Sunday, November 3, 2013

Bad Houses; Sara Ryan & Carla Speed McNeil

Bad Houses is a new graphic novel, published by Dark Horse Comics, written by Sara Ryan and drawn by Carla Speed McNeil. The characters and plot in Bad Houses centers around estate sales, which are sales of the contents / personal belongings of people who have died. I've heard of estate sales, but have never been to one  or really thought about what going to one entails. The title of this graphic novel, Bad Houses, comes from what one of the characters, Lewis, who works with his mother in preparing and conducting estate sales, describes as those houses that belonged to hoarders and are thus difficult to clean and sometimes hard for family members to reach an agreement on what will be going up for sale. But Bad Houses isn't primarily about these types of estate sales, rather it's a coming of age story of two people who meet at such as sale and the different motivations of those who go to estate sales (it can be like the "reality" show Storage Wars, but that's not always the case).

As good as the story and characters in Bad Houses are, this graphic novel wouldn't be as great as it is without the rich artistic talents of Carla Speed McNeil. Carla Speed McNeil usually writes and draws her own comics, called Finder, which are also collected in fine trade paperbacks by Dark Horse Comics. I was an Eisner judge several years ago and one of the comics up for Eisner consideration that year was Carla Speed NcNeil's Finder story arc titled Talisman, which Dark Horse has fairly recently turned into a gorgeous hardcover graphic novel (I believe a person could read Talisman without having read other Finder stories and appreciate it unto itself, but it'll make you want to seek out other Finder books). Carla Speed McNeil is one of my favorite cartoonists because all of her characters are varied, very expressive, and her story-telling is always a delight to gaze upon page after page. Her characters are funny, full of life, dramatic when they need to be, and Carla Speed McNeil has a great understanding of how clothes fit her characters as well as being able to render any background the story calls for, be it a fantasy one (which Finder largely is) or a realistic one as Bad Houses is. Bad Houses was a joy to read and look at, thanks Sara Ryan and Carla speed McNeil!

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