Saturday, July 22, 2006

Book-A-Day #6 (7/22): The Fate of the Artist by Eddie Campbell

This is the newest (and long-awaited; his last new original stuff was about three years ago) graphic novel from a comics writer/artists I always think of as the creator of Bacchus, but who is probably best known as "the guy who did the pictures for Alan Moore's From Hell."

It's been billed as something of a sequel to his semi-autobiographical "Alec" books (The King Canute Crowd, Three Piece Suit, How To Be an Artist and After the Snooter), but this is less coherent than those books and it's explicitly about "Eddie Campbell," not "Alec MacGarry."

It's also not as good as the Alec books; the idea here is that "Eddie Campbell" has disappeared, and his family is being interviewed by an (unnamed, as far as I can tell, and definitely un-drawn) policeman. It's interesting visually and from a design sense: there are all-text pages, fumetti (photo comics), faux early-20th century newspaper comics strips, and other similar interesting tricky versions of the comics-page form.

Unfortunately, like Gertrude Stein's Oakland, there's no there there. The bits are amusing, but they don't, in the end, add up to a whole. Campbell fans will want this one -- even if he's not at the top of his form, this is still a lot of fun, and we've been waiting a while for it. But those who haven't tried Campbell before would be better off trying either the first "Alec" book, The King Canute Crowd (if they're more indy-autobiographical comics types) or the first "Bacchus" collection, Immortality Isn't Forever (if they're coming from mainstream punch-'em-up comics).

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