MOOMIN 3, AYA OF YOP CITY, JAMILTI and more reviewed by The Boston Phoenix

Globalized: The world in comics

The Boston Phoenix    |    Mike Millard    |    December 2, 2008

...Meanwhile, Seiichi Hayashi's RED COLORED ELEGY (Drawn and Quarterly, $25), drawn in 1970 and 1971 in all spare lines and stark minimalism, uses techniques derived from anime for a story exploring the tension between the personal and the political.

Elegy is just one of many globe-hopping books (each of them $20) put out this year from Montrûal's consistently excellent Drawn and Quarterly. MOOMIN: BOOK THREE is the latest compilation of Finnish cartoonist Tove Jansson's charmingly peculiar Moomin comic strips, which took her hugely popular Scandinavian hippopotamus-esque trolls and syndicated them first in London's Evening News in the '50s and later across Europe and the world.

Guy Delisle's BURMA CHRONICLES finds the Quûbûcois cartoonist traveling to another part of the planet few outsiders have seen. In his previous books, Pyongyang and Shenzhen, Delisle experienced the walled-off worlds of authoritarianism by himself. This time, having his wife (a worker with Mûdecins Sans Frontières) and child in tow makes for a slightly different perspective on life behind the curtain of a censorious, soul-crushing regime. Delisle deals with serious subjects, but his cartoony, workmanlike style is well-suited to his genial observations of the good-hearted people in this profoundly damaged nation.

Jason Lutes's BERLIN: CITY OF SMOKE, the second volume in his fiction trilogy chronicling the gloaming of the Weimar Republic, is drawn in a detailed and assured ligne claire style — one that's all the more remarkable for the vastness and exactitude of Lutes's scope: communists and national socialists, Jews and American jazz men, all interacting in a city fraught with tension as fascism and war gather on the horizon.

Israel's Rutu Modan, introduced to North America last year with the excellent graphic novel Exit Wounds, quickly established herself as one of the most humane and creative artists around — one whose bold sense of color and composition is as refined as her feeling for the subtle undercurrents of her characters' emotions. JAMILTI AND OTHER STORIES, a collection of her shorter pieces, continues to cement that reputation.

Finally, Côte d'Ivoirian Marguerite Abouet and Frenchman Clement Oubrerie's AYA OF YOP CITY (a continuation of last year's Aya) is drawn with happy, vibrant strokes: perfect for these warmhearted tales of an earthy cast of characters living together in 1970s Abidjan. It's nice to see, as Abouet puts it, a continent not defined by "war and famine, an Africa that endures despite everything because, as we say back home, life goes on."

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