New for June 2018 at Copacetic Comics

LAAB Magazine #0
by Ronald Wimberly, et al
Ronald Wimberly & Co.’s LAAB Magazine is here! This GIGANTIC broadsheet – spreads measure a whopping 23″ x 32″! – and it’s is divided into three sections, just like a newspaper – unlocks social strictures and unpacks social structures employing Black/ness and (its) representation as key and signifier.  This issue presents readers with the LAAB manifesto and includes interviews with Alexandra Bell, Trenton Doyle Hancock and Saul Williams.  Then there are some excellent illuminated essays – primarily by Wimberly  –  that are both eye-opening and consciousness-expanding (don’t allow yourself to be intimidated by the giant expanses of type; these essays are well worth your time and all efforts expended in their absorption will be amply rewarded).  And, last but far from least, a big pile of amazing GIANT-SIZE comics by Ron Wimberly!  RECOMMENDED!

retail price – $17.00 copacetic price $15.25

by Nick Drnaso
The most critically lauded graphic novel of the year has arrived!  It’s garnered so much praise from so much top talent, anything we might have to add would seem superfluous.  Chris Ware:  “Some middle-aged colleagues and I believe literary comics fiction is possible without resorting to fantastical heroics, however, and the youngest and finest exemplar, 28-year-old Nick Drnaso, offers a new book to possibly top us all: Sabrina, about a missing woman, a video and the unspeakable possibilities of our contemporary mitigated reality.”  Zadie Smith:  “Nick Drnaso’s Sabrina is the best book – in any medium – I have read about our current moment.  It is a masterpiece, beautifully written and drawn, possessing all the political power of polemic and yet simultaneously all the delicacy of truly great art.  It scared me,  I loved it.”  Adrian Tomine:  “Nick Drnaso is one the most ambitious singular cartoonists to emerge in recent years, and his dedication to novelistic fiction is an inspiration.  Incisive, chilling, and completely unpredictable, Sabrina demonstrates the inexplicable power of comics at their best.”  Jonathan Lethem:  “Sabrina is startling. Drnaso’s formal ingenuity and confidence is matched by the acuity and depth of the story’s awareness of who and where we are right now.”  ‘Nuff said.

retail price – $27.95 copacetic price $25.00


Here are the four latest titles to make their way across the pond (aka The Atlantic Ocean) from the London to Pittsburgh:

World in the Forcefield by Alexander Tucker  retail price – $15.00  copacetic price – $13.75
Generous Bosom #3
 by Conor Stechschulte 
retail price – $22.50  copacetic price – $20.00
Escape to the Unfinished #3 by Dash Shaw 
retail price – $12.50  copacetic price – $10.75
Fukushima Devil Fish by Susumu Katsumata
 retail price – $34.99  copacetic price – $33.75

A Western World
by Michael DeForge
A Western World
 is the latest collection from the unstoppable, indefatigable Michael DeForge that collects fifteen short comics, some of which previously appeared in recent issues of his one-man anthology, Lose and in Breakdown Press’s two (instantly sold out) issues of On Topics, some in anthologies like Kramers Ergot and Island, some were self-published minis, and a few appear here for the first time (right?).  DeForge continues to explore his concerns with the Western paradigm that takes as a given the technological domination of nature.  These explorations are effected through a series of choreographed collisions between biological functions and scientific consciousness, alongside those between animal desires and political constructs – with human sexuality employed as the proscenium stage cum primary battlefield.  The work collected in this volume forges a comics consciousness for our times.

retail price – $22.95 copacetic price $20.00


by Jessica Campbell
The creator of the witty (and popular! and fun!) Hot or Not returns with an equally witty (and fun!) 120 page saga of self discovery disguised as space exploration that we hope will turn out to be every bit as popular.
retail price – $12.00 copacetic price $10.75

Soft X-Ray Mindhunters

by A. Degen
Finally, the massive oversize full color science fiction adventure by A. Degen that we’ve all been waiting for! Soft X-Ray Mindhunters will knock your socks off with it’s page after page (392 in all!) of open, free-flowing, vibrantly colored comics that will take readers on a journey to the center of the mind.  And this is only part one!  Here’s the lowdown from the publisher, Koyama Press: “The Mindhunters release prisoners from the shackles of others’ dreams.  The servants confined to the virtual mind palaces of despotic dreamers have found their furies in the form of the Mindhunters: masked vigilantes who burgle brainpower. Pop and ancient culture collide in searing colour in this melange of Astro Boy and Attic tragedy.”
retail price – $29.95 copacetic price $25.75

by Fiona Smyth
 is a massive 368 page tome collecting over thirty year’s worth of Fiona Smyth’s unique, sexy, and hallucinatory comics ouevre.  Going all the way back to her days at the Ontario College of Art, through her ’80s and ’90s work published by Vortex and Drawn and Quarterly, in anthologies like D& Q’s flagship title, jam-books like Diva with Ellen Forney and Dame Darcy, and Fabulous Babes with Maurice Vellekoop and Roxana Bikadoroff, and, of course, her solo title, Nocturnal Emissions.  But it doesn’t stop there!  Somnabulance continues on through to the present, collecting plenty of new work, including some that even the Copacetic cognoscenti had never seen before!  Make sure to give this one the once over next time you’re in the shop.
retail price – $29.95 copacetic price $25.75


