Tuesday , November 29 2022
Revenge of the Librarians

Comic Review: ‘Revenge of the Librarians’ by Tom Gauld from Drawn+Quarterly

Revenge of the Librarians by Tom Gauld from Drawn+Quarterly is a must-read comic collection for every bibliophile. Gauld’s previous collections like Department of Mind-Blowing Theories showcase jokes in clever references to science and philosophy, and Revenge of the Librarians applies much the same tongue-in-cheek, eye-winking shrewdness to the world of books and those who keep them.

Revenge of the Librarians cover

The collection’s fun begins even before the cartoons with a paper envelope and check-out slip, complete with differently colored stamped dates, just as many readers will remember from their old library days. From there, a prologue comic presents a world where the government turned against librarians only to drive them underground. Counterattacking, the librarians conquer with their superior organizational skills, soon turning every building in the world into a book-lined library. There, the lamenting narrator is hushed.

All through Revenge of the Librarians, hilarious takes on libraries showcase new perspectives as thoughtful as they are chuckle-inducing. In a Beauty and the Beast take, the new bride ignores all the cursed husband’s warnings of his transformations, instead sitting in the amazing library and saying, “OK. I’ll stay here and read.” Another comic shows the shadowy work of underground libraries where overdue books are collected by force. Even home librarians cannot escape Gauld’s razor wit as he visually categorizes his collection into books he wants to read, books he ought to read, books he wants people to see behind him on Zoom calls, and books not even COVID lockdown could him to read.

In addition to librarians, Revenge of the Librarians cracks wise on novelists and readers. Gauld pokes fun frequently at the writing process, describing first-draft fiction with hilarious place-holders like “As-yet-unnamed Sidekick” and showing that even novel-writing algorithms have problems writing manuscripts, instead penning emails to the editor promising it is nearly done. At the Baby Book Club, young readers discuss not only the themes of emptiness and renewal in The Very Hungry Caterpillar but also how delightful sucking on the corners of the pages is. Even critics get a taste with randomized cookie-cutter commentary like “ecstatic love letter” and “insightful analysis.”

Best of all through Revenge of the Librarians are Gauld’s visual guides that make literature easy. One handy chart for writers looking to generate an eccentric family members lists roles like “uncle” and “guardian” alongside adjectives like “long-lost” and “criminal,” so that blindly pinning any box will create a sure-to-be-loved character. Readers can check another chart for real or counterfeit His Dark Materials books with the real ones like The Amber Spyglass and The Subtle Knife highlighted to stand out from fake titles like The Iron Teapot and The Esoteric Colander.

Revenge of the Librarians covers plenty of literary and publishing ground, but it all is firmly Gauld in his signature style with backgrounds darkly hatched for a somber mood ironic to the joking. His characters are icons with simple forms of bodies, elongated arms, and circular heads with enough detail of a lab coat to denote a scientist. Often, they are outright silhouettes, leaving the full characters to the reader’s imagination, where they live larger than they ever could on the page.

About Jeff Provine

Jeff Provine is a Composition professor, novelist, cartoonist, and traveler of three continents. His latest book is a collection of local ghost legends, Campus Ghosts of Norman, Oklahoma.

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