, I can feel that I can see that, I feel as if I know at that moment a little about how much that ripped John apart to do.
“In his review at Comics Bulletin, Jason Sacks describes another scene which demonstrates Kleist’s skill with a brush. “At the nadir of his drug addiction, (Cash) wanders blithely into a cave with just a flashlight that’s low on batteries. Using blacks almost as a second character in the scene, Kleist literally shows the blackness that has come to envelop Cash’s soul at that moment in time. When Cash literally and figuratively emerges into the light, that light seems to shine straight from Heaven — a deeply healing light that reflects Cash’s emergence to finding some measure of peace. (The Comics Journal)”

In walking out of the cave and into the light, Cash literally walks into the arms of his Momma and the love of his Life June Carter. Exemplifying Cash’s next stage of his life. Drug-free.
Finally, the story ends as it begins, with an adaption of one of Cash’s songs with him as the star. Ghost Riders of the Sky. A song about a lone cowboy facing down his demons. Much as Cash has been a lone cowboy faces his demons much of his life.

“An old cowboy went riding out one dark and windy day
Upon a ridge, he rested as he went along his way
When all at once a mighty herd of red-eyed cows he saw
A-plowing through the ragged sky and up the cloudy draw
Their brands were still on fire, and their hooves were made of steel
Their horns were black and shiny and their hot breath he could feel
A bolt of fear went through him as they thundered through the sky
For he saw the riders coming hard and he heard their mournful cry
Yippie yi ooh
Yippie yi yay
Ghost riders in the sky”

Riders in the sky – Johnny Cash

Kleist boils down Johnny’s story to the drama of being the man in black. It isn’t entirely biographical in nature as we do not get to know him as anything other than his persona. However, it is a very gratifying read, especially for the fan. If you are interested in getting a better picture of Johnny Cash, I recommend reading “Cash” by Johnny Cash.

Journal, The Comics. “The Comics Journal.” The Comics Journal Frank Frazetta Interview Comments, 17 Feb. 2010, classic.tcj.com/review/johnny-cash-i-see-a-darkness-by-reinhard-kleist/.

Tag – Book Beginnings

Superluminary and I See Darkness.

I saw this wonderful tag on a wonderful blog I follow called, Imagine Amalee. Someone you should follow too. This tag is pretty simple, “invites us to share the first sentence (or so) of the book you are reading, along with your initial thoughts about the sentence, impressions of the book, or anything else the opener inspires.”  I tend to read a couple books at a time. Both of the ones I am currently reading are dope. But in seriously different ways. 

Superluminary

(Powered Destinies #1)

by Olivia Rising

This is a novel that I have gotten the opportunity to read through NetGalley. I have been really enjoying it. Once finished, I will do a proper write-up. The first line is:

“A thousand voices called out to the worlds only healer in a rhythmic chant.”

Superluminary by Olivia Rising

I had no idea how long this was, and at 970 pages this book is a whopper. It is taking me a bit to get through it. 

The second book I am currently reading is a check-off on my 1001 Comics to Read Before I Die list. 

Johnny Cash: I See a Darkness

by Reinhard Kleist

The Man in Black. Yeowwww. As I cannot include the first page easily, I will include one of the panels so that you can get a feel for it. It is drawn almost like Sin City, which is very fitting for the man in black. 

Folsom Prison blues all the way. My 1001 list has yet to let me down, I’ll keep you posted.