Tune by Derek Kirk Kim

Young Korean-American cartoonist Derek Kirk Kim won Eisner and Harvey awards for his debut graphic novel Same Difference, and collaborated with Gene Luen Yang on The Eternal Smile. He returns with Tune, the story of an art student called Andy Go who loves comics and drops out of school because he feels he is ready to work professionally. When his dream job does not materialize, his parents force him to look for any job, leading to an interview that seems to good to be true. Meanwhile, he accidentally discovers that the girl he had a crush on in art school is into him too; when the interview leads to a real job that involves some travel, he is torn between taking it to please his parents and staying to explore the potential relationship with his crush.

When I say the job involves some travel, here is where Kim throws the reader a curve: Andy is recruited as an exhibit in an intergalactic zoo, living in a cutaway reproduction of his family home. It’s a clever touch to put Andy into a situation that is alien and yet not so different from home, where his parents provided for him. His alien bosses supply all of his favourite foods, TV, video games; almost everything a young single man could want. His parents’ more traditional Korean values are sometimes played for laughs, such as their reaction when they learn that he will not be returning home for a while.

Like all of Kim’s work, I thoroughly enjoyed Tune and was sorry to read recently that he has decided to step away from drawing his own comics, concentrating instead on writing and filmmaking (Andy Go also appears in a parallel film project called Mythomania). The second volume of Tune, available online at tunecomic.com, was drawn by the equally fine cartoonist Les McClaine (The Middle Man, Jonny Crossbones). Kim has also revealed recently that he is not sure Tune will continue in comics form unless sales of this first collection are strong. I hope that they are, for everyone’s sake. The comics world needs all the Derek Kirk Kim it can get.

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Relish by Lucy Knisley

Relish by Lucy Knisley is a charming graphic novel set for release from First Second in the spring of 2013 (in the meantime you can read an excerpt and other comics on her website). It is primarily a memoir of her childhood, recalling how her parents instilled within her a love of cooking and of fine foods. While it does touch on some painful moments here and there – her parents’ divorce, and her own tendency to use food for comfort – it never becomes maudlin. Instead she concentrates on different aspects of food, from working on a farm to serving as a caterer, enjoying the foods of different cultures, cooking for friends in college, and fine dining with her father. Knisley also eschews food snobbery, extolling the virtues of McDonalds french fries and occasional junk food.

Knisley’s linework is very clean and energetic, reminding me of Shary Flenniken; it is complimented well by her bright and vibrant colour palette. Best of all, each chapter of Relish ends with a recipe, cooking tips, or both (I plan on trying the instructions for making sushi, among others).

I found a lot to identify with in this book: a love of cooking and of fine food, the experience of parental divorce, and of having ancestors who either cooked professionally or could have if they had wished to. But I don’t think those kinds of touchstones are necessary to enjoy Relish; like good food, its appeal is universal.

The Lovely Horrible Stuff

Eddie Campbell is probably best known for his collaboration with Alan Moore, the exhaustive examination of Jack the Ripper called From Hell; but for over 20 years he has been telling personal stories through a semi-autobiographical avatar called Alec. The Lovely Horrible Stuff is a story of Campbell as himself, addressing the reader in order to discuss his experiences with money.

The book is broken into two parts. The first examines Campbell’s finances as a freelance artist and self-publisher, and how those are thrown into disarray by some unfortunate dealings with his father-in-law. He depicts the stress this puts on his family (which has since presumably played a part in his divorce) with the fearlessness that has always characterized his work.

The second part of the book is a more general examination of economics through the tale of the giant stone coins from the island of Yap, which is to the north of Campbell’s adopted home of Australia. Campbell’s art style in the book differs from his previous work in that it incorporates collage and photos in addition to his usual linework. As a fan of his linework, I can’t say I that I felt it always worked for me; but his writing is as sharp as ever. That and the unusual subject matter makes The Lovely Horrible Stuff well worth reading.