SOUTHERN CROSS in The Observer

ALTHOUGH MUCH has been written about the pleasures of seeing how the words and pictures interact in a comic, less has been said about other reading techniques, such as the joys of inspection - of scanning and contemplation. In today's graphic novels, detailed imagery can do more than provide a 'Where's Wally?' effect for adults, and can add layers to a narrative and help pace a story.


Another facet of the Cold War is covered in Laurence Hyde's Southern Cross: A Novel of the South Seas (Drawn & Quarterly pounds 18.95, pp256) , a reprint of a woodcut novel from 1951 about the testing of an atomic bomb in the Bikini Atoll. In 118 painstakingly engraved and virtually wordless pages, the idyllic life of the Polynesian islanders is shattered as they are evacuated and then have to deal with the ecological consequences of the explosion. Alas, the thousands of hours of work that must have gone into the book were wasted on a well-meaning but facile piece of agit-prop. A pretty picture of a dying fish does not a convincing polemic make.

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