Panel Patter Quick Hits: Jacamon/Matz, Joff Winterhart, and Bernie McGovern

Hope your Monday is off to a great start! Here's the Panel Patter team talking about some great comics. We'll lead off with a book that re-started James down the comic path..

The Killer Vol. 1
Written by Luc Jacomon
Illustrated by Matz
 Archaia Publishing

When I was first getting back into comics around 2008 (after an almost 20 year absence), one of the first books I read was The Killer. It really broadened my notion of what a comic could be, showing me a world that was way more interesting and hard-edged than the superhero comics I remembered (and given that the comic is French, it also gave me a look at a non-American point of view). Looking at vol. 1 again for the first time in close to eight years, and given the time since then that I've spent thinking critically about comics, it actually reads even better than I remember.

The Killer tells the story of an unnamed hired killer, entirely through first person narration. In the first volume of the story, the reader learns all about this killer's history, his methodology, and his world view (in addition to seeing his methodical life start to crack). For an action-oriented story, it's pretty philosophical. The killer has a pretty cynical, hard-edged view of life and he doesn't think much of the rich people he typically kills, or (for that matter) the poor. He sees us as selfish, oppressive and hypocritical, which in turn makes it easier for him to do what he does.

In this first volume, we learn that he's got a plan to do one or two more big jobs and then he's going to retire to a little beachfront property in Venezuela. Unfortunately for him, things go sideways. Fortunately for readers, this is a great hard edged series for fans of crime stories, and is the first of several volumes.  (Review by James Kaplan)

Days of the Bagnold Summer
Joff Winterhart
Published by Random House UK

It’s a shame that the thing almost everyone knows about British comics is The Snowman. From the limited amount of Raymond Briggs that I’ve been able to get my hands on, I know that he’s great at camouflaging melancholy, dark humor, even emotional devastation, in light-hearted illustrations and sweet characters - a very British mode that resonates with me powerfully. Days of the Bagnold Summer by Joff Winterhart doesn’t go quite that far, but it occupies a similar emotional space. It’s the tale of a mother and son forced to spend the summer together after the son’s estranged father asks him not to come to Florida as previously planned, as his new wife is having a baby. The son is entering teenager-hood, a social misfit but basically a good kid, nursing his self-loathing as teenagers do - his best friend’s a jerk, he thinks his mom is dumb, no one understands him boohoohoo. His mother  is a lumpy, dumpy, lonely librarian who entertains dreams of something more but doesn’t do anything to make them happen -- she’s accepted her semi-pathetic fate. But she loves her son tremendously, and is at a loss for how to show that in light of his classic teenage rejection of anything that smacks of an interest in his life.

Days of the Bagnold Summer is a short and simple book, but it speaks volumes in the space between the small dilemmas and separate reveries of mother and son -- there’s an unspoken understanding in the underwhelming life they’ve spent together, and when things get hard (as they inevitably must in family life) this connection carries them through -- and you get the sense that it always will. It all sounds very dramatic -- it’s not written or drawn that way at all. Instead, it’s drawn in a gently scribbly style that emphasizes the awkwardness and dreariness of the Bagnolds and the inertia of their situation. I picked up this book expecting it to be nothing much but it really got to me -- its Briggisian, British mopiness belies a story with universal appeal and a more literary soul than most comics this brief manage to muster. (Review by Emilia Packard)

Written and Illustrated by Bernie McGovern

Everyone has demons. Not everyone is able to rid themselves of them. DemonGunz collects the first 11 issues of Bernie McGovern’s DemonGun and DemonDusts minicomics, exploring his first few months of sobriety after ten years of alcoholism. He examines how his life and creative process changed as he looks inside and realizes who and what he became. It is bizarre and conceptual, sad, touching, and often both heartbreaking and heartwarming. The art is strange – mostly solid linework, but McGovern experiments with form and style throughout the book, not wanting to stay with one for too long. There are times when the book feels like a companion piece – it makes more sense with the unknown context of McGovern’s personal life, and is full of references to his other works. Despite this, it is still meaningful, beautiful in the reawakening that comes with a clear mind – like a flower emerging from ashes. DemonGunz is the kind of work that should be read and should be shared, and would be particularly useful to anyone who has considered their own creative process, or has ever (or ever known someone who has) struggled with addiction. (Review by Guy Thomas)