Saturday, December 5, 2015

The New Deal

I have heard some talk about how 2015 has been a down year for graphic novels in terms of quality, but for the life of me I can't see it. Perhaps I have not read one transcendent book so far, but there have been many well crafted ones. The Sculptor was technically great and had an incredible ending sequence; Tim Ginger was very mature and intriguing; Omaha Beach on D-Day was an excellent use of multimedia, and Russian Olive to Red King was a very mature and affecting book. And I have not even mentioned some of the most fun books I have ever read, like Nimona or Fantasy Sports No. 1. All of this is prologue to me talking about The New Deal, which I think is a gorgeously rendered graphic novel, a period piece that might not be the most substantive thing I have ever read. But it features fantastic artwork while being a fun, breezy read, a throw-back to old school comedy films.

The story here is set in 1930's New York City at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel. The main players are Frank, the bellhop who is a bad liar with a poker problem that has put him in debt; Theresa, the African-American maid who moonlights as an actress in Orson Welles' production of Othello, and Nina, an eccentric socialite who has just checked in.
Frank is tempted to pilfer some of the guests more expensive items to dig himself out of his hole, and Nina is a busy-body who inserts herself into Theresa's and Frank's business. Further complicating matters, there is a racist guest who casts suspicion on Theresa when some of her items goes missing. Also, it turns out that there is a thief in the hotel who may be pinning their work on Frank. So, to sum up with out spoiling things, there are a lot of instances of mistaken identity, snappy wordplay, interesting social situations, and sophisticated folks in snazzy clothes acting cool. All of this adds up to an enjoyable romp, replete with crisp, expressive, and clean artwork.
Even though I enjoyed the story, I feel the art is the best part of this book, as was also my experience with the other works by Eisner Award winning artist Jonathan Case I have read, The Green River Killer and Dear Creature. He is an illustrator and member of the Periscope Studio based in Portland, Oregon, and he has also been working on the Batman '66 comic book series for DC. He speaks more extensively about his work on The New Deal in this interview. He also expounds about his artistic process in this profile.

All of the reviews I have read about this book have been very positive. Henry Chamberlain called it Case's "best work yet" and "a thoroughly entertaining and remarkable work." Itho called it "an instant classic" and added that it is "masterfully done, and deceptively simple." Jason Wilkins called the artwork "stunning" and stated that this graphic novel is "one of the most visually pleasing books of the year."

The New Deal was published by Dark Horse, and they provide a preview and more information here.

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