The Comic Queen

Zip ribbons and word balloons, Wednesday bliss and Previews dreams. If these phrases mean anything to you, then you're in the right place. But if they don't -- hey stick around anyway. You might just like what you see.

Friday, September 03, 2004

Eureka! I’ve Found Comics!

In an earlier post, I mentioned that I was going on a bit of a vacation, heading down to Northern California to help my brother move into Humboldt State University for the year. The Arcata area, where the university is located, was beautiful, on the cusp of the Pacific Northwest, it was very reminiscent of Northwest Washington -- but with real beaches! In other words instead of rock-encrusted shoreline that can do a number on the hooves, the Arcata area had pleasant-to-the-touch sandy beaches. Ahhh.

But I digress.

In my constant quest for comics satiation, I found the Comic Castle located in Eureka, just a few miles away from Arcata. I also discovered a second shop -- Northcoast Roleplaying -- but I didn't get a chance to check it out. I'll have to pop in on my next visit.

Comic Castle is located at 407 5th St., right downtown, in a medium-sized storefront (how’s that for subjective!). The shop was clean, very well organized, and buzzing with activity when I was there. They had the last four week’s comics in a separate display from the “recent” back issues of the current titles they carried. Each comic title had its own space and every title was visible and easy to get at. Now, you might think this is a no-brainer, but some shops are just a mess.

They didn’t really have any local minicomics, but overall the selection was great. I found several titles there my local stores don’t carry but that I’ve been interested in, likewise they had quite a few GNs in the same boat. I managed to contain myself and just picked up the latest Gotham Central, a Queen & Country from a couple issues ago I was missing, and a graphic novel called “Like a River” from Swiss artist Pierre Wazen.

And lastly, the guy who helped me was friendly. Again, you’d think that these things would be givens in a retail experience -- good selection, helpful service, clean space, good organization. But, alas, that’s just not the case. I get frustrated when I want to impulse buy a new comic, and then get told I can order them. Well, I know I can order Usagi Yojimbo, Queen & Country, or Demo, but you can’t get people interested in a title or to try something new if you don’t even carry it!

Anyhoo, the Comic Castle was an example of a great comic shop. I wish them luck in the future.

Here’s a look at the GN I purchased:

Metal Hurlant Presents: Like a River
Humanoids Publishing $9.95 SC 110 pgs.
Original Graphic Novel
Pierre Wazem
Originally published in Switzerland; English version published last year (2003).

My impression of this book is it’s as if Ernest Hemingway wrote a story using a John Steinbeck character. There’s the quirky, down-on-his-luck, but likable character that Steinbeck often wrote about – I’m thinking particularly of Canary Row and Tortilla Flat. This paired with the focus on the scenery, the emotional connection to natural surroundings that emerges in Hemingway’s works.

Set in rural Russia, Vlad is poor – poor in a materialistic way and poor in spirit, as well. He lives alone, but his late wife is always with him. Vlad keeps up a constant dialogue with Macha. There’s an intense longing for his wife, a void that he tries to fill, or maybe attempts to ignore with ample amounts of vodka. But by the middle of the book things have gone from bad to worse for Vlad, and he’s ready to end it all.

But before any damage can be done, his son comes home for a surprise visit – the first time he’s been home in seven years. Just as the visit jars Vlad into some perspective, the sorry shape he is in jars his son.

In the interactions between father and son, the reader learns why Vlad is in as bad of emotional shape as he is, and for nearly the same reason, why his son has come home.

Vlad explains Macha’s philospophy on life – that life is like a river, and the way individuals deal with what life brings is the difference between pushing with strength down the flow of the river and getting held up by just a few pebbles, stuck in stagnant water.

Obviously Vlad has been stuck in the stagnant water for some time, but the healing that comes from sharing the truth about Macha’s final moments and the community that is reestablished by just a short visit from his son give Vlad the push he needs back into the river.

Readers should take their time reading this book. Wazem’s style is to be taken in slowly; like a good European film, it takes its time to develop and shouldn’t be rushed with impatience to see what happens. The art is in the journey, the small moments, the style. So, my advice is to sit back, have a glass of wine, and take your time with this book.


  • At 9:55 PM, September 05, 2004, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Yes, I'm partial to the Arcata/Eureka area myself - wait, maybe that's because I live there! Heehee...but I, too, can testify to my sister-the-queen's comments on the Eureka comic book shop - it was really great (and easy to get to)! Oh, and muchas gracias to my sis for helping me get settled in here - I look forward to your next visit!

  • At 3:26 PM, October 02, 2005, Blogger jon said…

    We are trying to find good hindi movie to take the kids this weekend. Good hindi movie reviews are hard to find

    I just stumbled onto your blog while looking. Seems to happen to me a lot since I am a knowledge mooch LOL


  • At 10:08 AM, October 06, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I've stumbled across your blog when I done some entertainment book research in Google. You're doing a pretty nice job
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