Monday, 16 February 2009

Pentti & Deathgirl! a quick review!

been extremely busy, and dashing abroad a little bit etc etc but having just read this book I had to take a minute to mention it: Pentti & Deathgirl, a brilliant book comprising of two graphic stories written and drawn by the excellent Emma Rendel. Emma's been publishing stuff for ages - self-publishing zines and slimline books, contributing short graphic stories to Le Gun magazine etc - until Jonathan Cape recognised a great opportunity, and Pentti & Deathgirl is the result (she's actually also about to publish another book in Sweden).
I was slightly worried about reading it because as a friend and fan I knew my expectations would be high and was afraid I might not like it, or even 'not like it that much' - but as it turned out I enjoyed it so much I keep picking it up to have another look all the time...

Pentti is a story about this brutal Finnish farmer who lives with his brother and can only act on his desire to be physically close to other men by picking fights with them at the local bar and beating them up. Deathgirl is an outsider at school who records her violent thoughts and hopes and day-to-day activities in her diary. 
With her particular sense for satire, Emma combines the naïve and seemingly innocent with despair and ultraviolence, and the result actually makes a strong comment on the issues at hand but delivers it in such a subtle and funny way it seems hard to argue. 
The artwork is beautiful and the visual storytelling brilliant, especially in Pentti, and I really love the use of colour, and the unpredictability of the narrative. And of course Emma's deadpan sense of humor is very present throughout (both in the pictures and the words) and had me laughing out loud again and again.
I can kind of see why people might be divided over this book, simply because it doesn't immediately fit into an obvious niche. It's not a pretty looking 'alternative' comic about being bored in the suburbs, the style probably doesn't adhere to the five generic styles (Marvel etc/BDs/Burns/Hergé/even the 'wilder' L'Association) people seem to expect from a graphic novel, and the feel-good factor isn't immediately apparent with both stories dealing with such awkward subjects and characters. But I think that if you're looking for engaging graphic stories skillfully told that will make you laugh and think and want to revisit their strange little world, this book is a wise investment.