Thursday, January 18, 2007

Grenuord #2

Grenuord #2, February 2006, Fantagraphics Books
by Francesca Ghermandi
translated by Kim Thompson

On a big evening for comic book fans everywhere – yes, I’m talking about the first live action appearance of the Justice League of America on network television (and no, the unaired CBS Justice League pilot and the live action Super Friends special of the ‘70s don’t count) – I find myself in the midst of a dilemma. Normally, I’d connect this critical event with my review, to incorporate the two mediums in a way that would validate this review and comprehensively analyze the impact comics have had on pop culture. Alas, just my luck, I’ve committed myself to a comic book that is as far from the superhero genre as they come. In fact, this issue may be as far from Western pop culture as we know it. Grenuord refuses to succumb to the wiles of my writing, which is as frustrating as it is excitedly challenging.

Interestingly, the inside front cover provides a synopsis of the previous issue’s story, and since this is the second installment, I was surprised to find a rather lengthy and detailed summary. Grenuord #1 must have been one heck of an issue. What I couldn’t find, aside from on the cover, is a creator’s credit, until I read the fine publication print. There, I derived the correct spelling of Francesca Ghermandi’s name, as well as Kim Thompson’s, the editor and translator. “Ah,” I thought, relieved. “That explains why I have no idea what’s going on. It’s foreign.” Indeed, Grenuord is unlike any comic book I’ve ever read, particularly visually. If the characters don’t look like candles or overly inflated Michelin men, they’re no more than thick scribbles on the page. Truly, to a mainstream fan like me, this issue is a riddle that, without a hint, I may never be able to solve.

The nature of this story is relatively easy to understand, but how it’s nurtured heightens the issue’s peculiarity. George Henderson is having a bad day; he loses his job, his car is towed, he’s mistakenly taken to the police station for questioning, and the girl he’s interested in suggests they ignore each other, for her father’s sake. Actually, outlining this plot this way helps me get it more, but the antics of a few misshapen misfits propel a subplot with an absurd momentum. The characters tease a homeless man and rope him into some sort of illegal activity. What it is, I’m not sure, nor can I identify the blob that befriends the group at the end of the story. You really have to see it to believe it. I find it hard to believe that Grenuord makes sense in any language.

Still, the point of A Comic A Day is to open my mind to reading experiences like this. I’d like to think that when this year is over, opportunities to read new and different comics like this will evoke as much excitement as an appearance of the Justice League on Smallville. This issue’s rendering of the artist’s original work was impressive, so I enjoyed each page as a visual feast, if anything. That’s the thing about international cuisine. You’ll never know if you like it if you don’t try it.

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