Winter’s Cosmos
by Michael Comeau
Winter’s Cosmos
 is a 300 page experimental hybrid work of photo-collage/comics.  It integrates a dizzying series of collages composed of posed, original photographs, found photos, historical/public domain book illustrations and newspaper and magazine clippings of all sorts into a hand drawn comics narrative complete with word balloons and narration employing a wide variety of mechanical fonts along with hand lettering.  In sort, this isn’t your father’s comic book.  As for the narrative it presents, Koyama states:  “In the tradition of 2001: A Space Odyssey and Silent Running, this genre-bending photo and comics hybrid presents the final years of a mission to seed a planet in a distant constellation and the failings of both human and artificial psyches in the face of the vastness of space.”
retail price – $20.00 copacetic price $16.75


The Ideal Copy
by Ben Sears
Another Double+ Adventure from Ben Sears!  The Ideal Copy is an 88 page, full color, budget priced, all-ages romp in the tradition of TinTin:  “The fix is in as the Double+ gang try to counter crooked counterfeiters from the inside! Plus Man and Hank have been blacklisted and have replaced treasure hunting with job-hunting, before landing a catering job at a swank hotel. But trouble doesn’t wait for hors d’oeuvres as the boys find themselves with a main course of counterfeiting crooks to crack!”

retail price – $12.00 copacetic price $10.75

Akissi: Tales of Mischief
by Marguerite Abouet & Mathieu Sapin
The sub-title does not lie:  this book is indeed chock full of tales of mischief.   In fact, there are 21 full color 6 page comics featuring Akissi & Co. getting into all sorts of trouble, both in their home stomping grounds in the Yopougon neighborhood of Abidjan in Côte d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast) and out in the country at Akissi’s nan and granpap’s rural digs, where the natural world plays a larger part in the shenanigans.  These are kids comics par excellence; think Dennis the Menace without the hyperbole.  In Akissi, the world of childhood comes alive on the page:  the zany antics, the interactions of children with their parents and peers, the leaps of both faith and logic.  The childhood experiences represented here  – while full of wonderful details specific to time and place – is universal in its core essence.  RECOMMENDED!  (It is worth noting here that while this book is indeed “kid friendly” and the general tone and mode are entirely appropriate for children, the specifics of the childhood on display – which occasionally involve bodily parasites, children putting themselves in potentially dangerous situations, and at times seemingly lax parental oversight – may strike some parents as worrisome.  But, thinking back to the adventures of Dennis the Menace and, say, Huey, Dewey and Louie Duck, when kids roamed wild and occasionally entirely free of parental supervision, will remind readers that while the specifics of childhood vary both over time and from place to place, kids will be kids!
retail price – $14.95 copacetic price $13.75


Mean Girls Club: Pink Dawn
by Ryan Heshka
Get out your nail polish, the Mean Girls Club graphic novel has arrived!  Pink Dawn is a 100 page hardcover (debossed, no less) printed (in Poland) in black and white and shocking pink (naturellement!), on flat off-white stock.  Hold onto your hats – it’s going to be a wild ride.
retail price – $20.95 copacetic price $17.75

Alack Sinner: The Age of Disenchantment
by Jose Munoz & Carlos Sampayo
It doesn’t get any better than this, folks.  Over 300 pages of black and white comics intensity courtesy of the one-of-a-kind-pair of Argentines-in-exile, José Muñoz and Carolos Sampayo.  To the best of our knowledge, the stories that populate this volume had not been translated into English before appearing here; almost certainly not the two 21st century stories, the existence of which we were not even aware.  Alack Sinner: The Age of Disenchantment offers valuable perspectives on the United States, social, political and psychological, that you’ll be hard pressed to find elsewhere in comics.  And we don’t even know where to begin on singing the praises of the art of José Muñoz, but we will say that the 300+ pages you’ll find here include some of the very best work of his career.    Basically: buy this book!

