Jul 13, 2016

The 40 Years of Comics Project - The Weekly Graphic Novel: Week 15 - Mangaman, 2011


I was torn when it came time to write about this book for my blog. I have a strong, a very strong, inclination to simply say "Get it, read it, it's one of the best comics I've ever read." And, in some ways, that would be enough. I don't want to spoil anything. The surprises that happen in this book should be experienced fresh, with awe and wonder to spare.

But I don't want to not say anything about the book. So I'll do my best to be effusive and vague, all at the same time. The basics, perhaps. I have never read anything else that Barry Lyga has written, though my Wikipedia research on him tells me he's a YA fiction author. I can see it. One of the threads of this story follows a romance between two vastly different young people, a standard trope of the YA genre. There's also overbearing parental and military types, disapproving best friends, and douchebag jocks - your standard array of young adult fiction characters, and the situations they carry with them. This is not to say, at all, that they're tired in any way. In fact, it's the novelty of the story that allows Lyga to parse these tropes in very interesting ways. And, without revealing too much, the metafictional aspect of the story offers beautiful, occasionally scathing and occasionally loving critique of the ways that these characters and situations behave in a YA fiction.

Colleen Doran is a name that you really, really should be familiar with. One of the most revered female creators in comics, an early advocate and adopter of self-publishing and creator's rights. She's drawn for all of the big names and big companies, and her art is of the highest quality. The conflation of Eastern and Western comics that Doran presents for us in this book is beyond excellent, is technique and understanding of the form on a level paralleled by only a few other creators. And the partnership of Lyga and Doran, their obvious love not only for the narrative possibilities offered by this love story, but also the technical possibilities, creates something remarkable. Something special. I've not yet looked into it, but I think there must be a lot of talk about this graphic novel in comics circles. And if there isn't, there should be. It's done something novel, something different, and deserves to be considered amongst the literature of the comics form.

You know what, on second thought, just get it, read it. It's one of the best comics I've ever read.

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