Review: Bizarre Romance – Audrey Niffenegger & Eddie Campbell
by Audrey Niffenegger, Eddie Campbell
Publisher: Abrams ComicArts
Publication Date: March 20, 2018
Genres: Graphic Novel
I received an advance review copy of this book from NetGalley. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.My rating:
Internationally bestselling author of The Time Traveler’s Wife, Audrey Niffenegger, and graphic artist Eddie Campbell, of such seminal works as From Hell by Alan Moore, collaborate on a wonderfully bizarre collection that celebrates and satirizes love of all kinds. With 16 different stories told through illustrated prose or comic panels, the couple explores the idiosyncratic nature of relationships in a variety of genres from fractured fairy tales to historical fiction to paper dolls. With Niffenegger’s sharp, imaginative prose and Campbell’s diverse comic styles, Bizarre Romance is the debut collection by two of the most important storytellers of our time.
This book is a collection of 13 stories, written by Audrey Niffenegger and illustrated by her husband, Eddie Campbell. Some of the stories were previously published as text-only, but many are new for the collection. Just like the title says, these stories are truly bizarre and quirky. All tie in, some somewhat loosely, to the theme of romance and love, whether it’s romantic love, love of cats (more than one story covers this!), love of friends, or, even, love of art itself.
Sometimes the art is a mix of photo-realistic and comic-style (“Thursdays, 6 to 8 p.m.”), sometimes it’s illustrations bookending a story (“The Composite Boyfriend”, “Girl on a Roof”, “At the Movies”) or small vignettes strewn throughout (“Secret Life, with Cats”), some of it is beautifully illustrated comic panels (“RoseRedSnowRidingBeautyShoesHoodSleepingWhite”, “Motion Studies: Getting Out of Bed”).
Some short reviews:
Thursdays, 6 to 8 p.m – ☆☆☆. Comic-ish (panels, but additional text above panels). Fairy tale retelling with a definite Bluebeard’s wife vibe.
The Composite Boyfriend: ☆☆☆☆. Prose, with beginning and ending illustrations. I loved the paper doll composite boyfriend, and thought the story was an interesting premise.
RoseRedSnowRidingBeautyShoesHoodSleepingWhite: ☆☆☆☆☆. Comic. Delightful fairy tale of a woman who, while trying to find a Halloween costume, sarcastically declares herself a sort of composite princess, only to find herself sucked through the mirror. Sweetly bizarre and bittersweet.
Secret Life, with Cats: ☆☆☆☆☆. Prose, with initial illustration and small vignettes interspersed. It’s a creepy crazy cat lady story. Of course I loved it!
The Ruin of Grant Lowery: ☆☆. Comic. I didn’t think the art (bits of photos with MS Paint-style art overlayed) matched the cruel fairy story. My least favorite.
Girl on a Roof: ☆☆. Prose, with beginning and ending illustrations. Interesting premise (a girl writing a letter to her girlfriend, after Katrina), but boring. It felt thematically odd coming after the fairy tale.
Jakob Wywialowski and the Angels: ☆☆☆☆☆. Comic. My favorite! Excellent mix of the everyday (man trying to get rid of pests in the attic) and weird (but the pests are angels). It also has my favorite quote:
“They were sort of smudged, but you could tell that underneath the soot they were real pretty. I felt bad about throwing them out of the attic, but what was I supposed to do? One thing leads to another, and before you know it, you’ve got seraphim.”
At the Movies: ☆☆. Prose, with initial illustration. I just did not understand this one.
Motion Studies: Getting Out of Bed: ☆☆☆☆. Illustrations with text. The beautiful art is what really makes this one. Without it, the story would be pretty boring.
The Wrong Fairy: ☆☆☆☆☆. Prose with initial illustration. A fairy tale from the point of view of an alcoholic artist. It’s minimally illustrated, but deals with the subject of art itself, and it was a fascinating dip into the crazy artist / “off to fairyland” tropes. Another favorite.
Digging Up the Cat: ☆☆☆. Comic-ish. Exactly what it says – semi-autobiographical story of the author digging up her dead pet cat to rebury him.
The Church of the Funnies: ☆☆☆. Prose with initial illustrations. This is the text of a sermon the author gave. Interesting take on art as a sort of religion.
Backwards in Seville: ☆☆☆. Comic. A very tragic sort of fairytale.
Overall, I found most of the stories pretty polarizing – I either really liked them, or really didn’t. Overall, though, I’d give this 4 stars, and definitely recommend it to anyone who loves graphic novels or fairy tale retellings!