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Literature

[Comics]

The Eternal Smile

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J. Caleb Mozzocco

Gene Luen Yang’s 2006 American Born Chinese won a slew of awards and was a finalist for the National Book Award, priming him to suffer the comic-book equivalent of difficult-second-album syndrome in his next work.

The Details

The Eternal Smile
Two and a half stars
Gene Luen Yang and Derek Kirk Kim. First Second, $19.
Amazon: The Eternal Smile: Three Stories

But The Eternal Smile is so different a book that it seems more like a side project than a sophomore album. Rather than another original graphic novel, it’s a collection of three short stories, and this time Yang leaves the art to the very capable Derek Kirk Kim.

The stories are only loosely tied together by the fact that each contains an unexpected climactic reveal. One is a sword-and-sorcery fantasy that proves little more than a fantasy, another is an Uncle Scrooge parody with a Truman Show set-up, and the third details what happens when someone actually answers one of those “urgent request” spam e-mails from a Nigerian prince. None are on par with Yang’s signature work, but then, that’s the only significant way in which they disappoint.

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