Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Book Review: Black Dog - The Dreams of Paul Nash

book cover for Black Dog: The Dreams of Paul NashI confess to not knowing who Paul Nash was. However, I know Dave McKean from his artwork on Sandman and various album covers and consider myself a fan. The book jacket informed me that Nash was surrealist painter that served in World War 1. As I'd recently seen 1917, I was intrigued.

Nash made notes of his dreams, which are included in the text, and are arranged in a mostly chronological fashion among the events that shaped his life. Even before experiencing the horrors of war, Nash grew up having to cope with his mother's mental illness. And boarding school with its sadistic and liberal application of physical discipline for failure only made matters worse. Of it, he wrote that it:
"...was ideal training for an infantryman's life in the trenches. It taught me nothing worth speaking of, it answered none of my questions, it required only a kind of desperate obedience, and a stoic acceptance of the constant threat of sudden and terrible violence."
The book is heavy on observation, interpretation, and introspection. One passage that really resonated with me was this:
Peel away the layers
Strip away the nerves and the synapses and senses
Cut away the skin and these paper-thin defenses
Underneath the son is the father
I'm defined by him
And in opposition to him.
I've tried to make judicious changes
Cut down the anger, add a little patience
I've tried to wash some colour through his pages
Swimming against his genes
His influence in my bloodstream.
The artwork is fantastic. Comparing McKean's previous work to Nash's, I can see the influence. In this collection, McKean pays homage to Nash's work, but takes on a darker tone as befitting the subject matter. The sketches range from hyper-real to abstract to surrealistic. Most of the color palette is dominated by earth tones, both dark and bright, to convey scenes ranging from ominous dread to natural tranquility. McKean saves sharp color contrast—most notably his use of red—to draw the eye in to evoke heightened emotional response to danger, violence, and horror.

Recommended for McKean fans and introspective types.

5 stars


Sunday, February 16, 2020

Book Review: Transmetropolitan, Vol. 4 - The New Scum

book cover for Transmetropolitan volume 4It's the last two weeks before the election. Spider Jerusalem is still coping with Vita's death and disgusted by how her death has been used by Senator Callahan to rise in the polls. He interviews both the senator and the President. The latter being a chance for Robertson to vent at some past politician, but the vitriol seems quite relevant for the current occupier of the White House, though the two men are vastly different in their respective outlooks.

In the other storyline, Channon discovers that Yelena had drunken sex with Spider and won't let it go. Yelena hates herself for doing the deed and Channon for constantly being on her case about it.

It reads very much like an interim chapter in the overall storyline. No big revelations to see. What it does it set the stage for what's to come. Good to read if you're looking for Spider's one-on-one with the candidates.

Bonus issues: "Edgy Winter" and "Next Winters." Both of these stories are standalone and show Spider in full rant. The former shows Spider in a rare moment of regret. The latter provides some background on how the world of Transmetropolitan functions.

3 stars.