Covering the Spectrum – Smile and Area 10

I have resisted the temptation to do quick reviews of comic book purchases, but given the price of some graphic novels I thought I’d at least give my quick impressions for those considering a purchase.  Let’s cover the spectrum with Smile and Area 10.

Area 10 by Christos  Gage and Chris Samnee is published by Vertigo Crime and priced at $19.99.  Although I consider myself a crime-fiction fan, Area 10 is the only title I’ve been interested in so far from Vertigo Crime.  I recognize Gage’s name but I don’t know if I’ve read anything he’s previously written, and although I’m a regular visitor of Samnee’s website, this was my first reading of his sequential art.  Gage weaves a gruesome story full of plot twists and surprises that successfully overcomes the character clichés of the hard-boiled, emotionally damaged male detective and female doctor who is the only one who really understands/endures him.  The star is Samnee’s stark black-and-white art, which I think suffers from the small page size.  Samnee packs so much detail into a panel that I suspect the readers are missing details, some relevant to the story.  I also don’t think Samnee’s heavy inks reflect well on the small pages.  Overall, it’s a good read but nothing remarkable.  Well worth borrowing.

The only thing Smile shares with Area 10 is shelf space in my house.  Smile is written and illustrated by Raina Telgemeier, published by Scholastic’s GRAPHIX imprint, and has a cover price of $10.99.  The story is autobiographical, a graphic novel genre littered with self-indulgent books doubly cursed with poor cartooning.  Such is not the case with Smile.  Telgemeier’s style is clean and simple, but her characters are distinctive and emotive.  And while her panel design is nothing innovative, she tells her story well and it is exceptionally accessible.  The key is the story – honest and emotional.  The story revolves around the ongoing dental dilemmas in her adolescent life.  Don’t be fooled by the smiley face on the cover as there is some genuine pathos in the story.  The only criticism I have is that it sometimes reads like a web comic collected where the story/page flow seems to jump.  I think it’s a terrific story, and I’m eager to see what’s next for Telgemeier.  Well worth buying.


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