Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Cousin Joseph by Jules Feiffer

Jules Feiffer, I'm beginning to believe, can write anything. He's a cartoonist (Explainers), a screenwriter (Carnal Knowledge), a playwright (Little Murders), a memoirist (Backing Into Forward), and, late in life, a graphic novelist (Kill My Mother). I won't claim he's always entirely successful at all of those things -- who ever is? -- but he's done good work in all of those areas, over a fifty-plus year career.

So I find myself wanting to softball his new book Cousin Joseph, another graphic novel that is both a prequel to Kill My Mother and the middle book of a trilogy. It's got that great scratchy Feiffer line, and a lot of great Feiffer dialogue -- so does it matter that it also has a lot of warmed-over '30s movie cliches?

Cousin Joseph is the story of the father of the women in Kill My Mother, and it ends about as well as that book did: this trilogy is deep noir, the movies that Feiffer didn't get to write because the genre ended when he was a young man. It has a twisty plot, a lot of characters, plenty of overheated dialogue, some shocking revelations, deep-seated corruption, and a tough man trying to do right at the center of the story -- again, I said it was noir.

I think it's a bit less coherent than Kill My Mother, which was already pretty far over the top, but still a fun genre exercise for a great creator whose work is always fun and engrossing. And I think I want to leave it at that; I'll be back for the big trilogy-ending finale, and hoping that focused the whole series and makes it all sing.

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