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posted February 12, 2007
Fantagraphics, hardcover, 200 pages, January 2007, $28.95
156097768X (ISBN), 9781560977681 (ISBN13)
You can be forgiven if the hype for Jacob Covey's massive hardcover art book project Beasts!
has transformed you from interested to see it to too exhausted to even pick it up; it's been a long time since a book has been promoted through various comics channels including this site
with the same sort of understated effectiveness. Fortunately, we've reached the point at which we all look the final result and decide if the reason the book has been talked about more than, say, the latest in the Covey/Chun pin-up series, has been a collective hunch about the quality of the project or something other, less attractive quality. Good news: it's either the former or "both"; any less attractive qualities can take a powder for the remainder of the review.
In other words? Beasts!
is a nice book, handsomely mounted, with a wide variety of artists represented. If nothing else, the book may educate on the depth and breadth of the really cool ghetto of the visual arts school with which alternative comics roughly intersects. The usual suspects impress. Mat Brinkman's illustration crackles on the page and Jordan Crane's two-page spread is a show-stopper that suggest he may be one of the best comics artists going in terms of his color sense. There are enough people with whom I'm completely unfamiliar (Julie Murphy? Kevin Cornell?) coming in from the comics end of things and even a few who do things I haven't seen before in their work, including two of Covey's fellow Fantagraphics' employees, Adam Grano and Eric Reynolds, that I suspect many may keep this around as a the world's coolest "artists to track down and go look at the next time I'm bored" book.
Compact and dense and fun to read, if I had only one complaint it would be the font by which the monsters are named. I couldn't read it half the time, which will probably become annoying once I can tear my eyes away from the pleasurable visuals. If I had another, it would be that the consistency runs from both ends. There are few stinkers, if any; there's also little, if any, in the way of transcendent pieces that would lead one to proclaim them the sole reason to buy the volume, and I think anyone looking for one will come away disappointed.
Still: nice, nice book, and one that came together about as perfectly as one could hope.