Saturday, May 13, 2006
Lewis Trondheim's A.L.I.E.E.E.N. (Archives of Lost Issues and Earthly Editions of Extraterrestrial Novelties) is written as if it were a comic found on Earth, actually written by an alien species. The world is foreign, the creatures speak an alien language and the customs of the characters are strange. The book comprises of several short stories featuring different alien characters in stories of pooping, bludgeoning and loneliness. And the stories kind of weave in and out of each other, so some things that may not have made sense in one story become clearer as they're expanded on elsewhere, or one story may just enhance the story of another character's. It's all alien, yet there's something human about what the little guys go through, whether bullied or merely misunderstood. And I kind of had a fondness for the creatures that made me not like seeing them hurt, since their characters can shine through the language barrier just fine. It's strange reading a story and knowing that they are speaking, but not knowing what they are communicating to one another. I often found myself making up what they were saying to try to fit into the context of what was occurring, something that really made me appreciate the storyteller more than a book like, say Owly, which is a completely wordless book, also for all-ages, that is almost too simple for words. I don't get much emotion from Owly, but I feel for these characters through their facial expressions, or their blank looks, beyond their foreign tongue. But make no mistake - this is a word-free book. It's like watching a foreign film without subtitles. Some people say that the mark of a good director is that you should be able to watch a film with the sound off to see if it still makes sense, if you can follow it. If that case holds true for comics, then Trondheim is a wonderful "director." I also loved how A.L.I.E.E.E.N. was presented as if found by Lewis Trondheim himself and he was just publishing his find as it was (complete with yellowed pages and faux-creased corners, as well as reviews on the back, also in a nonsensical language). I think the character designs are simple, but lovely, some of the creatures donning more Earth-like appearances than others. And the fairly bare landscapes are beautiful with their odd plantlife and buildings. It's just all around a fun read (albeit a quick one), definitely worth the $13. I can't say anything for the rest of :01 First Second Books' initial titles, but so far, for me, they've got a clean record.