Douglas Wolk | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Douglas Wolk 

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"Comics are not prose," writes Douglas Wolk in his new book, Reading Comics: How Graphic Novels Work and What They Mean (Da Capo). "Comics are not movies. They are not a text-driven medium with added pictures; they're not the visual equivalent of prose narrative or a static version of a film. They are their own thing: a medium with its own devices, its own innovators, its own cliches, its own genres and traps and liberties." Wolk--who's written about music as well as comics for Slate, Salon, the Believer, Pitchfork, the Village Voice, and the Reader--wants to help readers appreciate and argue intelligently about both mainstream superhero comics and newer, more experimental graphic novels. As a critic he succeeds in the classic manner--by compelling readers to slow down and reflect on samples of the best work--even if as a prophet he didn't convince me that (as he believes) we're now in the thick of the Golden Age of comics. He's impressively comfortable with the range of the medium, which requires him on one hand to argue that superhero comics are "the closest thing that exists right now to the 'novel of ideas'" and on the other to acknowledge their lowbrow roots. Discussing the philosophical underpinnings of Jim Starlin's 1974-'77 Warlock serial, he writes, "The idea that derangement or loss of the senses is the only way for humans to transcend corporeal existence . . . is promising, but, again, the story involves a gigantic shark in outer space, and there's no getting around that." a Sat 8/11, 7 PM, Quimby's, 1854 W. North, 773-342-0910. --Harold Henderson

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