retail price – $29.99 copacetic price $25.00

The New World: Comics from Mauretania
by Chris Reynolds
The comics that the Welsh-born, England-based cartoonist, Chris Reynolds has been publishing, beginning in the mid-80s, as/in Mauretania Comics are a primary source of the rich but obscure tributary of self-consciously enigmatic work.  Stateside readers of the early issues of Eric Haven’s Tales to Demolish and well as Michael Kupperberg’s Tales to Thrizzle will immediately sense a kindred spirit when they encounter Reynolds’s work in these pages, which predates most if not all of Haven and Kupperberg’s comics work.  Now, at long last North American readers have an easily accessible – and sumptuously produced and designed (by Seth, no less) – hardcover collection of the key texts of the Reynolds oevure.  Ed Park (co-founder of Believer Magazine) gets readers up to speed with his perspicacious introductory essay.  Another fine volume from New York Review Comics!

retail price – $34.95 copacetic price $29.75

And, here are a couple of potential summer reads…


by Mark Whitaker
Inspired by his discovery of the Teenie Harris Archives at the Carnegie Museum of Art, renowned journalist and media executive, Mark Whitaker – whose grandparents were Pittsburghers during the Teenie Harris era – delved deep into the history of Black Pittsburgh, and Smoketown is the result.  Get an idea of what to expect from the preface, available online here, courtesy of The Paris Review.
retail price – $30.00 copacetic price $26.75


Theory of Bastards
by Audrey Schulman
The Kirkus Reviews quote was enough to pique our interest: “Theory of Bastards is a deeply unusual, psychologically astute novel about technology and survival, sex and love,  If Philip K. Dick and Ann Patchett wrote a collaborative novel it might look like this.  Beguiling, irreverent, and full of heart.”  Need more?  Here‘s Michael Dirda’s review from The Washington Post.
retail price – $18.95 copacetic price $15.75

The Walking Man – Jiro Taniguchi

The Walking Man //Fanfare/Ponent Mon //  $22.75

The Walking Man is a sui generis work of pen and ink contemplation, a book filled with page after page of microcosmical meanderings that follow the whim of the moment, ungoverned by any societal dictate, yielding neither to appetite but only to impulse, following the life force in page after page of disciplined and reserved yet discreetly joyous artwork that sympathetically stimulates the senses in a work freed from consciously directed narrative to wander where the heart roams.

This 160-page French-flapped softcover volume collects eighteen zen-like tales of the “man who walks.”  Reflective, insightful meditations on the modern, suburban condition, these stories embody the soul of manga.  While the landscape through which our hero walks is indisputably Japanese, the stories told and the lessons learned on his brief treks are indisputably universal.  Taniguchi has managed a unique feat here.  The comics work in The Walking Man is stripped of all extraneous elements.  There is a near total absence of narrative in the pieces collected in this volume.  With extraneous temporal distractions removed, the pure essence of comics remains and we are left face to face with a direct, graphic communication of the here and now. 

These are comics that dig deep into the mind and trigger a panoply of sensations: the heat of the sun on one’s back, a cool breeze along the side of one’s face, the smell of flowers, the cold, creamy taste of ice-cream, the hard exertions of a fast run, the overall feel of the encroaching darkness, the sounds of children laughing, water flowing, a passing train… all these sensations and more are triggered by the series of images that the reader is presented with as the pages are turned and the walking man goes on his way.  To get a better idea, check out this preview.  Recommended.

And then, at any time before, during or after reading The Walking Man, we also recommend that you read the essay that laid the foundation for the philosophy (or, at the very least, its American branch) that suffuses this work, “Walking” by Henry David Thoreau

Education – John Hankiewicz

Education // Fantagraphics //  $21.75

A tour de force of comics formalism, John Hankiewicz’s graphic novel, Education is a bolt from the blue.  Hankiewicz’s comics work is perilously difficult to describe, but we’re going to take a moment to get our thoughts in order here at Copacetic… and make an attempt to back up our encouragement to any and all takers to tackle the challenge proferred by Education, through highlighting its artistic virtues, as it is a work that will offer rewards more than commensurate with the efforts made to come to terms with it.

On the purely æsthetic level of the drawing and, especially, the composition, each page is a gem of fine craftmanship.  On the level of narrative, it is a thoughtful, complex and multi-layered work.  It is, however, in the formal interplay between drawing, composition and narrative, that Hankiewicz’s star shines most brightly.  While the diegesis makes/takes large temporal leaps back and forth, spanning a generation, the comics apperatus by and through which Hankiewicz conveys and contains these leaps is, conversely, composed of an intricate structure of moments that transpire on the temporal axis in minute increments.  This strategy creates a tension within the reader.  This tension is then further heightened by the repetition of absurd minutae, frustrating the reader’s need for linear narrative advancement; but this is a fruitful frustration.  The frustration of narrative expectation allows Hankeiwicz to keep many “balls” (ideas/concepts) in the air at once, and it demands the reader’s attention to keep them there.  More than this though, is that this dual attack of temporal tension combined with a frustration of narrative expectation corrals the reader’s attention to the underlying rhythms that normally lie hidden beneath the comics reading experiece.  It is communicating the existence and form of these rhythms that are Hankiewicz’s primary concern*.

