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Book Review < Back

El Borbah

Credits: Written and Illustrated by Charles Burns
Publisher: Fantagraphics Books

Commentary

Charles Burns may very likely be the most well-known comic book artist going today, his many magazine illustrations in his inimitable style making him immediately recognizable to any regular reader of Entertainment Weekly, Time, or Premiere. As he completes his magnum opus Black Hole over the next few years, Fantagraphics books has decided that now is the perfect time to archive and release Burns' earliest, and hardest to find comics efforts.

And they're absolutely right.

The stories in EL BORBAH first appeared in Raw during the heady artcomix movement of the early eighties - at one point, these stories were even collected by Pantheon Books as Three Fisted Detective Stories. Burns, who apparently has been able to draw like this most of his adult life, created these comics as paeans to pop iconography of his youth, like a creature-feature fever dream with a nod and a wink as he goes.

Are the El Borbah stories actually, you know, important? Hell no. This is Burns pop recycling at his manic and hysterical best. For all his later work, it's sometimes easy to forget that Burns is, you know, a really funny guy. And never has this been more on display as through El Borbah's adventures, vague detective tales where our hardboiled antihero is a misanthrope in a Mexican wrestling outfit, unraveling mysteries with equal doses of contempt and fisticuffs, like every weird television moment of the fifties and sixties exploding onto a page. EL BORBAH is a giant book with beautiful stuff inside. Well worth it at twice the price.

-- Matt Fraction

 
Matt Fraction splits his time between motion graphics and design house MK12, writing comics, and reading comics. He is the author of the graphic novels The Annotated Mantooth and Last of the Independents, both available from AiT/Planet Lar. He can be found on the web at mattfraction.com. His wife is hot.

 


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