September 21, 2010

Getting Graphic: "House of Clay" by Naomi Nowak

Title: House of Clay
Author/Illustrator: Naomi Nowak
Published: NBM Comics Lit (2007)
ISBN 978-1-56163-511-5

In my efforts to read more and more graphic novels, it seems to me that few are written or illustrated by women. I hope that's due to the fact that I've only been reading them for a little over a year now. In fact, until I happened upon this book I hadn't read a single graphic novel written by a female author. Go figure. The comic book realm has always felt like a bit of a boys club anyway. On the odd occasion when I read a Wizard magazine (a popular mag dedicated to the medium), seeing a woman's name listed as an author or illustrator was an insanely rare occurrence. Now, I'm on a hunt for graphic novels written and/or illustrated by women. And my first chance is with this Naomi Nowak's House of Clay.

While I can't say I particularly enjoyed this book, I did appreciate Nowak's art style throughout. There was a bit of a free-flowing essence to it, like watching leaves travel across the surface of a stream. Instead of following through the story through rigid square panels, each page had a kind of windswept look to it.

As far as the story goes ... it wasn't my cup of tea. Josephine, a young woman striking out on her own takes a job as a seamstress to save money so she can go to nursing school. She does have one more thing holding her back besides a lack of funds, though. She faints at the sight of blood. Swoon might be the more appropriate term in the book. She also has a strained relationship with well-off family and her only confidants are a mute coworker and a palm reader down the street. The narrative of Josephine's story feels disjointed in parts and was difficult to grasp what exactly was going on at times.

Throw in the fact that I just didn't really like Josephine as a character with her mincing and swooning on nearly every page, and this book just didn't leave much for me to like beyond an appreciation for the artwork. I'm a hairy, smelly brute of a man, however, so it stands to reason that I may not be a target audience. If you get a chance to read this book, I say give it a shot, but be aware that this is closer to an illustrated YA novel than anything else.

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