Review – Ursula

“Ursula” was my first exposure to the work of Brazilian twins and artists Fabio Moon and Gabriel Ba.

I still don’t get how they are twin brothers and have different last names, but I don’t particularly care as much as I like their art. Moon and Ba often collaborate on single projects (at least up until “Smoke and Guns” which I intend to review soon); and on Ursula they actually alternate pages, each doing a couple at a time.

While the styles page-to-page aren’t identical (and you can often find an Easter Egg signature by the brother who did a particular page), the art blends together; if not seamlessly, so well that the differences don’t bother you. I know that 1) not only have I read “Ursula” at least a dozen times and I still don’t know who did which page most of the time, but 2) I became so addicted to Moon and Ba after reading “Ursula” that I will basically buy any project that either brother does, almost unconditionally.

It started with “Smoke and Guns” but I have “Casanova” (which I didn’t like as much, honestly), but “The Umbrella Academy” and its sequel by My Chemical Romance’s Gerard Way.

I don’t want to say it’s a “Latin American” sensibility, even though the most obvious comparison to the twins would be Eisner Award winner Eduardo Risso of “100 Bullets” … Risso is Argentine and whereas Moon and Ba are Brazilian. However it is probably accurate to say that they are all cartoonists rather than what we would think of as mainstream “comic book” artists. All of them are superb storytellers that utilize exaggerated expression, heavily stylized figures, and heavy — but slick — ink work.

It’s hard to describe just what makes the art by Moon and Ba so addictive, so I thought that I would show it to you; please forgive the image quality… I took the pics with my dumb Palm Pre, and they really don’t do the brothers’ art justice.

One of the things I love about this book is how varied the art is. Here is a “typical” — yet anything but typical, in terms of skill level — page, I think by Ba. Notice how he uses “mere” black ink so many different ways on one page: Loose lines suggesting the weathered face of Miro’s father; slick shadows across Miro’s face or even the stone railing behind the conversing King and Prince; solid, shaped, black space for hair; and more than any of these, incredible brush work telling us so much — using so little — for the pair’s fur coats:

And from Moon:

This page, existing in the dreamscape of Ursula’s magical imagination, is reminiscent of Bill Watterson on a Sunday.

In the context of “Ursula”, it all makes sense, all works together, without a drop of red, green, or blue.

So what is “Ursula” about?

Well, the A+ grade from Variety so proudly boasted on the cover says it is…

A strange and beautiful emotional journey into the heart of love, A+

My translation: Fuck if I know.

“Ursula” is a mix of fairy tale, magical realism, and window into the minds — quite literally — of the creative twins. I don’t know if I “get it” get it, but I have still read the tiny graphic novel three times this week alone. To me it is mostly about the awesome art; which, I have tried to make clear to you, is awesome.

Like I said, after reading this the first time, I became completely addicted to Moon and Ba, buy everything they draw, &c.

The cover price on “Ursula” is $9.95, but Amazon has new copies at less than $6 the last I checked. Per any ads from here to there, I may earn like $.24 if you make a purchase. Honestly I’d rather you support your local comic book store; regardless Moon & Ba receive my highest possible recommendation.

LOVE
MIKE

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8 comments ↓

#1 ReAnimator on 01.18.11 at 2:49 pm

Their Hellboy (or was it BPRD?) book was really great, one illustrated the real world and one the dream world, the subtle shift and differences was amazing and well thought out. These guys are top notch for sure.

#2 MTGBattlefield on 01.18.11 at 7:03 pm

Review – Ursula…

Your story has been summoned to the battlefield – Trackback from MTGBattlefield…

#3 glenhan on 01.18.11 at 9:36 pm

thanks for the review. i actually kinda liked casanova. will be getting ursula.

#4 Carabas on 01.19.11 at 5:27 pm

If you like stuff like this, what are your thoughts on internet comics?
There are a lot of independent artists of very high quality who produce art of a similar fantastical style. Some of it makes its way to books, but a lot just sits around on the internet.

Minus and Order of Tales are the two I’ve reread the most, but there is a lot of unharnessed wonder out there on the web.

#5 admin on 01.20.11 at 8:17 am

@ReAnimator
Looks like I am a savage liar! I didn’t even realize they did a Hellboy or BPRD arc. Looks like I know what I am getting 🙂

@glenhan
Glad you liked the review! I am going to do “Smoke and Guns” next 🙂

#6 admin on 01.20.11 at 8:19 am

@Carabas
I don’t read any Internet comics right now but I will look at what you linked out. Thanks for the rec!

#7 ReAnimator on 01.24.11 at 9:47 am

Glad i could help Mike.

I looked it up on my book shelf. It’s a BPRD Trade titled “1947”.
Both the 19XX’s are stand alone arc’s that are you know back in the day, so history of the formation and early years of the the BPRD and hellboy’s “dad” etc. but don’t involve the main story arc so you should be safe as long as you know a little bit about the whole premise etc even if you don’t follow the book regularly (though you should).

Hope i didn’t spoil anything with my first post up there, i assumed you had read it!

#8 Five With Flores » The Long-Awaited Smoke and Guns Review on 02.12.11 at 6:29 pm

[…] course I found this indie book because of Fabio Moon, previously mentioned in my Ursula review. Smoke and Guns was Moon’s first work without his brother Gabriel Ba; and it is well […]

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