Sep 29, 2016

The 40 Years of Comics Project - Day 582: Ninja High School #37, March 1883

http://www.comics.org/issue/258916/

It's been a long while since I've picked up a comic to read for this project and had absolutely and completely no frickin' idea what was going on in it. It happens, but usually I can piece together something. Not so here. I have no clue what happened in this story.

Which brings up a couple of interesting notions.

First, there are most certainly long-form comics that are written more as graphic novels than serialized stories. I've explained this in many of my introductory comics lessons - if you're reading what's ostensibly a graphic novel, but it's actually a collection of issues in trade form, there's an excellent chance that the ends of each chapter, when read in conjunction with the following one, are going to smack of hyperbole. The medium is the message indeed. However, when this is the case, there's usually recap happening, either at the very beginning of each issue, or weaved in as exposition throughout. There's none of that in this story. Dunn is obviously interested in telling a longer, more complex story, but is bound by the 22-page format of the periodical comic book. And, honestly, I'm sure it makes sense in context, but out of context....nothing.

And that's the other interesting notion: the reading of a comic without comprehension of the story - for me, then, this reading was far more about the artwork than the story. I wasn't given enough information to make any sense of the story (which could be seen as the mark of bad storytelling, but I think it's more that serialized long-form thing I said above), so my attention was far more focused on the art. The art is very good, very expressive..very Manga. As far as I can tell, the premise of the series (not necessarily the story) is to pop in as many of the manga stock characters as possible and somehow weave a coherent story around them. I can only assume that it works, as the series is ongoing. But we have the sexy witch, we have the buxom demon woman (complete, at least in one panel, with a spiky vibrator), we have the powerful magic user who's also the estranged father of the issue's main character. Again, I'm sure it all makes sense in context. Outside of that, though, this was a dizzying array of ideas and images - not a bad way to begin the day.

Onward!

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