on August 26, 2007
Black Cherry is a romp; I know this is a really cop-out, obvious thing to say about nearly all of Mr. TenNapel's graphic novels, but this one particularly so. I've always appreciated his General Audiences titles for the fact that any restraint is imperceptible, and perhaps his ability to realize when a story actually doesn't need vulgarity explains his ability to tell a story that requires it with the same amount of purpose.
The story, dialogue and characters are harsh, yes, but not needlessly so. The spontaneous, daring brush style (present in most of his work but particularly so here) almost seems like its extending that sort of verbal and thematic aesthetic. The obscenities strengthen the overall message of the story by providing a believable context for the themes of salvation that permeates the overall arch of the book.
That doesn't mean I don't have any complaints. The cover, while engaging in a fun throwback to EC-era horror comic book covers, is somewhat neutered by the static focal point; such an over-the-top treatment of typography really calls for a much more dramatic cover illustration, instead of such a neutral one that really communicates no feeling found within the book itself save the grungy brush line. TenNapel exhibits fluid, compelling visuals more times than I can count within the book itself, and I just don't think an image of Eddie standing awkwardly like a marionette accurately reflects the book's content.
Additionally, parts of the story might seem awfully familiar to regular readers of Doug's work. Echoes of all of Doug's graphic novels seem to leak into this book, particularly from "Creature Tech"; the rebellious youth defies his pastor father and ultimately regains faith through a climactic struggle involving aliens and/or the supernatural. While the theme of faith itself isn't tired (as Doug himself would attest, it may very well be the opposite, particularly in science fiction stories) the execution is a bit hungry for a fresh spin.
Despite these admittedly minor complaints, the end product is an extremely gratifying read that I'd recommend to any of my 18+ friends, and arguably his best since Creature Tech. The art is fantastic, especially the use of spontaneous brush lines and dramatic lighting. The story is exciting enough to keep you flipping pages continuously while entertaining enough that it made me laugh out loud on a few different occasions (the bread-and-wine scene in the car especially). Really, really great, and even better having had the opportunity to pick it up directly from the man himself at this year's Comic-Con.
on July 28, 2007
Sex. Violence. Mafia. Guns. Lust. God. Naked chicks. Cussing.
Which of these doesn't belong? In the view of most other creative types, it would be God. And that's what makes Doug TenNapel different than any other writer around today. While some criticize Doug's insertion of a decidedly Judeo Christian God into his works of fiction, I find it the most compelling element to his work. After all, long gone are the days where artists invited God into their art. Now the god stuff is left to propagandists, while the artists skirt the issue in any manner of disingenuous ways. As such, some of our most talented filmmakers (read: everyone but Mel Gibson) treat God as an ex porn star. Sure he's hot, but can anyone risk headlining him in his or her act, after all, who wants to offend. Never mind the fact that, as Doug states in his forward to the book, 80% of Americans profess to be Christian, and 90% believe in God, the higher ups still manage to believe God is damaged goods, box office be damned. There are few who see the folly in this belief, and fewer still that have the talent to do anything about it.
Thank God for Doug.
Black Cherry is the best kind of book, because a bold and fearless author stands behind it. It will offend, it will perturb, it will jar, but it will never insult because its characters are true, and real, and messy, just like you and me. So, if you've got a sense of humor, if you're a romantic, if you're an action guy, a Sopranos Fan, a fan of pulp, or have ever stepped foot inside a strip bar, or have wanted to, this book it for you. It's full of pulp, and violence, but it still manages a heart that you'll recognize as distinctly TenNapel. Its characters are lovably flawed and truly drawn. Its plot is like nothing you've ever experienced, a mishmash of so many seemingly incongruous genres that you have to tip your hat to Doug purely for his courage and his one of a kind voice.
I won't recap plot, you can read that above, but I can promise that this is some of TenNapel's best work, and like all his best stuff, it reads like a film more than a comic. His talent for capturing kinetic motion plays out in some memorable fight scenes (not since Indiana Jones has a hero been so severely beaten and abused.) The dialogue is the biggest departure for TenNapel, but you still get the great zingers he seems to relish so much. As to the faith, it's ironic that first R rated piece just happens to be his most fully realized in terms of explorations of sin, faith and redemption.
Reading Doug's books, you can't help but feel you know the guy. His characters are so open, honest and raw you can't help but feel you've been invited into his living room as he playfully spins his inventive yarns. Reading Black Cherry is a little more like meeting up with him at a bar. His story is a little more crass, revealing corners of his personality heretofore unseen, and the laughs come easy.
Let me close with this. Christians who are easily offended, stay away. This will crush your pious sensibilities. Christians who aren't afraid of an f-bomb and a set of D breasts here and there, this story will rock your world and deepen your understanding of who exactly god came to save.
