Matt Madden

  • Pen and Wink

    As any medium matures, its practitioners inevitably start to question its inner workings. Comics have a history of self-reflexivity and metacommentary dating back at least to the panel border smashed like a wooden frame by Winsor McCay’s Little Sammy Sneeze in 1905 and continuing over the years in venues as varied as Harvey Kurtzman’s strip for children, Hey, Look!, and underground comics’ flagship anthology, Zap Comix. Each of the five books considered here are likewise engaged with testing and prodding the raw material of comics, stretching it in startling new directions.

    Art Spiegelman was


    There is a man in a blue suit and a green and red skullcap piloting a red plane across a yellow sky. Crossing a lush jungle valley, he spots thousands of “gigantic royal panthers” and instantly declares: “I CAN USE THEM IN MY PLAN TO WRECK CIVILIZATION!” Though the colorful and crudely drawn adventure comics gathered in I Shall Destroy All the Civilized Planets! read like the fevered imaginings of Henry Darger’s bully older brother, they are, in fact, the garish and terrifying work of Fletcher Hanks.

    An obscure artist who briefly earned paychecks churning out pulps for titles like Fantastic

  • Exit Wounds

    In the graphic novel Exit Wounds, Israeli taxi driver Koby Franco finds himself on a reluctant quest to discover the fate of his estranged father after being contacted by a young female soldier who believes the elder Franco has died in a suicide bombing. Nothing is quite as it seems in this offbeat romantic comedy from Rutu Modan, one of the best artists to emerge from the vibrant Tel Aviv cartooning scene of the past decade. The story of her first booklength work moves along at a brisk clip, urged on by a series of small but jolting revelations, starting with Koby’s discovery that Numi, the