There’s a bit of an interesting history to the graphic novel in today’s post; one that I can better appreciate having crossed off MAD magazine nearly six months ago. After parting ways with MAD‘s publishers over financial control, his next project was Harvey Kurtzman’s Jungle Book – a graphic novel composed of four satirical short stories told through Kurtzman’s own style.
The critical opinion of this work has really improved over time, with some wondering how different the world of US mainstream comics would have been had this not flopped. I guess that, for some, Harvey Kurtzman’s Jungle Book was an important influence. As someone who is not too knowledgeable about this medium and as someone who didn’t exactly rate the Kurtzman era of MAD… it ended about as well as you would expect.
In the end, I just don’t think that the Kurtzman style (in both storytelling and graphics) is quite my thing. Don’t get me wrong, there were enjoyable parts of Jungle Book – most specifically the first story about the private eye who isn’t all that he seems. The other three, however, just fell flat. The second story is a satire on the publishing industry where Kurtzman puts some claws into those who wronged him… so it reads a bit more sour than satirical. The final two just felt of their time and not necessarily in a good way.
I also find it hard to admire the graphical work. For something that was meant to his way to stay relevant one he lost MAD, it just felt a bit lacklustre. I know that the extra lines and some of the more primitive shapes are a stylistic choice, but it looked at times that he was trying to meet an impending deadline rather than having the chance to apply polish (polish that he may not have felt that he needed).
All in all, this is one of the lesser works that I have read for the comics list. Mercifully it was one of the shorter ones and I hope it means that the only way is up for the next pick.