A short non-fiction graphic novel on the US Katrina disaster, A.D.: New Orleans After the Deluge is a one hour long read, tops. Nice work, but has its deficiencies – while brilliantly drawn, it lacks the unique tension of a kind that makes your jaws clutch, like, say, Joe Sacco’s Safe Area Gorazde does.
From pure documentary standpoint, it definitely loses out to Spike Lee’s deeply moving TV classic When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts, a meticulous look into Katrina disaster and its aftermath.
Here, the Katrina events are more circumstantial as they relate to the five families Josh picked as his subjects. Some of them are actual Katrina survivors – some are its refugees, evacuated before the wind and the subsequent floods – and the story follows them in a patchy manner, starting from the week preceding the storm and later in the week that followed – plus a glance at how they are coping a couple of years down the road.
The only moving moment in the book, imho, is the depiction of armed looters and thugs by one of the survivors, Denise, taking refuge in the Convention Center. As opposed to the mainstream image, where non-Caucasian thugs looted and raped the weak and the meek, here they are presented as a people’s militia of sorts, restoring order in the abandoned center and administering food and water rations. Well, each coin has two sides, I guess.
Swallowing the Earth turned out to be the most difficult Tezuka book to lay my hands upon. First, I was waiting for it in Amazon, not falling for pre-order option. Then the book, produced not by Vertical, the usual Tezuka publisher in the US, but rather by DMP, a comic book company I never heard about, went out of stock in a matter of a few days, as quite few copies were published. All you could buy was a lousy used copy at least 5x the cover price. Hm, not for me.
A couple of years later Amazon advertised a kickstarter project by DMP, who were raising money to put out a new edition out – and, not unexpectedly, I subscribed to this funding initiative to get my new copy. Never tried kickstarter before – and, frankly, the idea is nice but I am sure at least half the projects are dead in water after funding. Oddly enough, the guys didn’t lie, and in half a year or so, the book finally came, along with half a dozen of lower quality manga I got hold of as well thanks to my (was it?) $60 funding.
Now, the book is Tezuka’s first serialized graphic novel, written and drawn in 1968, before Ode to Kirihito, MW, Adolf and the rest of his perennial classics. A strange story of women’s revenge against civilization – focused on destruction of money, law and love – and not too much of a happy ending. To my mind, the book lacks clear storyline – it goes away from the main character and back far too easy. Lotsa dead bodies, as usual – sex and violence reign. All in all, too bold and not too well baked for my taste – you can see the master’s touch, but it ain’t a mona-friggin-lisa story-wise. Oh well.
P.S. I realized I missed DMP’s second project for Tezuka’s Barbara. Dang.