Thursday, May 7, 2015

Reviews: From Hell and Habibi

I know this is mostly a blog about manga, but I did say I'd post things about other graphic novels as well, so here goes.

Now, these particular ones are more geared toward adult readers due to subject matter and certain situations. There also may be a few trigger warnings for rape and sexual assault, so please proceed with caution.

First, is my review of the GN Habibi by Craig Thompson:


I had heard many wonderful things about this graphic novel and much of it was definitely warranted.

I did want to read Craig Thompson’s other seminal work Blankets, but I have yet to do so.

The art is simply beautiful. The way the Arabic letters are incorporated into the art is simply amazing. There is a fair bit of female nudity, but it isn’t all just for sexual glorification. One of the characters becomes pregnant, and it shows the changes she goes through as well as her feeling towards her changing body during the time.
There is also a few scenes of non-consensual sex, so if that is a trigger, I do suggest you may not want to read this book. Overall, however, it’s a story of love. An enduring love between two people. It’s not always the same kind of love throughout the whole story, but it exists. It exists throughout years of trials and tribulations and long absences and extreme hardships and luxury.

It’s quite long at almost 700 pages, but it took me less than a day to read it, as is the case with most graphic novels. I did tend to pause and soak in the artwork as I am wont to do sometimes with many graphic novels and other artistic mediums.

The story is nonlinear, so that may be a bit confusing for some, but I was able to follow along quite well. Several of the flashback moments were done with black borders on the pages to set them apart, much like many manga series tend to do. It’s a helpful visual aid.

There are those that say that this book reeks of Orientalism, which may or may not be true. I do know it doesn’t paint a glamorous picture of this fictional land, but like many societies, there are good and bad aspects to it. I will say that the ending left me very satisfied.

I will say, however, that the copy I read was borrowed from the library and I was disappointed to discover that several of the pages had been torn out. I don’t know if it was accidental or through someone’s misguided attempt at censorship. I do hope to be able to perhaps read a whole copy of this book at some point.
Next is From Hell by Alan Moore:

I'd heard many good things about this graphic novel from various sources, so it made me intrigued to want to read it. I was fortunate enough to find a copy in my local library. However, there were a few pages that had been torn out randomly for some reason. I don't know if by accident or design. I may ask the staff at the library if they're aware or not.

Anyway, having had a long fascination with Jack the Ripper and true crime in general, I knew that this was the sort of thing that I'd be interested in reading. And I was right. Alan Moore definitely did his research in the case of Jack the Ripper, as he himself mentions in his detailed appendix. He did take creative liberty with a few details in order to tell the story he wanted to tell, but there were a number of things that were historically accurate at the time.

I am usually a stickler for well rendered art, and while the art by Eddie Campbell did take a bit getting used to, I do know why it was done in the particular style in which it was. It's reminiscent of the illustrations used in Victorian era newspapers, even down to the layout of the panels. After awhile, I never even noticed the 'primitive' sort of style and just enjoyed the tale that was being told. Mr. Campbell did his research as well, not leaving out a single gruesome detail, especially for the death of the Ripper's last victim.

Although there was a film made, starring Johnny Depp, I do suggest reading the graphic novel if you have any sort of interest in Jack the Ripper, the Victorian era or true crime in general. Although it's a fictionalized account and no one know the true identity of the Ripper to this day, it's a very intriguing story in it's own right.