August 17, 2007
CR Review: Yesterday’s Tomorrows
Rian Hughes, Grant Morrison, Tom DeHaven, John Freeman, Chris Reynolds
Forbidden Planet International, Hardcover slipcased, 260 pages, June 2007
The Rian Hughes collection Yesterday's Tomorrows
is as conceptually sound as an iPod. It features an artist of interest with a number of quality, interesting works behind them, it's immaculately designed and produced, and it's aimed at the high-end collector who might know of the book's first strong point and appreciate the book's second. The version I have is an exquisite slipcased hardcover from Forbidden Planet, although Internet searches come up with a slightly less expensive version and a different ISBN. Just for the production values alone, most readers should take notice.
Hughes has an angular style that derives color and shading not from some sort of inherent vibrancy of the figures but from the key placement of light sources. His overall style may remind some of a commercial art style, but one successful folded over into comics -- think Richard Sala or even Seth for comparable crossover success in terms of making the comics work as comics despite pages that are fun to look at and admire for their slightly end of Cold War take on early Cold War figures and design. The book includes plenty of commercial illustration work, which is almost uniformly striking. It's not a style I warm up to naturally, but Hughes uses it effectively. One legitimate way to see this work is as a sort of stylistic journey with comics serving as the road map -- introduction writer Paul Gravett's voice available if you tune in to 690 AM.
The gem of the book is Dare
, one of Grant Morrison's lacerating anti-Thatcher screeds and, like a couple of other pieces, a rumination on the loss and or corruption of the future as an idea, concept or goal between 1950 and 1985. Dare
's almost too blunt a work to take seriously as comics literature, but its raspy-voiced nastiness has aged well if not extended outward into the seemingly benign corners of the book. I wasn't entirely sold on Hughes' Philip Marlowe (even with novelist Tom DeHaven as his creative partner), and the other comics I found mostly forgettable, but I was happy to read a bunch of "Really and Truly," a forgettable but eminently collectible and enjoying piece of comics fluff. I guess in the end this is about the best Rian Hughes book I can imagine, and I was surprised by how much I was ready to read one.
posted 1:00 pm PST
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