Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Guest Review - "Ruins"

   We have a Guest Review for you today, as my pal David Wright offers a look at the latest work by the talented Peter Kuper:

   Ruins is the newest graphic novel by Peter Kuper, a New York City writer and artist that has created many comics, but is still fairly unknown to the mainstream.  

   Whenever I see that he has published a new book, it makes my world a little bit brighter.  His works are mostly fiction, but sometimes based on real events and things that have happened in his life.  So I guess you could say many of this works are sort of autobiographical, slice-of-life, alternative, and observational.   

   He has also done adaptations of Franz Kafka’s work like The Metamorphosis. The last thing I read by him was Stop Forgetting to Remember, which I enjoyed greatly (and might be the best place to start if interested in his work). 

   Ruins is a work of fiction, though many aspects of it were inspired by real events that he, his wife, and daughter experienced during their two years spent living in Mexico.  

   There are a couple of storylines that crisscross throughout the book. One of them is the actual story of a couple going to Oaxaca, Mexico  so that the wife can work on a book, and the guy can practice his art and drawing bugs (Oaxaca is known to flourish with a number of  bugs, insects, and animal species).

   There’s another story that intersects the book and that’s the migration of the monarch butterflies as they fly from Canada to Mexico - a 2,000 to 3,000 mile trip. Also of note, their population has been diminishing due to their habitats disappearing. You can read more about that at:  monarchwatch.org

   Another part of his book concerns itself with the politics that was going on at the time concerning a teacher’s strike. There was a new governor, Ulises Ruiz Ortiz, and many of the locals didn’t like him and were striking in protest.  In 2006, Ortiz ordered the police to attack the striking teachers in the early hours of June 14. 

   Over the next several months, police clashed with the strikers, and a number of union members were either wounded or killed.  The strike became an international incident on October 27 when U.S. journalist Brad Will was killed by undercover police.

   All in all I enjoyed reading Kuper’s newest effort.  If I had a criticism it seems at times his male protagonist was a little too cranky, or self-obsessed.  The American journalist seemed a little bit too cartoony or oddly drawn, but it could be a fairly accurate caricature of him, too.  

   But a few minor quibbles didn’t diminish my enjoyment of the book.   Peter also injects many things to ponder about as well, and I think the upshot message of the book is no matter how violent the government actions have gone and how destructive humans can be, life still persist and it can be pretty awesome.

Grade: B+


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