White Collar: A Novel in Linocuts by Giacomo Patri is a striking work of art. This is a great example of an early graphic novel. Patri originally self-published the book in true DIY style in the late 1930s. The novel depicts the trials of an advertising illustrator and his family in the years following the Great Depression.
The story begins in 1929 when the illustrator is gainfully employed. He seems to look down on or at least ignore the struggling blue collar workers he passes on his commute. He is the proverbial company man. Then the stock market crashes. He loses his job, and we see his family’s journey on the downward spiral. White collar is obviously socialist labor movement propaganda; however, the simple truths it embodies are profound.
Like a silent movie, the novel has no dialogue or traditional narration panels. Patri sparingly uses words on books, bills, and signs to give clues of the action taking place. He captures a remarkable amount of emotion in the stark black and white of the linocuts. The interactions between the illustrator and his wife are particularly painful. As a graphic novel, this is a early example of illustration being used to deliver a long-form story with serious content meant for adults.
The original copies hand made by Patri are difficult to find and very expensive. Luckily, Dover Graphic Novels has recently published affordable versions in hardcover and paperback. It’s a very nice piece of graphic novel history.
The Private Eye by Brian K. Vaughan, Marcos Martin, and Muntsa Vincente is truly prophetic in the same way Brave New World and 1984 are prophetic. It’s a dystopian detective story set in 2076. The cloud containing everyone’s deepest, darkest online secrets has “burst.” Everyone’s information has been revealed over a 40 day “flood.” People’s lives have been ruined. Naturally, society has a knee jerk reaction, as we humans are prone to do. The internet is banned. Privacy becomes so highly valued that people start wearing masks and costumes in public. Journalism becomes the “fourth estate,” federally regulated. Paparazzi, unlicensed and illegal journalist, become something like underground detectives. Enter our hero.
P.I., the main character, is a paparazzo who is investigating a woman’s background when he stumbles into a murder mystery and conspiracy. One people are willing to kill for. The story has a great L.A. noir vibe to it while at the same time being brilliantly futuristic. The mix of antiquated technology, like pay phones, and new tech that we wished existed, like magnetic cars, somehow creates a highly-believable world.
The Private Eye is a digital comic, and Martin and Vincente do a beautiful job with panel arrangement and coloring. Others have written about how well they’ve done this, and what the digital format means to comics in general. So, I will just point you to one of their articles here. It’s good stuff.
I said at the beginning that this book is prophetic. How? We now live in a world where Facebook depresses people, because their real lives don’t look nearly as good as their friends’ online identities. It seems like every week the news runs a story of hackers stealing more account information from online services. Throughout the 2016 election cycle we’ve heard about email hacks, private servers, Bleachbit, and Ken Bone’s comments on Reddit porn. Have you listened to the Radiolab episode about Dark0de? Listen to it. The Private Eye doesn’t seem so far-fetched.
I have literally had Elektra: Root of Evil for years. I just never read it, mainly because I was afraid it wouldn’t live up to Elektra: Assassin. How could it? Bill Sienkiewicz didn’t draw it and Frank Miller didn’t write it. So, it has sat bagged and boarded until this week. Netflix’s Luke Cage inspired me to dig around in the old boxes, and here we are. Elektra: Root of Evil is a four-issue limited series from the same team that wrote the Daredevil Fall from Grace storyline.
I have to say my fear of disappointment was warranted. Root of Evil is not terrible, but it’s not great. Meh. I’m not a fan of the artwork by McDaniel. Although, there are some interesting panels, all of them during flashbacks. McDaniel conjures some images from Elektra: Assassin during her memories of training with Stick and the Chaste in the snow. There’s also a strange, but interesting shift when she remembers Tekagi creeping on her in the lake. This turns into a weird love affair, which leads me to the storyline.
The storyline in Root of Evil felt very plain to me. Again, meh. Elektra assembles a team to take on the dark Snakeroot clan. Snakeroot is attempting to restore power to the sword Sakki by taking three specific innocent lives. I never think of Elektra as being someone who would put together a “team,” so that seemed strange. Elektra bounces from insecure to cocky throughout. There are a few surprises and clues to her past, which were the highlights of the story. Overall, I just wasn’t impressed. I realize none of this is fair, since I can’t help but compare it to the Miller story. Take that for what it’s worth. I look forward to seeing what they do with her character in the Netflix series.