The Art of Joe Kubert (4 stars)

Wonderful collection of comics art from one of the legends of the medium

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The Art of Joe Kubert

Edited by Bill Schelly (Fantagraphics)

Alongside the ongoing and consistently groundbreaking efforts of Fantagraphics Books Inc to publish the work of new and cutting edge cartoonists (beginning with Los Bros Hernandez's Love & Rockets in the late 1970s and continuing with the likes of Daniel Clowes and Chris Ware), and in addition to the US publisher's monumental mandate to republish classic cartoon strips in their entirety (Peanuts, Popeye, Pogo, Krazy & Ignatz, Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, et al), the Seattle-based outfit also boasts a glorious line in coffee table-format comic art and history books.

Following Steve Ditko, Jack Kirby, Bill Everett, the latest elder statesman of the cartooning world to have his work celebrated in a whopping great hardback is Joe Kubert, the writer-artist who's probably best known for his DC war comics of the 60s: Sgt. Rock, The Unknown Soldier and Enemy Ace. The term elder statesman is, arguably, more applicable to Kubert than any of his fellow cartoonists previously enshrined in the hall of comics fame by Fantagraphics by dint of Kubert's career spanning the entire 90-decade history of the medium. Born in 1926, Kubert began working professionally at the age of 12 in the late 30s; now in his mid-80s, Kubert is still writing and drawing comics. In addition to the war comics, Kubert worked on Hawkman way back in the Golden Age, he created 3D comics in the 50s, adapted Edgar Rice Burroughs' Tarzan in the 70s and, most recently, has produced Eisner award-winning historical graphic novels such as Fax From Sarajevo. And during the course of this long and impressive storytelling career, Kubert has also been an editor, publisher and entrepreneur.

All aspects of Kubert's career are touched on in this tome, which is loaded with beautiful colour reproductions of its subject's artwork and complemented by a lengthy and insightful critical commentary by comic book historian Bill Schelly. Over the course of the book's 224 pages, you can see quite clearly how Kubert's art evolved and how his storytelling skills developed, but also how his unique style, those striking touch and sinewy images that could have been rendered by no one else, has remained intact.

As with Fantagraphics' previous coffee table comic art books, The Art of Joe Kubert makes you want to see more - all! - of the artist's work. Happily enough, Fantagraphics have been more than willing to oblige - they have published three volumes of Ditko material so far. Let's hope they do the same for Joe Kubert.

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