Review: Leaf by Daishu Ma
Sentence transitions and paragraph structure are
feeling extremely difficult right now. I’ve been kicking around some thoughts
about the Fantagraphics book Leaf, which was published last year at the
tail end of the publishing season.
So, I guess, a review in bullets:
something to be said about the range of Fantagraphics’ recent publications.
That this lovely all-ages wordless Daishu Ma book exists alongside Megg &
Mogg in Amsterdam by Simon Hanselmann and Disquiet by Noah Van Sciver shows, if
not an open mind, then at least an open eye.
book is beautifully designed. The leaf cutout of the front cover is so
wonderful. It makes me want to give this book to small children, who haven’t
forgotten how to enjoy such things (I’ll get back around to this point).
like the color in Leaf, the alternating cool and warm colors. Leaf
captures light in a very smart way. The book feels illustratorly, if that’s a
word. Despite it being comics, it feels like a children’s picture book, and I’m
not saying that in a pejorative way.
Ma has, in my estimation, created some of the best two page spreads in comics
I’ve read this year, and maybe last year. The imagery is lovely in this book.
Complex, but not too complex, beautiful, but not overwhelming.
a softness to this work, but it’s also frank, bordering on blunt. The worldview
is optimistic, and I’m not sure I buy it.
is easy to confront obsolescence when it is leaves and twigs; things that are
freely abundant, and not of much value now. Much harder to address human
obsolescence in the wake of advancing technology.
it’s also precognitive, in a way, because if things keep going the way they’re
going, then the catalogue of dead and dying species, locked up in jars and
books, becomes more important. The more things die, the more the dead have
publisher is Fantagraphics, but I’m wondering – is Daishu Ma aiming at a
lower age range? If so, this is the second all-ages book that Fantagraphics has
published (based on my poor memory) in the past year (the other being Robert
Goodin’s The Kurdles, another lovely book). Perhaps they would benefit
from a children’s imprint?
- I think the best thing for Leaf is to get
it into the hands of children and children’s librarians. I think it serves that
audience very admirably.