Sam Ombiri here: I found myself reading and re-reading Ganges 4 by Kevin Huizenga. Of course I have to re-read it as it is a very intricate comic. There’s a lot of information conveyed, but especially for this comic it seems that for Huizenga it’s important for the nature of the encounter to be felt. I very much felt the nature of the concepts, thoughts, and anxieties that Glenn Ganges encounters.
At one point, for example, Huizenga’s stand-in (whom we know as Glenn) attempts to bore himself to sleep with information. This bland and life-less information that we, the readers, are given, is through the comics form brought to life. This information, being juxtaposed cohesively with a bunch of goofy nonsense, is delivered in the same fashion as actual facts. As a result, the comic stirs a deep emotional reaction from me as a reader, in a manner that isn’t contrived in any way shape or form.
It’s often off-putting when a comic is contrived. It’s often off-putting when a maker demands that the reader be compelled, as opposed to allowing the reader to just feel what they feel. I realize that measuring how contrived something comes off as is difficult, and it’s even more difficult to design a system that avoids it, but following a construct can back an artist’s honesty and sincerity – as it does in this installment of Ganges.
This issue showed me that serving a construct can really vouch for an artist’s sincerity. Part of the what makes reading this comic an amazing experience comes from me knowing the intent of Huizenga’s experimentation. I mean knowing this from reading his work as opposed to reading his interviews. I know that the comic is first and foremost concerned (but not too concerned) with me as the reader comprehending these moments that transpire all throughout the comic, and more importantly, it’s at the service of a construct. This in turn vouches for the sincerity of the work.
The comic, while dealing with these various concepts, is at its core inviting the reader to think of those moments where sleep refuses to come. Which is something all humans have experienced. Huizenga is working in this setting; this space in order to reveal certain patterns in “being”. Like the spontaneous way our thoughts manifest and then vanish even quicker than they came. In the comic it’s all brilliantly displayed at the service of the comics form, and by the nature of the story itself. There are some moments we only catch brief glimpses of as in the majority of the panel cuts off at the bottom of the book. That these events stretch beyond the book. As we only see some speech bubbles without seeing the part of the panel that shows the characters, or sometimes we catch brief glances of moments we can’t fully perceive as readers.
There’s an aspect of this method of sequencing that resonates with the idea of seeking the truth or the essence of the moment by cutting crucial aspects. By implying that there’s a comic to read, that the reader has been reading. Then this comic that’s at the service of a construct, that has intricate rhythm, suddenly deprives the reader of moments the reader has been made so keen to read. The comic plays with the reader’s patience.
All that’s happening in the comic feels to me as if it’s at the service of delivering these delightful punchlines which are at times hilarious, at times melancholic. Even the melancholic punchlines in Ganges 4 are delightful. For example Glenn’s conversation with Death which was discouraging because it displays a way we ourselves may approach life. What was portrayed was discouraging. Death is attempting to comfort Glenn in the most earnest way it can, and the whole encounter with Death is thankfully not turned into a punchline. Rhythm didn’t dictate that Death in itself to be the punchline. Rather, it’s treated as something to pass over – that Death’s presence in the following panels aren’t supposed to be registered as a spectacle. Likewise in those panels that Death spoke in, Death didn’t speak in a fashion that would be perceived as a spectacle. It was still an incredibly emotional moment. Death’s ultimate morbid punchline was being delivered by the running gag in which instead of seeing an actual book title and author on a book’s cover, we’re given Glenn’s idiosyncratic goofy projection of what a book contains according to him. Even this running gag doesn’t present itself as a spectacle. The moments leading up to Death’s timely arrival is of equal weight and distinction. It’s up to the reader to engage with what’s given, and Huizenga is incredibly generous with what he has given to engage with.
I’m still re-reading it! – Sam Ombiri