Put The Book Back On The Shelf: A Belle and Sebastian Anthology (Image Comics)

The 24 artists brought to the table to give visual readings of Belle and Sebastian in the anthology are as differing as the band is not, and so the only underlying unifying theme is the vague influence of the songs. It’s not enough of a chain to bind the collection together.

 

Put The Book Back On The Shelf: A Belle And Sebastian Anthology
(Image Comics; 192 pgs FC; $19.99) (W/A: Various)

There’s no telling exactly why Put the Book Back on the Shelf: A Belle & Sebastian Anthology misses its mark, but it does a thorough job of just that. It’s probably a jaded protectionism of the wistful fables and tuneful melodies of the Scottish popsters that short-circuits the attempted adaptations, but whatever the case, this Image Comics collection is disappointing in a myriad ways, every one of which is irritating.

belleandsebastian.jpgTake the inspired number “Lazy Line Painter Jane,” a song on which Stuart Murdoch and Co. attain a level of perfection that’s hard to replicate. Janet Harvey’s writing fails to capture the poetic breathing space the original occupies, where replacing words like hoodie for jumper comes across as off-key and out of tune. Others, like Kako’s visualization of “Dogs on Wheels,” are needlessly pedestrian, taking the song title at its face value and putting a canine between the wheel of a racecar. There’s even a perfectly framed and easily caught misspelling glaring out from one particular title page that declares the work as “Ease You’re Feet Off in the Sea.”

The 24 artists brought to the table to give visual readings of Belle and Sebastian in the anthology are as differing as the band is not, and so the only underlying unifying theme is the vague influence of the songs. It’s not enough of a chain to bind the collection together. The successes are few, and are usually because the artist has left the writing to the purity of the band’s lyrics, expanding their own themes through the panels like MatthewS. Armstrong does in “You Made Me Forget My Dreams” and Nicholas Bannister captures through “Asleep on a Sunbeam.” Armstrong takes the entangled dreams and nightmares of childhood and delivers an eerie little mosaic, while Bannister expands the happy-accidents theme where a chance encounter turns to a lifetime of cheerful moments.

Little in Put the Book Back on the Shelf is memorable, and maybe part of that is because the songs on their own are nearly unforgettable. Every cinematic instance that Belle and Sebastian plucks from their songs with baroque sensibility proves too much for the graphic novel form. Once this book is put back on the shelf, there won’t be much reason to pull it back down.

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