Total Jazz

Blutch, trans. from the French by Barbara Appleby. Fantagraphics, $19.99 trade paper (90p) ISBN 978-1-68396-086-7

French cartoonist Blutch explores the history of jazz in this alternately poignant, humorous, and surreal collection of comics originally created for the magazine Jazzman. His wordless, expressive black-and-white comics capture the transporting effects of music and depict musicians’ lives. Blutch’s art is best when it is bold, with swaths of black and dense cross-hatching, but loses depth when his trademark scratchy line becomes a scribble. The weakest section is the opening, where the humor doesn’t translate well to the contemporary American cultural context; Blutch may appear racially tone-deaf when he depicts himself as a Native American “brave,” and pokes fun at his own deep identification with black jazz musicians (“When I put in a CD, I hear myself... I’m Coltrane! I’m Miles Davis!” he proclaims). In the pages that follow, however, where Blutch concentrates on the music and musicians, these comics pay passionate homage to jazz and the revolutionary artists who made history with their instruments and voices. [em](Feb.) [/em]