How to Love


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How to Love


  • Words: Actus Comics
  • Art: Actus Comics
  • Inks: Actus Comics
  • Colors: Actus Comics
  • Story Title: Varied
  • Price: $29.95
  • Release Date: Jul 23, 2008

I discovered Actus Comics through the explosive solo debut of Rutu Modan. Exit Wounds was one of those revelations, fresh & original. It was a story of the seemingly mundane that made one understand more about themselves and the world at large. Unbeknownst to me, and apparently most of the comics fans in the U.S., the collective she belonged to had been publishing stunning work in the US since 1999. Top Shelf has been the distribution host for the collective’s graphic albums since their first color anthology Jetlag. Modan had a piece there as she has in all the proceeding anthologies.

With the success of last year’s Exit Wounds, it seems that Top Shelf has decided to promote this book with a little more umph. At least I noticed it in Previews, but that may have been because the cover struck me as similar to the art in that book. Turns out the cover is by Batia Kolton, an author of one of the graphic novellas featured here. Yeah, I wasn’t even aware that there was such a thing as the Eisners in 2000 or the Ignatzs in 2005. I wasn’t hip enough. Should have been could have been, but now I know they are out there and I will be sure to pick up the books that snagged such sought after awards by this amazing group of story tellers.

This newest collection focuses on the title, How to Love. As with Modan’s solo graphic novel, there are no easy answers given here. Instead the reader is given six different shorts that focus on the complex topic, from the dawning of sexuality in a pre-teen girl to the perversities of a man who will explore any avenue just to find out what all the fuss over this four letter word is all about.

Given that Modan will be a major draw to this book; I’ll tackle her short, Your Number One Fan, first. In this story, an Israeli musician tells tall tales of his big trip to debut his music in a concert in America. What he finds instead of a big music contract is a divorced woman who is fanatical about his music and a rich Israeli community. His hopes, of course, are dashed as Modan meditates on identity, ego, and obsession. The character work is not as extensive as what I had encountered previously, but the complexities that she gives a simple story is in place here. Her art work is just as pleasing as it was in the longer work.

There is a piece that stands out to this reader as being exemplary of what the graphic medium is capable of doing. David Polonsky’s L’Elixir D’Armour is at once the most lavishly illustrated piece in its wood craving like black and white drawings and the most imaginative tale as it recounts what would appear to be Baron Munchausen’s fantastic observations of love around the world. The tall tales are recounted after a lover begs the famed story teller to tell her "of love". There is an accomplishment to the art here that was unexpected and the ironic wit shows a writer capable of holding his own with John Irving.

There are also more disturbing tales. Certainly the profane is on display in Polonsky’s short, but the perverse exploration of the main character in Love Love Love by Itzik Rennert took this reader aback. After the rather benign introductory story by the cover artist and the fantastical nature of the tales just covered, Rennert kind of blind sided this reader. His main character who is never named spends a life time looking for love in all the wrong places. It shows how the "dirty" thoughts that every one of us has at some points are actually a part of being a normal human being. Rennert writes a complex meditation on the nature of lust versus love. It is as complex in its thematic as it is simple in its short poetic sentences. The art is of varied styles from what appear to be altered photographs to sketches to stunningly detailed drawings with fine lines. The writer of this piece wants to show us that he is a versatile as the young man’s sexual quest is.

The other three stories are just as well told whether it be the youthful realization of boys on display in Batia Kolton’s Summer Story illustrated in a style very similar to Modan’s; or the Satrapi like caricatures of Mira Friedman as the cartoonist’s Independence Day focuses on the nature of unrequited love; or the naturalness of a morning enjoyed by a man as his partner sleeps in exhibited in Yirmi Pinkus’s 8:00 to 10:00. The book shows that love, like everything else that is part of the human condition is a varied personal experience.

How to Love is the work of a group of artists who have learned how to tell compelling stories that speak to the human experience. Comic fans should be grateful that they chose our graphic medium in which to share their deep insight with the world.

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