Graphic Novel Review 168/365: Material

Please keep up with all of my old Graphic Novel Reviews here as I quest for 365 in 365 days! Or search #GN365 on Twitter.

Happy New Year, everyone!  To celebrate the new year, I’m going to try and start things off right and keep this week focused more on what I would consider academic titles.  Higher level thinking type stuff.  Unlike that last sentence…


Title: Material  

Author(s): Ales Kot, Will Tempest, Clayton Cowles, and Tom Muller

Publisher: Image Comics (2015)

Age Rating: 17+

Yet again, here’s another $5.00 clearance book that I picked up.  This one on Black Friday at a local comic book store.

Gonna be real honest here.  I wasn’t feeling like reading much this morning, so I was going through the books I have yet to review, and flipping through Material, I noticed two things: it was only a four-issue trade; words were fairly minimal.  Done.  Picked my book!

Holy shit.  I had no idea what I was getting myself into.

This book is straight fantastic…I’ll get that out there right away.

It opens with a foreword by Spencer Ackerman.  It is possibly the best book foreword that I’ve read, comics or otherwise.  I would have paid the $5.00 for the book just for this foreword.  It’s fantastic.  I hope to write an ounce as good as Ackerman when I grow up.  I know, I’m 40, but 40 is the new “I still have time to get better at what I do!”  Keep striving, kids!

Ackerman attempts to prepare you for the journey that you are about to take, and there is a quote on the cover from Matthew Little calling the graphic novel “the comic book equivalent of a sprawling HBO television series,” but even then, you won’t be ready.

The book consists of four stories told in a very quick-cut parallel-editing fashion with the story switching focus between the four every page turn.  The stories tackle a man home from Guantanamo Bay, an actress working toward an interesting opportunity, a fifteen-year-old boy from Chicago looking police brutality in the face, and a college professor on the verge of breakdown.  The stories are not surface-level connected.  The stories do not have endings with which we will all be pleased.  They do play out like an avant garde HBO series, and I love it.

One of the more interesting things about the books comes in the way of footnotes.  In his foreword, Ackerman spends a good deal of time discussing the importance of footnotes, and this book has footnotes on almost every page.  They recommend books, paintings, articles, songs to listen to, etc.  To spend the required time to imbibe all of the media while reading this book could take an entire semester, possibly more, which is why I think this book could be a good cornerstone text for a college course, using the footnotes to dictate the rest of the readings.  Now, I have not read all of what is proposed in the footnotes, so take that for what it is.  Read all of this before you go using it.  I know I’d have to as well.  The book contains some nudity, so keep this one out of any classroom other that college.

I haven’t discussed what this book is about because other than the surface of the four tales, I’m not even sure yet.  I need to read it again.  Find connections.  Look closer at the footnotes.  But one thing is for sure…this one is interesting.  It’s not a beach read, y’all.  You will be forced to think.

Happy reading!


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