See me starting challenges all over the place? It’s a new year and I am on the ball.
The Facts in the Case of the Departure of Miss Finch, Neil Gaiman and Michael Zulli
I didn’t start out my Graphic Novels Challenge reading with quite the satisfactory bang that I was hoping for (probably because I didn’t start by doing the January mini-challenge but OH that is all about to change). The Facts, etc., etc., disappointed me. Illustrated by Michael Zulli, this graphic novel tells the tale of a strange night out, with a strange woman whose real name wasn’t Miss Finch. The Facts in the Case of the Departure of Miss Finch is a good title, if you’re writing that sort of story, edged with primness rather than ferality. I thought maybe Gaiman was intending to play up the contrast? But it didn’t really work.
Essentially (spoilers for the whole!), Miss Finch likes sabre-toothed tigers; she goes out with the narrator and his friends; they all see a very strange circus; and she gets transported back in time to live with (and boss around) sabre-toothed tigers. And then everyone goes home and thinks about how strange it all was. As a short story, this is already rather thinly plotted. Put it into comic book form and publish it as a hardback, it just (of course) makes this problem more noticeable. Then of course, the whole thing is framed by the narrator’s remembering it, and it hardly seems worth remembering.
Not that – well, I mean, obviously if that happened in real life, you’d remember it and talk about it a lot. It’s not every day that you go out with a woman and she gets zapped back in time and prevents sabre-toothed tigers from eating you all up, and then trots back into prehistoric times to hang out there forever. But that’s all that happens. The story is more about the setting, than the plot, and although Michael Zulli is a good illustrator and makes a very beautiful setting, that doesn’t make up for how essentially dull it is. Nothing happens to the narrator at all. You are never in fear of their lives or anything. I just – I know that Neil Gaiman can do creepy stories, and the reason I know that is that I’ve read Coraline. I wanted The Facts – that title is ridiculously long – I wanted the book to be creepy, and it was dull instead. Bah. Plus, I’ve read this Gaiman story before, with the theatre show. Several times. Better versions.
Ordinary Victories, Manu Larcenet
Onward to Ordinary Victories: What Is Precious, which I got for Christmas from my lovely mum and dad (along with the original Ordinary Victories, which I reread and found to be as wonderful as I had initially thought it was). I shall have spoilers in this review, for the first volume as well as the second. The protagonist’s father has just committed suicide (this happened towards the end of Ordinary Victories), and he, his brother, and his mother are all struggling to come to terms with that. Marc’s girlfriend Emily is longing for a child, and Marc himself is still not sure of his place in the world – as a son or a potential father or an artist. Which is to say, many of the same elements that I so loved in Ordinary Victories were present in What Is Precious, especially the juxtaposition of very strong emotions with the tiny details of everyday life.
I didn’t like it quite as much as the first volume, though, and I’m not sure why. Maybe because I had expectations going into the second volume that weren’t present for the first. Marc and Emily’s having a kid shifted the tone of the book. I loved how Ordinary Victories was able to contain a lot of important, difficult issues, without giving the impression that it was Addressing and Attempting to Resolve them. Once the kid shows up in What Is Precious, though, I lose all patience for the characters’ indecision and uncertainty. That sounds very intolerant of me. Another possibility is that I was cranky after reading Slaughterhouse Five. I should have read The Ask and the Answer next, as a palate cleanser, and proceeded to What Is Precious subsequently.
Have you read either of these? Let me know and I’ll put a link!