This week Andy and Derek review two recent graphic novels, James Vance and Dan E. Burr’s On the Ropes (published by W.W. Norton) and Matt Kindt’s Red Handed: The Fine Art of Strange Crimes (First Second). As the Two Guys with PhDs make abundantly clear, both of these are incredible original works that are sure to end up on the guys’ year-end top ten lists. First, Andy and Derek discuss On the Ropes, a follow up to Vance and Burr’s original 1988-1989 miniseries, Kings in Disguise (Kitchen Sink Press, and latter published as a graphic novel in 1990). They discuss this earlier work, so as to set a context for the new book, and then go on to explore the ways in which On the Rope builds upon — and in some ways, even surpasses — the narrative reach of Kings in Disguise. If, as many critics have pointed out, Kings in Disguise is one of the seminal American graphic novels, then the latest collaboration between Vance and Burr is indeed a notable occasion.
Next, the Two Guys with PhDs turn their attention to Red Handed: The Fine Art of Strange Crimes, one of the most ambitious works they’ve recently encountered. They discuss in detail the ways in which this book bears the “Matt Kindt stamp,” especially in its use of fragmented storytelling, the themes of crime and intrigue, the intertextual uses Kindt makes of comics history, and the text’s metafictional play, where the work itself becomes a blueprint for the way we read comics. As Derek and Andy both point out, Kindt is definitely on an upward trajectory, with each work getting more ambitious and impressive than the previous.
The two guys wrap up with a brief summary of other things they are reading, such as 1980s Marvel comics and recent first and second issues from Image, including Sex, Lost Vegas, and Ten Grand. The jury is still out on some of those new titles.