Episode 135: Reviews of Exquisite Corpse, Operation Nemesis, and Palookaville 22

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This week on the their weekly review show, Derek and Andy W. discuss three new books that are definitely worth checking out. They begin with Pénélope Bagieu’s Exquisite Corpse from First Second. This may be the first English-language publication for Bagieu (the guys aren’t ExquisiteCorpsecertain about this), and it’s a great introduction from one of France’s current popular creators. It’s a romantic comedy with a sophisticated premise and an unexpected twist at the end. In fact, it’s the narrative’s quick wrap-up that puzzles the Two Guys. While they both enjoyed the story, they nonetheless read the ending as an undermining — perhaps a betrayal? — of character cohesiveness that was established in the first 4/5 of the book. It’s almost as if Begieu changed her mind in the final pages of her narrative and wanted to rewrite the way  we should interpret a major character. Still, her art is infectious and works hand-in-hand with the humorous, yet incisive, events that unfold. Next, the guys look at Operation Nemesis: A Story of Genocide and Revenge (Devil’s Due), written by Josh Blaylock and with art by Hoyt Silva. This is a historical narrative focusing on the trial of Soghomon Tehlirian, the Armenian expatriate who assassinated Taalat Pasha, the former Minister of the Interior of the Ottoman Empire, in Berlin during the early days of the Weimar Republic. OperationNemesis18But the trial is merely a scaffolding on which Blaylock constructs his story of the horrific Armenian Genocide of 1915, a slaughter that the Turkish government to this day will not acknowledge. As Andy and Derek point out, the art is a little confusing in places, but the message comes through loud and clear. This true story is an uncomfortable read, and purposefully so, and it brings much-needed attention to a twentieth-century holocaust that is woefully overlooked. Finally, the Two Guys with PhDs turn to the latest volume of Seth’s Palookaville (Drawn and Quarterly). Derek has been looking forward to #22 since the last installment in October 2013, but as it always is with Seth’s comics, it’s well worth the wait. This is Andy’s first exposure to Palookaville, and the guys play off of this difference of reading experience: Andy as a Seth novice and Derek as a diehard fan. As with the two previous book versions of Palookaville — issues #1-#19 of the title was published in comic-book form — this one is divided into three sections. The first is a continuation of Seth’s ongoing narrative, Clyde Fans, which began in Palookaville #10 from 1997. We’re well into the fourth part of this story, set in 1975 and focusing Palookaville22on retired salesman Abraham Matchcard, his reclusive brother Simon, and his encounter with his former lover, Alice. But Abe’s real relationship is with his past, and Seth is expert at teasing out character through memory, scenic transitions, and inner dialogue. The middle section of the book is a composite of photoessay and comics, focusing on the Crown Barber Shop in Guelph, Ontario, and owned by Seth’s wife Tania Van Spyk. Derek is particularly taken with this contribution since his father was a barber, and he grew up working as a shoeshine boy in a similar kind of shop. The third section of Palookaville is the second part of “Nothing Lasts,” one of Seth’s sketchbook stories that began in the previous volume. This is an autobiographic narrative that carries us through the author’s teenage years. As with the previous installment, the comic is profoundly moving with a rich mixture of understanding, melancholy, and wistfulness. As with all of Seth’s works, this volume of Palookaville will make you long for the kind of Canadian landscape and atmosphere that only he can deliver.

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Get your copies of the books discussed on this week’s episode. You’ll be glad you did!


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The Comics Alternative is a podcast and blog focused on the world of alternative, independent, and primarily non-superhero comics.

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