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ACME Novelty Library Datebook
By Chris Ware
Published by Drawn and Quarterly; $40.00 USD

The most beautiful and certainly one of the most important comics-related book ever released, Chris Ware's Acme Novelty Library Datebook collects hundreds of sketches, drawings and rough strips from the past few years. Casual readers of Ware's comics work (if there exists such a reader) will find a new appreciation of the cartoonist's creative process, while more dedicated, longtime Ware aficionados will discover a rich and generous tour of Ware's history and development as an artist. The end result is an invaluable insight into his work and a deeper understanding of the ways in which he struggles with his art -- and a true treasure of comic art that demands attention and guarantees new revelations with each future revisit.

Ware opens up his creative process to reveal not only many years worth of artistic exploration and expression, but in a sense the very core of his being. Ware is a stark example of the artist who is consumed by his art -- the drawings and margin notes here reveal that he is constantly thinking and questioning and doubting his approach, always striving for a more perfect expression. It's fascinating to begin to see the recurring themes in his sketches, the obsessions that drive him and the refinements that his style takes on as the years roll past.

Most amazing to me were the raw, elegant drawings of architecture demonstrating a deep, deep understanding of spacial relationships that the more polished, finished work in his comics demonstrates but does not as fully reveal.

The book's design asthetics are mind-boggingly gorgeous; Library Retro Chic is about as close to a description as I can get at the moment, but the book-as-object truly needs to be seen to be believed, and once seen is irresistible. It's not a graphic novel, there's no obvious story here -- there are plenty of comic strips, though, and the discerning reader will indeed find themselves picking up on a subtle tale being woven through the seemingly-random series of sketchbook pages. The story is the art and life of Chris Ware, one of the most affecting, visionary and fascinating cartoonists in the history of comic art. It's a story you owe it to yourself to fully explore. Grade: 5/5

-- Alan David Doane



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