Understanding Comics – Scott McCloud

I read Understanding Comics by Scott McCloud over the weekend – yes, I typed that correctly; I started the book sometime Friday and finished it Sunday.  If you want to skip my review entire, I’ll tell you straight up that I rated it 4/5 on Goodreads.

As I mentioned, I was able to finish it in a weekend.  Surely I missed a lot of information, but at around 215+ pages, it’s not a very dense work of non-fiction – there aren’t a lot of words, and the bulk of it is juxtaposed next to images to help drive the point home.  It makes for a very quick read, but the material is there to make it a very deep dive if you’re so inclined.

The format is presented in black and white, with one chapter briefly featuring bits of colour (for emphasizing the uses of colour in comics).  Everything was otherwise clear in terms of conveying information, so definitely no marks lost for lack thereof.  In fact, I think the one chapter about the use of colour helped to bring attention to the material at hand.  Releasing it in colour may have diluted the information a bit, maybe.

The book is clearly well-researched.  McCloud knows what he’s talking about, and goes back to information and comics centuries’ old.  There are a few parts where it feels slightly repetitive, but never dry.  I really enjoyed how it made me realize some of the unseen techniques going on with comics that I hadn’t really considered before.

At times I felt a little overwhelmed with some of the ideas presented, and I feel like McCloud went a little far-afield with some of his ideas.  But overall it was presented in a friendly format and is a fun essay to read through.  4/5, definitely recommend.

Star Wars Infinities: A New Hope

infinitiesanewhope16 years later, I finally read Star Wars Infinities: A New Hope.  If you’re not familiar with the title, the Infinities series is basically a “What If” series of comics published by Dark Horse in the early 2000’s, starting with A New Hope in 2001.

I first picked up issues 2, 3, and 4 – probably 16 years ago – based on the cover of the books; at the time, I couldn’t find issue #1 in the comic book shop, so I never read the books.  Finally, this year, I found the first issue and got to reading.

Overall, I’d give the series a 3.5/5.  The first issue is definitely the weakest, starting off with a quick summary of what really happened in A Ne w Hope, with some narration boxes saying…”what if something changed” (I paraphrase)?  In the case of SWI:ANH (my abbreviation), the detail that changes is Luke’s torpedoes fail to destroy the Death Star.

What follows is that the Rebel Base gets mostly destroyed, but the Rebels  manage to escape…for a few minutes.  Han and Luke believe that Leia is dead, triggering a massive angry outburst from Luke.  They manage to escape, and on starts this new saga.

I think the best part of this story has to be the depiction of Coruscant as the seat of the Empire, taking familiar locations from Episodes I and II and flipping them around.  For instance, the artists draw the Jedi Tower almost exactly as it appears in the prequel films, but use it as the Emperor’s private residence.  It’s a very fitting place for the Emperor to set up shop, really.  But the artist team get the details perfect, including the landing platforms that are used as well.  I recognize them all from the prequel trilogy.

Overall the writing is pretty sharp and tight.  I recently read the Dark Empire series from Dark Horse, and didn’t really enjoy the writing in that series.  However, the story progresses well for Infinities and the character choices make sense.  Well, Han doesn’t really have much to do other than shuttle Luke around – but I liked the sequence where Han, Luke and Chewie head to Dagobah.  That part does work.

If you can track the series down at some point, I definitely recommend it.  I’m going to look for the other Infinities series soon – hopefully they’re just as good.  Next up though, I have the first 12 volumes of the new Darth Vader series on the way to my mailbox, so I’m looking forward to getting started with that.