Book Review: Readings

Monte Beauchamp

Readings

Blab! 17

edited by Monte Beauchamp

Fantagraphics, 120 pp., $19.95 (paper)

Each year, Monte Beauchamp harvests and designs a collection of work from the world's diverse crop of illustrators, sequential artists, and the graphically obsessed. Each year, Fantagraphics publishes this collection in a glossy-paged, full-color edition. And each year, we receive the thick and perfectly bound document, eager to see if Beauchamp can replicate or better his successes. There's no disappointment to be found this year: Image after image, alone or in the context of some potent narrative, sears itself into our rods and cones, while still others serve to soothe those burning receptors with pastel hues and whimsical setting. Sue Coe's unnerving rendition of Judith Brody's take (in verse, no less) on the Katrina tragedy plunges us into a swamp of sympathy and righteous anger; Amy Crehore's gentle depiction of a Polynesian idyll floats us on a lagoon of enchantment; "Sun Rays of Death" by Ryan Heshka captures, in bold Forties-era style, the way the media play upon the public's shallower fears; Peter and Maria Hoey's "Out of Nowhere" chronicles the rise of the Quintet of the Hot Club of France with visuals that the jazz age would've hocked its alto sax for; and Steven Guarnaccia's "Max Vesta, Matchbook Artist" and "The Pungent Gaul" by Greg Clarke are, simply, a hoot and a half. And there's more, from the likes of Spain, Shag, Brian Cronin, Gary Baseman, and Paco Alcazar, as well as a showcase of Bazooka Joe comics and vintage roller-skating labels, all presented in a wraparound cover by Jonathan Rosen that faintly evokes Hieronymus Bosch, Salvador Dalí, and Rube Goldberg in the same hellish vision.

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