Thursday, July 21, 2011

Congress of the Animals

Jim Woodring

Jim Woodring's latest is his second full-length graphic novel, hot on the heels of last year's Weathercraft.  And while Weathercraft takes place in the same world as (and has an appearance from) his character Frank, that work stars Manhog.  Congress of the Animals features his beloved creation Frank himself, as he maneuvers through the dreamlike landscape he lives in, meeting strange creatures left and right during an adventure that has him traveling far and wide.  It's hard not to compare this to Weathercraft, the only other work I've read by Jim Woodring, which I actually preferred to Congress of the Animals, although I enjoyed them both.  Like Weathercraft, this new work is completely silent, showcasing Woodring's amazing talent to convey a story without a word, with seemingly little effort.  It's just an eye-popping visual feast of amazing illustrations in this crazy world where Woodring can put whatever he wants on the page, to a stunning end result.  Sure, events seem kind of random, but it's just fun to explore alongside Frank.  And it really does feel like an adventure that leaves one satisfied afterward.  The pages move along briskly, the story unfolding in a way that has you turning pages quickly, for a very, very quick read (I read it in about half an hour).  Of course the lack of words feeds into that, but it really does feel like a full story nonetheless.  Unlike Weathercraft, however, Congress of the Animals is a much gentler story.  Instead of Manhog getting maimed and chased at every stop, Frank quietly takes in the world around him, and he ends up in a good place.  Sure, there are some of those nightmarish images that Woodring is so good at producing, but they are pretty minimal here.  I also thought it was kind of funny how I read the book first, and then read the dust jacket, which had a description of what happens through much of the book, and it seemed kind of like a different story, filling in some of the blanks in ways that I hadn't.  But anyways, this is a fun book, and really, readers are enjoying this title more for the beautiful illustration work than anything.

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