Saturday, June 16, 2012

Graphic Novel Review: De:Tales

I go back and forth on whether or not I'm a fan of comic shorts.  For the record, I'm not talking about this kind of comic shorts, I mean comic short stories.

I've been impressed with what some writers and authors can do with the limited space, and completely underwhelmed by what others have offered.  Overall, my experience with the form has been pretty middle of the road.  You won't see me actively seeking out comic shorts, but if something piques my interest, and it is a short comic, I'll give it a go.  Which is how I came to possess De:Tales by the Brazilian wonder-twins Fabio Moon and Gabriel Ba.

Other than my local comic dealer, the one person who knows my comics tastes well, is my lovely lady.  She sits though a lot of comic jibber jabber, and apparently takes in a lot more of what I'm going on about than her body language suggests. I say that because she always manages to snag me some nifty comic giftys when the time for gift giving comes around.  De:Tales is the product of my lady's great mental note taking.

Packaged as a slim, digest-sized hardcover, De:Tales features twelve short comics as the brothers work together, solo, and in tandem, trading off the writing and illustrating duties.  Each of the stories are tales that take place in urban Brazil, and some of them seem to be at least a little bit autobiographical.  For those who believe variety is the spice of life, there's a nice mix of slice-of-life tales, and magical realism.

I've been a fan of the brothers' work since reading Umbrella Academy and some of their other short comics work in various publications. There's a great degree of sincerity and soul in each brother's art, but at the same time each guy can instill a great degree of playfulness and energy into the art as well.  This makes them both very potent as artists, as they both have the skill to excite and entertain with visual feats, but can also pack an emotional wallop with their illustrations as well.  Both Moon and Ba display that unique talent here in De:Tales as well.

As much as I'd like to think I'm a fan of both Moon and Ba's work, I feel like a bit of a chump because it turns out I have a really hard time telling each one's art apart from the other.  I thought I had each guy's style pinned down, but De:Tales proved me wrong.  Both Moon and Ba have the ability to make their illustrations stand out as individual, but they can also mimic and mirror each other's style at will, which makes it hard for me to get a firm grip on who's art belongs to who.  Either way, Moon and Ba are equally talented artists, and their brand of art is definitely one of my favorites in the comics world.

The idea that Moon and Ba are capable of mirroring each other can be seen most clearly in the stories Reflections I and Reflections II.  In these stories, each brother works off the same script, but version I is illustrated by Moon, and version II is done by Ba.  It is really cool to see how each artist approaches each panel, and how they individually decide to show the story.  The similarities and differences are pretty cool to check out.

Though De:Tales was a great treat for my eyes, I wasn't totally in love with the stories it provided.  Sure there were some that I really loved, but there were others that didn't do much for me.  This is almost always my experience with comics shorts, so I can't say that I'm totally surprised.  Still, the reading experience was an entertaining one, and like I said, the art is really great.  Moon and Ba are two of the most talented comics creators in the business, and after reading this, I'll be interested to check out more of their work.

Grade: C+

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