For the rest of you, I don't blame you for pissing all over most Christian artists; most don't deserve your hard earned buck. But if you deny this piece because it's got God in it, then you're missing out on a one of a kind voice and that's a shame.
He has done it again. Doug TenNapel has taken an assortment of elements/genres--gangster, romance, sci-fi, horror, action, comedy, spiritual warfare--and made it all work together. The description on the cover says, "A lurid tale of sex, violence, and the supernatural." Yup. And funny as heck. They forgot that part. And moving. Forgot that, too. And full of mercy for the outcast, the prodigal, the misfit, and the...alien. Not to mention squirrels.
I can't offer much by way of summary without giving away some fun plot points and twists. I know you'd much rather learn those on your own the old-fashioned way (by reading it), so here it is: Bad guy Eddie Paretti, who's fallen in love with a stripper named Black Cherry, finds that 1. his girl is gone from the strip place and 2. he's made a deal to steal a body from his own mob boss in order to get money to pay off his debts and 3. that body is not what he expects.
Stealing that body is about to get Eddie in a big, big fix, and it's going to save him, too, in all sorts of ways.
The cast includes some staples of sci-fi/crime fiction/spiritual warfare/horror: demons, angels, bad guys, good guys, a priest, an alien, the hot chick, the wise-cracking protagonist, the cool pal, and car chases.
But TenNapel has a way of taking traditional elements and doing something wacky, funny, moving, and new with them, and always with some spiritual insights. What he does with one particular, er, sacrament is to die for.
I love D.G. and I couldn't put down BLACK CHERRY.
This gets a big thumbs up for graphicky novel goodness. Or is that badness?
And yeah, if you're easily offended by cussing and sexual talk, then this is not the work for you. But, as TenNapel says in his preface, "Criminals don't talk like they are trying to keep from offending soccer moms."
One quibble: The ending needed a little more space. At least another couple of pages to fill out some blanks. But, really, that's all I found wanting.
Hurry up with the next one, Doug. Your graphic novels are each a delicious, demented delight.
on December 7, 2010
I honestly think that the genius of this work starts even before the story does, in the forward where Doug's simple, matter-of-fact rebuttal to content-critics provides a roadmap to other authors and artists who struggle with the same issues raised by the content of Black Cherry. There's a difference between obscenity and reality, and there's something strikingly, perhaps even dangerously untrue about media that tries to show us a sanitized version of the underbelly of society. Eddie's world is not one most of us would be comfortable in, but for all its demon-possessed mobsters and the monster cars that eat them, it feels more real than worlds where criminals talk -- as Tennapel put it -- like they're afraid of offending soccer moms.
All that aside, it's the story that really shines, and I wouldn't be doing you any favors by spoiling it. Check out Black Cherry with an open mind, and you won't be disappointed.
on July 30, 2007
Black Cherry is definitely one of Tennapel's most mature to date. Not only in subject matter, which gets a hard R rating, but also in his blending of themes within the subject matter. He's managed to create a a hard nosed noir story, blended it with horror, all the while telling a a great story about faith and redemption. This is also his funniest book to date.
The art isn't as polished as some of his previous works. The style is a little rougher, keeping in tone with the darkness of the story perfectly.
I think the biggest compliment I can give is that if I walked into the comic store, saw Doug's name on the cover, and had no idea what the book was about, I would buy it sight unseen, because his name carries a very high standard for storytelling and art.
For anybody who appreciates the graphic novel medium, this, along with all his other books, is a Must Own.
on February 10, 2011
You always know when you pick up a Doug TenNapel book that it won't leave you wanting of certain things. Without fail, all the stuff that he's unquestionably good at will be there to enjoy: wicked banter, solid actioning, fun characters, awesome creatures from nowhere, not to mention that sweet TenNapel Look. Black Cherry is no different in that regard. All of this good stuff is on show as always.
When i heard that Doug was going to tackle more mature themes with Black Cherry as well as the story having a theological bent, as a fan of Creature Tech, Sockbaby and Monster Zoo and fully cognisant of his religious beliefs i had to check it out. I find it interesting to see people working outside their usual boundaries for a change. I like me a bit of Blacksad and anti-heroics, so i read past the quaintly defensive introduction and dove in.
With its prostitutes, gangsters, demons and sweariness, "Black Cherry" is not really a story for kids. The protagonist Eddie is hired to steal a body from his old boss by someone who's under instruction by another someone who may not be entirely human. The body turns out to be a crash-landed miracle-performing alien who's been converted to Catholicism by the protagonist's hardened old pastor. Meanwhile, Eddie is pining over his lost love Black Cherry, a prostitute he once fell in love with who disappeared and may or may not have reappeared.
It feels like sometimes the ugliness in this story is more a product of the author's mind than background research. There's a weird fixation on homosexuality where the forces of evil cry loudly for the protagonist to be sodomised on multiple occasions, and the protagonist quips "You are dead for you are gay!" while dispatching a demon. Depending on your own attitude, this aspect may come as a jarring surprise. Forewarned is forearmed.
