An Android Awakes is an entertaining, sexy, terrifying, and beautiful novel, full of bleakness and fun. While the book is probably not going to suit the prudish or faint-hearted reader looking for an easy read, other readers will enjoy the rich and powerful language, the complex plot lines, and the wacky and inventive landscape that both French and Brown have created in this superb graphical novel.
I would say that this book isn’t for the squeamish, or those who prefer to think about death as something that doesn’t really happen. I personally think it would make a superb birthday card – a day when everyone needs a little extra reminder that life is worth living “to the point of tears”. Maybe don’t give it to anyone under ten (though I knew a few canny nine year olds who would love it).
This Brobdingnagian book measures about 24cm by 33cm across and has 400 or so pages, pretty much all in colour.
At the very start there is an interview with the great Neal Adams, a comic book artist with a cinematic style who graced Batman with a sinister elegance (his Batman was modelled on Christopher Lee’s Dracula, if I remember aright), paving the way for Frank Miller’s later and even more radical reimagining of the Dark Knight.
Dan Boultwood’s endearing homage to British science fiction films of the 1950s and ‘60s (perhaps above all to The Day of the Triffids) is a wonderfully entertaining read. Jokes aplenty lie on every page, many arising from the xenophobic, sexist attitudes of our hero, a smug scientist and period cad named Dr. Boy Brett.
Flash Gordon rocketed onto the movie screen in 1936, in a serial of the same name which ran for 13 episodes. He appeared in two further movie serials – a now defunct format, killed off by television – in Flash Gordon’s Trip to Mars (1938) and Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe (1940), the latter title indicative perhaps of America’s new-found confidence as an emerging superpower. Most of us who went to Saturday Matinees as a child, to a Rialto or a local Odeon, will have seen some of these episodes, along with (say) a Laurel and Hardy short, a Disney film or a George Formby feature.
The full-colour comic strips (this was way before comic books, never mind graphic novels) have been beautifully restored by Peter Maresca, and for those who were introduced to Flash Gordon by watching black and white serials on a Saturday morning in the local cinema (it was The Rialto in Salford and Bury Odeon for me), Alex Raymond’s artwork will come as a revelation as well as a return to childhood.
For new audiences, especially the younger set, the convoluted plots can often be a little tricky, and Stuart Tett has created a new series that is faithful to the original Hergé version but that adds in lots of material to help situate the stories.
The best part of the artwork in Gandhi: A Manga Biography is that Kazuki Ebine creates characters that are true to life rather than being the large eyed cutesy figures of many of the Manga tales. Kazuki Ebine shows many scenes of action and pain and suffering as well as determination and the will to continue.
In essence, these are single panel cartoons, beautifully composed and drawn as you would expect, accompanied by a gag or punchline. They are pleasing to look at and vaguely amusing, to be sure, but there is none of the surreal, chaotic, rollercoaster quality to be found in Cole’s comic book art.
As an artist, Caniff uses square or rectangular panels, nothing fancy, about three or four to a row. The panels show a continuous change of perspective, to involve the viewer in Canyon’s world and create the impression that you inhabit the same space. There are wordless fight sequences and car chases; gorgeous, high-kicking, high-cheek-boned femme fatales; the use of montage and other cinematic effects.