PETITS LIVRES SERIES and WAR'S END (Joe Sacco) reviewed in Montreal Hour

“Local graphics publisher does good” / The Montreal Hour / Isa Tousignant / August 11, 2005

Coming to work to find a big package marked "Drawn & Quarterly" waiting on your desk is a sign that life is sweet. The local publisher of graphic arts goodies has been putting quality work into expertly executed packages of all shapes and sizes for 14 years now, and continues to expand its roster every year. In addition to comics, they publish graphic novels, art books and unique series like their Petits Livres. Here are a few of their summertime releases.

Joe Sacco studied journalism in university, which doesn't come as a surprise if you've read either of his most famous books, The Fixer and Palestine. War's End: Profiles from Bosnia 1995-96 predates both these works, but is here published for the first time. The book brings us his perspective on the Serbian conflict via two profiles: that of Soba, a Sarajevan artist and musician who recounts his work as a mine planter on the front lines, and that of Radovan Karadzic, head of the self-declared Bosnian Serb state Republika Srpska, and the man responsible for one of the worst genocides in modern history. Even in this early work, Sacco's perspective on this fascinating political situation was in a vanguard all its own. These are two rich little stories.

Of the pack I received, War's End was the only narrative comic. Julie Doucet's latest outing points to a whole new venture for D&Q: the art book. Lady Pep is the first work I've encountered from the author of Dirty Plotte since she stated a few months ago that she was leaving the world of comics. Her focus shifted into the visual arts, where, patronized by Galerie Graff, she has been busying herself with small graphic works of a more abstract nature.

This collection gathers together a series of her Sophie Punt mini booklets - homemade handbooks made of recycled materials apposed with drawings of characters and common objects, created in honour of the Slow Action Movement she inaugurated, and occasionally distributed via a kind of Distroboto in Helsinki. It's a fun opportunity for those of us who haven't seen the originals to leaf through these booklets and to catch up on the new work of an influential local comic artist, but Lady Pep is a bit of a mixed bag; it feels like leafing through someone's sketchbook, which is not always the honour it seems like it should be.

D&Q's Petits Livres series is a great initiative on their part to make the work of their artists accessible to a greater (poorer) public. All priced very reasonably, I received three such books, focusing respectively on Luc Giard, Marc Bell and Peter Thompson.

In A Village Under My Pillow, Giard is interested in a wider variety of subject matter than I thought possible, although the work nevertheless remains the product of an obsessive, repetitive man. A taste for rehashed Tintin is a must. Marc Bell's collection, The Stacks, is a morsel of beauty and my favourite among these releases; his work is infinitely richer in colour, and published in this quality, than it is on newsprint. The Stacks also introduces amazing expressions of his crazy creature world in collage, paintings, mixed media... a treat. And it's no wonder Thompson's The Chronicles of Lucky Ello was produced in part by Bell - the influence is clear. But Thompson's characterization is all his own, and this comic is filled with a poppy perception that's a pleasure to discover.

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