With religion involved and a more mature setting and cast, "Black Cherry" was going to become personal to the point of being downright quirky. By the end of the story, everyone's who's still alive has gone to church and made their peace with God - including the other aliens. In some ways it feels like the religious elements are there as a personal counterweight to the apathetic amorality of the human characters and active evil of the demon characters.
Sadly, the religious-universe-made-real aspect works against the story more than it should. I'm not saying that Jesus isn't allowed to show up and save the day because i'm an atheist; i'm saying that when he does show up to say "Hi", what little dramatic tension in the story there is dissolves in a puff of disbelief. If the Son of God can pop along and hold the demon down while Eddie cracks wise while beating him into the pit without so much as having broken a nail.. who cares?
And that's my biggest disappointment. Considering the "i'm here to tell the truth" introduction, i felt most let down that it wasn't darker and meaner. Important emotional punches are pulled (a certain scene with a cigarette hovering above an arm comes to mind) and the characters are too busy being loveable wisecracking goofs to get properly hurt on the page. Perhaps the standard issue TenNapel Awesomeness, as much fun as it is, can't carry this kind of story off because he's just not prepared to torment, damage and threaten his cooler-than-cool characters enough to make them lose face and give us a glimpse of what happens when wisecracks aren't enough.
The way the baddie was defeated felt like a hugely unearnt cop-out; instead of deus ex machina, we get the even more dubious "deus ex deo", although the panel where it happens is amusing and might see success printed on a t-shirt for the hipster Christian set.
It felt like two Doug TenNapels were at work here - the accomplished wisecracking cool kid author and the passionate Christian tripping on the dark side - and they didn't quite keep their respective eye on the ball. It's a shame that it fell short in its darker thematic and character ambitions and turned into a somewhat more reserved and dull exercise in self-interested Christian-centric fantasy than it initially promised...
on October 4, 2007
It goes without saying that you'd expect a cool gritty protag sportin' a wicked sense of humor, the ability to take a punch (or twenty), and a smokin' femme fatale whose life is in danger. But can you handle some aliens, a healthy does of the supernatural, and some Bible thumping along the way?
If you answered no, then you're wrong and Black Cherry is why. TenNapel delivers everything that you'd expect of a lurid tale of sex, violence and the supernatural and holds it all together with the super cool glue of the wisecracking hero Eddie Paretti. It starts off like a kick in the balls, literally, and doesn't let up. The supernatural doesn't all come at once, but once it's there it stays and it hits hard, reminding us all that morality don't come without a price when you are surrounded by the wrong people. The best humans (and aliens) are the ones willing to pay that price.
Why spoil the specifics of a plot that's twistier than Tim Burton's back alleys? All you need to know is on the cover. Once you crack it, you'll be in for the whole thing, whether it's for TenNapel's bold ink work or his catchy one-liners. Even Bogey would approve (though the censors wouldn't, buyer beware - TenNapel doesn't pull any punches. If you're anything like me, you won't mind at all).
on September 21, 2007
Doug TenNapel does it again with this great mob-faith-driven-sci-fi mudslide of entertainment! The drawings are his most gritty and earthy ( I think he draws with brush in fist) and the dialog rough and real, with a sensitivity that is a stamp on all he does.
I'm an illustrator from Brooklyn NY and I lost what made me want to draw, but Doug gave it back, ten fold!
If you have a love for the odd, creepy, and bizzare, and you are a fan of great drawing, composition, design and story telling! (Doug's a master!) Black Cherry is a MUST have! And I command you to go and get ALL of Doug's past work (Creature Tech first). I don't have time for spell check and was going to use much more descriptive words to describe this book..but I don't have time for spell check. You need to read thgese words now!! Get this graphic novel! Nuff' said! (I am an animation artist and have Black Cherry next to my drawing disc right now!)
-Gene D. from Brooklyn
on July 30, 2007
This book will understandably make a lot of people uncomfortable. Full of vulgar language and violent imagery, this is easily Doug's roughest book yet and probably will be for the rest of his career. However, his intention is not to shock, but to be honest about the way the world is. To balance things out, Doug also tells the truth about the only reconciliation for all of the sin depicted in the book: Christ's sacrifice. Along with all of this is a story that's as good as any of his others. Black Cherry is not for everyone, but those who can stomach its brutal honesty really ought to give it a try.
on September 24, 2009
Doug TenNapel has, once again, delivered an amazing piece of sci-fi/adventure/horror/heart-warming fiction that is next to impossible to put down... The mixture of sci-fi and religious tones makes for a very tasty and satisfying romp through TenNapel's ample imagination.
For anyone who enjoyed Doug's previous works Black Cherry will be a welcome addition to your library... for those who haven't experienced TenNapel you are in for one wild read!