May 7th, 2012

Rose-coloured reviews *A Nail in the Heart* by Ian Daffern

I am a text-based person–very used to getting all my information, entertainment, and general stimulus from words. My visual perception is not highly evolved. I do actually know what matches, clothing-wise, and when a page layout is poorly done, but it doesn’t bother me all that much–I have to force myself to notice.

So it’s an odd experience for me to read a graphic novel. I’m excited, I’m looking forward to it, but I’ll read a few pages without following too well, pause in confusion, then flip back and look at the images. Ah, I’ll say, that does make sense.

Graphic novels are not just novels with pictures in them–they are a completely other form of storytelling, where words and pictures are highly integrated and symbiotic–neither one could stand alone–telling a story in concert.

This is all a very long preamble to explain why, while I enjoyed *A Nail in the Heart* very much, I perhaps didn’t get everything out of it I could’ve. This short story collection by variously creative person (I can’t figure out how to say he’s active in a number of media–what is that term?) Ian Daffern has three short stories, each illustrated by a different artist. The affect is cool–it’s like a mixed tape, in that the modes and styles of the pieces are all different, but united by a single sensibility in the stories being told.

The stories being told, FYI, are horror, which is also something new for me. The first is “Bring Me the Head of Osama Bin Ladin!” The tone is noirish–a grizzled old fed on an errand for “Eagle One” to bring in proof that bin Ladin is actually dead–guess what kind of proof? Noel Tuazon’s art fits the tone and the gross, grim subject matter quite well. The lines blur slightly in the illustration, it seemed to be, giving the impression both of a dark night and secrets obscured. Very affective. As usual, I had trouble following, but once I’d worked it all out, the ending left me with a shiver.

“Bird of Paradise” and “Eyes in the Sky” were illustrated by Shari Chankhamma and Frank Fiorentino respectively. Both had a more realistic look to them–clearly drawn faces and backdrops, details like freckles on noses and buttons on shirts easy to pick up on. Despite this, both stories were very dark. My favourite piece was “Eyes in the Sky,” because it was the funniest–not just black irony like the other pieces, but some character and dialogue humour along the way. My sort of thing–even though the story ended very bleakly, it still made me smile.

It’s going to be a long journey for me to learn to understand the graphic genre, but I think it’s a worthwhile pursuit and *A Nail in the Heart* an excellent step in the right direction.

Since there are 12 books in my To Be Read Challenge, I thought it be easiest to remember if I simply do one a month. *A Nail in the Heart* is the April/4th book book.

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