Yuichi Yokoyama makes comics in a unique language situated somewhere between the primal drives of William Blake and the elegant geometries of Sol Lewitt--they are works of philosophical complexity and stunning visual power, of which he has said, "I'm not trying to write stories that are set in the future, but rather to write stories which are delivered from references to any given epoch or time. If the history of the world had turned out differently from what we know today, men would live according to different sets of values and different aesthetics...It would be a civilization completely alien to ours." This first U.S. book on Yokoyama's work combines two of the artist's central themes: fighting and building. One set of graphic stories, Public Works, details massive structures being erected across a landscape. Plot is pushed aside in favor of sheer formal verve as we watch buildings, about which we know nothing, come into being. The other set of stories, Combats, is one sequence after another of elegantly choreographed battles. Manga comics have never seen a talent that combines this level of formal ambition with such exquisitely drawn depictions of fashion, art and architecture.
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There is no other cartoonist like Yokoyama. The two dozen brief, deeply disquieting pieces collected here look like stories, but on examination, they're more like complicated, stylized diagrams of social, technical and ecological systems, dominated by Yokoyama's fascination with textures, costuming, repetition, landscaping and—above all—sound effects. Engineering 3, for instance, shows a mountain being built out of boulders, then covered with Astroturf, fake trees and hand-drawn simulations of more rocks. (The Japanese sound effects that appear everywhere in the book are translated at the bottom of each page, which is how Anglophone readers know that shuru shuru, for instance, is the high pitched sound of boulders being dropped from plane.) Occasionally, blank-faced figures appear on a panel to run around and scream—a couple of pieces, like the opening Book, even look like fight scenes—but Yokoyama disregards plot and character altogether in favor of atmosphere and technical details, which he draws with the kind of gusto and dramatic foreshortening other artists reserve for actual human interaction. Some of these pieces are nearly incomprehensible, as the author admits in his explanatory endnotes; he thinks of his work as serialized paintings, extending in time from single images. Yet everything is delightful on the level of pure, mad design. (Nov.)
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