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Graphic Classics Volume 6: Ambrose Bierce - 2nd Edition by Ambrose Bierce
Edited by Tom Pomplun
Cover Artist: Fron Cover: Steven Cerio/ Back cover, P3 Carlo Vergara/Page 1 by J.B. Bonivert
Review by Gayle Surrette
Eureka Productions Paperback  ISBN/ITEM#: 9780978791957
Date: 15 August 2008 List Price $11.95 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /

Every time I receive a copy of Graphic Classics for review, it takes me back to my childhood, when finding classic literature in illustrated form seemed to make the "classic" part of that equation much more palatable to me. What I often found was that the classic was indeed interesting and nothing like what was when taught in school. And I often then checked out the book from our library and read the text-only version.

Now years later, I find that the Graphic Classics give me a chance to visit some favorite authors and sample works that I may not have had an opportunity to explore. This issue, Graphic Classics: Ambrose Bierce, Vol. 6 is no exception. While I've read a number of works by Ambrose Bierce, this volume introduced me to many that I'd previously missed such as excerpts from "The Devil's Dictionary" and "Bierce's Fables and More Tales of Horror and Satire". How I missed them I can't for the life of me figure out. But now that I've had a taste, I must explore these further.

"The Damned Thing" adapted by Rod Lott and illustrated by Reno Maniquis is one man's quest for an explanation of the unexplainable. The art work is on the realistic side of the scale tending to an outdoorsmen feel that lends itself well to the adaptation.

On the other hand, "The Disappearance of Ambrose Bierce" written by Mort Castle and illustrated by Dan E. Burr covers some of the explanations of why Bierce just seems to have disappeared. The explanations, though discussed among Bierce aficionados, are handled rather tongue in cheek by the author and the artists. There are a lot of little touches in the background of the illustrations that should bring a smile or outright laughter to the reader.

Written by Ambrose Bierce and adapted by Stan Shaw, "Moxon's Master" gives a glimpse of mechanical intelligence uncontrolled, and the possible aftermath. The artwork gives a heavy feeling of foreboding that carries the narrative forward quite nicely.

"The Stranger" by Ambrose Bierce illustrated by Mark A. Nelson is a nice, creepy little story to be told around a campfire. The artwork helps to carry the southwestern cowboy theme and to add the chill factor to the ending.

"Selections from the Devil's Dictionary" by Ambrose Bierce show the intelligence and biting wit of Bierce. He had an insightful and cynical view of the world and it shows in these selections. For example:

DIPLOMACY: The patriotic art of lying for one's country.

EGOTIST: A person of low taste, more interested in himself than in me.

PRESENT: The part of eternity dividing the domain of disappointment from the realm of hope.

Bierce's "The Hypnotist" illustrated by Michael Slack is the story of a boy who learned he had a gift for making people do what he wanted, and his inability to see the downside to using it. Lovely stylized illustrations that remind me of The Corpse Bride and other Tim Burton works.

The fables were adapted and illustrated by various writers and artists and all show that same biting wit and cynicism as "The Devil's Dictionary". On the other hand, "Curried Cow" adapted by Milton Knight is a tongue-in-cheek comedy of farming, control, and misunderstanding.

The final story, "The Monk and the Hangman's Daughter", is by Richard Voss, translated by Gustav Adolf Danziger and adapted by Ambrose Bierce and illustrated by Carlo Varagata. The artwork is very realistic though idealized for the 1680s. A young monk in training feels sorry for the daughter of the hangman and tries to assist her. He may even feel more than he should if he wishes to continue on his chosen path. There's more to the story as the hangman's daughter is not quite as she seems, the wild rich son isn't as evil as he appears, and the monk may not be as good as he believes. The artwork adds to the narrative to layer the story with more interpretations.

All in all a great volume, well worth reading and enjoying for the stories and the artwork.

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