Monday, January 14, 2019

Kubert and Crais, a grim graphic novel and a wisecracking P.I.

Three books completed in the first two weeks of 2019. Three underway.

I commented on Our Mutual Friend in an earlier post.

Voodoo River is an early Elvis Cole thriller by Robert Crais.  I'm unsure why the title is Voodoo River, since neither voodoo nor a river appear in the novel.  It's set in the south, so perhaps that justified the reference to voodoo for some New York editor.  It's an enjoyable read, not the best from Crais, but a nice mystery, leavened with Cole's wisecracking and a budding romance

Cole's partner, Joe Pike, makes an appearance. He talks more in this novel than I remember him talking in later books. I guess that's something. Voodoo River also marks the introduction of Lucy Chenier, the perky New Orleans attorney who becomes Elvis' squeeze and a regular (along with her son Ben) in several of  the later  Cole thrillers.

Yossel April 19, 1943 is a graphic novel by the incomparable Joe Kubert.  It tells the story of the Warsaw ghetto uprising during World War II.   

The power of graphic novels is on full display as a result of Kubert's decision that the drawings in the book would be pencil renderings.

In an introduction, Kubert writes, "My original intention was to first pencil then ink my drawings. But, with my first preliminary sketches, I felt an immediacy in my pencil drawings that I wanted to retain."

It's a sound decision as the starkness of the drawings lend weight to the grim subject matter.

Yossel is a teen-age Jewish boy, living in the ghetto, who has been separated from his family. He has innate talent for drawing; a talent that leads to the attention of German soldiers.  The attention provides Yossel special treatment, including food and safe passage through the ghetto. It also creates an opportunity to spy on the German command.

Comics often entertain the concept of "what if." What if Jane Foster had been Thor? What is Nick Fury and the Howling Commandos went to space? That sort of thing.

Yossel has definite echoes of "what if" for Kubert. Kubert's family left Poland and made their way to America in 1926. In the graphic novel, Yossel's family never leave Poland. Throughout this powerful, sobering graphic novel, Kubert -- through the eyes of Yossel -- ponders what if his family had remained behind. 

Yossel is one of Kubert's finest works. No small feat for this pioneering comic artist.

1. Our Mutual Friend, Charles Dickens
2. Voodoo River, Robert Crais
3, Yossel, April 19, 1943, Joe Kubert

Currently  Reading --
Lie In The Dark by Dan Fesperman
Flash, The Making of Weegee The Famous by Christopher Bonanos
The League of Regrettable Sidekicks by Jon Morris

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