So, before this week, pretty much all I knew about graphic novels was that Seth Cohen from "the OC" was really into them and wrote one of his own once. But ABC was the perfect introduction, because it was fantastic! From the "four major principles of invulnerability" (invulnerability to drowning was my favorite) to the blinged-out Wei-Chen, I loved everything. I laughed out loud more times than I have reading any other novel (if it is in fact a novel,) except perhaps Naked by David Sedaris.
One of my favorite things about the story was the interweaving of myth, the meeting of the mythological and realistic elements. When the monkey king is revealed and we discover that Wei-Chen is his son, it seems totally natural and perfect. I think this is due in part to the fact that we begin the story with the monkey king. On the very first page we are introduced to the gods, and we know that this story is going to contain elements of the spiritual or supernatural world. Eventually we move into the human world, which is very easy for us to accept. So when the two collide, we don't even have to suspend our disbelief--we are already accustomed to the fact that deities and higher forces are present in the story. Similarly, we are surprised to discover that Danny and Jin are the same person, but we don't find it to be strange or far-fetched at all. Rather, we realize how much sense that makes. And we have the clever details that explain away the discrepancies: how Danny's parents are never visible, so we can't see that they are Asian, how both parents think that Chin-Kee is the other's sister's son, etc.
The use of myth in this story reminded me a little bit of Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan. It's not exactly the same, but one of the things I loved so much about JLC when I first read it was the real presence of tradition and spirituality in the everyday lives of the older generation. JLC is told from eight different perspectives--four mothers and four daughters each tell first-person stories. The mothers really live their lives steeped in the mythology and the Chinese culture, which I found to be totally fascinating. I felt like I had been missing out all of my life on this culture which was so driven by myth and tradition. The graphic novel seems like the perfect medium through which to channel this idea that myth is alive in everyday life. It was presented so simply as fact, equal in validity to the world of humans. Humor really drove the presentation of myth as well, like when Jin is in the herbalist's office and the old woman tells him that "it's easy to become anything you wish...so long as you're willing to forfeit your soul." Whoah! A little heavy for a nine-year-old. But when it comes back when Jin is in seventh grade, it ensures our belief of his transformation into Danny. There are even visual paralells that help us to be guided through the storylines, like how the cloud that the monkey harnesses as his transport looks strikingly like Jin's broccoli hair. The monkey's story so perfectly pairs with Jin's. It's so satisfying when they both reveal their true forms. The whole thing is just so well done. I totally agree with a lot of things that have been said, like how the pauses are really well represented, and how Jin's feelings are perfectly depicted after he successfully asks his crush out. Anyway, ABC was totally sweet.
Not having any prior knowledge of graphic novels or comics at all, I can't really direct everyone to an awesome webcomic that I know of. My boyfriend recommended one called Cyanide and Happiness, but I think it sucks. I don't know, maybe some other people will think it's really funny. Personally, my favorite that we have looked at is MNFTIU. It's so funny. Thanks, Adam.