Sharaz-de: Tales from the Arabian Nights Hardcover – January 1, 2013
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The storytelling isn't the strongest, but it supports the images, and it isn't super heroes in tights... not that there is ANYTHING wrong with that. I love the genre. What I mean by the comparison is that what the stories really have going for them is that they are not the same old thing.
I would recommend 100% for anyone interested in Sergio Toppi, fans of pen and ink illustrations, less mainstream comics, art students or enthusiasts, or anyone who just wants a cool book to look through or have out on the coffee table.
Italian artist Sergio Toppi had a singular, unique voice. His sense for layout has been "invoked" by many, but never imitated.
And now, thanks to Archaia, american readers will be able to know and enjoy it. Do yourself a favor and get this book, but do yourself a double favor and get it somewhere else if you want it in good condition. I tried three times and Amazon's terrible packaging service managed to ruin it all three.
Amazon's answer to this too frequent problem? Putting the book under review, as if there were something wrong with their stock, when what they should be "reviewing" is their unprofessional and highly inefficient packaging department.
As for the story itself, it is essential a sample of tales taken from the The Arabian Nights: Tales of 1,001 Nights: Volume 1 (Penguin Classics), which I haven't read yet. It's the same source as the popular story of Aladdin and while that story doesn't appear in this book, there are a fair number of malevolent djinni's that make appearances. These are basically similar to Grimm's Fairy Tales, made more exotic to most Western readers by their setting. This isn't a book to give kids who loved the Avengers films, but rather something for more mature readers who love strange literature that isn't plot or character driven. Probably the most similar thing I know of in "mainstream" comics is what Mike Mignola is currently doing with Hellboy in Hell Volume 1: The Descent.
Top international reviews
In most of the stories, there's a temptation to linger over the amazing artwork, and the storytelling is solid and well-crafted. One story stood out for me above the others, in which he suddenly seems to shift a gear in his choice of techniques, following an entirely "silent" opening page with several that make some dramatic contrasts between the words and pictures, illustrating the main character's decline from riches to bankruptcy in a highly symbolic way, and subsequently playing with the scale of different characters when they interact with one another. Utterly masterful (and, as this chapter occurred halfway through the book, slightly disappointing that he didn't repeat the experiments further on).
The stories themselves are a representative selection from the source material, ranging from cryptic to savage. He doesn't overdo or sensationalise the sex and violence in these stories, but the book is definitely not suitable for children, more because of the bleak and unforgiving tone of its tales than excessive graphic content.
Text: 3 stars; Illustrations: 5+ stars.