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Nexus Graphica: Origins and Rebirths

Just under six years ago, Mark London Williams (of Danger Boy fame and points West) and I embarked on a series of essays centered on graphic novels for SF Site. After discussions about formats, we ultimately decided on the title Nexus Graphica for our bi-weekly column.

Our actual chat transcript about the title…

Rick: what did you think of Graphic Intersections?

Mark: Not sure — I keep thinking of L.A. street corners…

Rick: I was thinking of the intersections of comics and science fiction

perhaps Illustrated Intersections?

Mark: The Cosmic Corner?

Rick: Cosmic makes us sound too geeky.. believe it or not

Mark: I can believe it…

something with “nexus” in it? Or same effect?

Rick: possibly… I’m taking you don’t like Graphic in the title?

Mark: Not necessarily… it’s just we gotta match “Graphic” up with the right second word, is all… 😉 “Graxus”

we’ll make up our own word: Graphics and Nexus, together

Rick: too much explaining

though Graphical Nexus might work

Mark: Graphic Nexus?

“Grafic Nexus,” for a punk spelling?

How about “Graffic,”

as in “traffic?”

Rick: The Nexus Graphica

Mark: Not bad

I might take out the preposition, and just call it “Nexus Graphica”

Rick: high falutin’ is what it is.. 😉

We started the column on April 1, 2008. I wrote the first installment, establishing our bona fides. (Thanks to the foresight of our esteemed, bagel-loving leader, I won’t have to bore you with that here. He took care of that.)

Mark and I eked out 138 issues with an additional four guest columns from luminaries Alan J. Porter, Cullen Bunn, Claude Lalumière, and Gary Phillips. Mark and I reviewed countless books, interviewed numerous creators, chronicled histories, and generally covered the mediums ins and outs. Each year ended with a two part countdown of the year’s best graphic novels.

We both enjoy freelance writing careers of varying success and after 6+ years we found maintaining the bi-weekly schedule difficult, yet we both still liked writing the column. Something had to change. We decided it was time to shake things up a bit by moving the column to a new site with a different format and a slightly different readership.

While this “re-freshed,” Mark 2 incarnation of Nexus Graphica will continue to deliver much of the same stylings of the prior incarnation, Mark and I plan on the now-monthly columns (with us taking turns every other month) to be longer with more in-depth coverage. Our hopes are for the content to be more fluid and formats less rigid. In other words, for Nexus Graphica to always be a work in progress; always evolving.

But enough of that. You didn’t come here to listen to me go on about the column itself. You want to read about some funny books, so without further ado here’s reviews and comments on three recent reads…

Beautiful Darkness by Fabien Vehlmann & Kerascoët (based on an original idea by Marie Pommepuy, Drawn & Quarterly)

Writer Vehlmann and the husband and wife artist team Kerascoët magnificently twist the classic children’s story The Borrowers into a dark allegorical tale. Seemingly abandoned in a forest, princess Aurora and friends struggle for survival against creatures, both real and magical, and each other. Vehlmann and Kerascoët successfully incorporate well known elements of fairy tales—fey princesses, a noble prince, talking creatures, giants, little people, and witches—to great effect in their anti-fairy tale. The duo reveals and revels in the demented underbelly of the fairy tale: cannibalism, mutilation, deceit, and more. Kerascoët’s amazing watercolors portray a lush world that is simultaneously beautiful and terrifying. The multi-layered Beautiful Darkness expertly provides an intelligent and nuanced view of the consensus reality.

The Wake Part One, Written by Scott Snyder, Art by Sean Murphy (Vertigo)

Deep beneath the ocean in a huge hidden bunker, a group of scientists gather to investigate a new humanoid life. The creature escapes and wreaks havoc. But unlike similarly themed monster stories, the duo of Snyder and Murphy manage to elevate the concept into a unique story that goes into some rather unexpected and satisfying directions. Snyder, perhaps best known for American Vampire and his work on the Batman titles, melds the best elements of science fiction and horror, somehow creating something that is both familiar and different. The creator of the extraordinary Punk Rock Jesus, Murphy once again demonstrates his ability to produce images, scary and beautiful, all while successfully conveying Snyder’s non-linear plot. While largely a complete story unto its own, The Wake Part One leaves the reader hungering for future volumes.

Sheltered, Volume One, Written by Ed Brisson, Art by Johnnie Christmas (Image)

The denizens of Safe Haven prepared for all sorts of world ending catastrophes except the one from their own children. Subtitled “A Pre-Apocalyptic Tale,” Sheltered delivers a tense quasi-thriller of a what happens when the youth of a doomsday society bring their parents’ ideas to their logical and scary conclusion. Fearing a seemingly impending volcanic eruption that will engulf the Earth into three years of constant darkness, Lucas devices and implements a plan to wipe out two-thirds of the colony and thus ensuring enough supplies to weather the catastrophe. Of course, not all of the survivors agree with his position and a Lord of the Flies situation begins to emerge. Brisson, who has written comics for a smattering of publishers—big and small, produces an entertaining and cohesive story with many different, distinctive characters. Newcomer Christmas enhances the script with a subtle line. After a rocky start, the art dramatically improves throughout. Sadly, the generally excellent Sheltered, Volume One ends mid-scene with little resolution of the various subplots, leaving the reader unfulfilled and disappointed.

Mark will see you in 30 days and I’ll return to these very pixels in 60 with “The Illustrated Lansdale.”

Special thanks to Austin Books & Comics.

About Rick Klaw (9 Articles)
Professional freelance reviewer, geek maven, and optimistic curmudgeon, Richard “Rick” Klaw recently edited the anthologies The Apes of Wrath (Tachyon Publications) and Rayguns Over Texas (FACT). For the past 15 years, he has provided countless reviews, essays, and fiction for a variety of publications: The Austin Chronicle, Blastr, Moving Pictures Magazine, San Antonio Current, Kirkus Reviews, The Greenwood Encyclopedia of Science Fiction and Fantasy (Greenwood Press), Steampunk (Tachyon Publications), Cross Plains Universe (MonkeyBrain/FACT), and The Steampunk Bible (Abrams). Many of his writings were collected in Geek Confidential: Echoes from the 21st Century (MonkeyBrain). Klaw co-founded the influential Mojo Press, one of the first publishers dedicated to both graphic novels and prose books for the general bookstore market, and co-edited (with Joe R. Lansdale) the groundbreaking original anthology of short fiction in graphic form, Weird Business. He also served as the initial fiction editor for RevolutionSF.
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