Over the course of the roughly twenty years that Hankiewicz has been creating comics, he has developed a visual rhyming scheme, one that, while highly idiosyncratic in its particulars, nevertheless contains a deep structure which can – and has been – used to successfully undergird concerns and particulars of other comics makers who might be interested in pursuing this avenue of comics poetics (please see his collection, Asthma for the key texts in this development).  As one makes their way through the reading of Education, a visual rhythmic meter begins to be felt before it appears; even then it will take multiple run throughs of the material before this meter can actually begin – evanescently  – to be apprehended.  This is the genius of John Hankewicz, a genius that is fully on display in the pages of this work, the reading of which convey – and provide – quite an education, indeed.


* Although manifesting them in a wildly different manner, and employing a wholely different set of strategies, the work of Yuichi Yokoyama shares this same primary concern of forefronting the inherent underlying rhythms of comics, and he too has created his own, although completely different, visual rhyming scheme.


Boundless by Jillian Tamaki

Boundless // Drawn & Quarterly //  $21.75 // 248 pages

Boundless is a 248 assemblage composed of nine tales: World Class City; Body Pods; The Clairfree System; 1. Jenny; Half Life; Darla!; bedbug; Sexcoven; Boundless. Each is possessed of its own individual artistic personality, chosen to best visually convey the character of the story: rough and ready; smooth and silky; precise; loose; colorful; stark. Here, the real story is the way in which the tale is told. Decision embodied in line and composition.

Each of the pieces, while being a unique organic whole in and of itself, is part of a greater whole as well; part of a tapestric unity. These stories deal with individuals alone, together and in groups. They explore the dynamics underlying each and map their respective organizational structures.

A theme running through each of the pieces is the struggle for connection, and the wide variety forms that this struggle can take. In particular, these stories are about the tendency of contemporary communications media to mediate our lives – and, increasingly, our relationships*. These stories expose ways in which our increasing “connectivity” via electronic devices can paradoxically (or perhaps not) result in alienating us from ourselves and each other; virtual connection supplanting actual connection. Also threading its way through the stories are indications of how social organization in fully developed (late) capitalistic societies tend to essentialize human relations within a framework of financial transactions, with profit and loss, winners and losers, exploiters and exploited.

From “Body Pods,” a tale of a life lived in the shadow of a hit film, to “Sexcoven”’s meta-documentary take on an internet based cult in which immersion in computer connectivity leads to a dropping out of normative society, to “1. Jenny,” which relates a quasi-literal loss of identity to social media, personal relationships are disrupted and/or deformed by interactions with media. In a tour de force of form countervailing content, Tamaki pens a narrative for “The Clairfree System” that loosely and impressionistically portrays a business model – more or less Amway® meets Proactiv® – that locates synergies between narcissism and the religious impulse in forging a sales pitch touting improved social standing (aka “happiness”) through adherence to its tenets, yet she deliberately and completely undermines this argument by applying such a high level of attention to the artistry and aesthetics of its visual representation in a series of images that in their relation to the narrative range from directly representational to tangentially so, from complementary to oppositional, and so rivets readers’ attention on the craft embodied in the work. This overpowers any seductive allure that the narrative might have offered, and so posits – perhaps – the power of craft and artistry to reconnect us to our human selves away from technology and the exploitative capitalistic relationships that technology serves to support. Tamaki takes a different approach to reconnecting our consciousness of self with our physical bodies in “bedbugs”, a tale which embodies some elements of morality play. Using actual insect parasites to surreptitiously insinuate consciousness of the physical human body amidst the collection’s overall story space that has been engaged in documenting the body’s gradually disintegrating connection to self in an ever more virtual world – one that is rife with virtual parasites that consume ever larger degrees of of energy and attention, leaving us less with diminished “assets” to devote to our components of ourselves – we are given a moment to contemplate the repercussions of this disintegration.

The title story is an irony that folds back on itself in positing a reality completely bound by irrevocable limits from which one may be released only through a complete acceptance of and submission to them.

Boundless feels at times to be delivering a thesis that all human actions contain an element of struggle for connection, and that the goal of the stories in this collection is to locate that element in each action, properly situate it – identify its psychological coordinates – and then, working from there to reverse engineer the design of their motivation and so provide readers with insights that can deepen human connection in ways not available to the ever more pervasive connectivity proffered by technology. Lines on paper vs. dots on a screen.


* (see Marx on the commodity fetish for background on and explanation of the mechansims underlying this tendency)


Krazy: George Herriman, a Life in Black and White

Krazy: George Herriman, a Life in Black and White // Harper //  $29.75 // 560 pages

Krazy Kat aficionados have long placed its creator, George Herriman at or near the center of the development of comics and cartooning.  A prodigious talent, and true comics pioneer – possessed of an unquestionable genius – he produced comics of startling fluidity; words, images and design each blending seamlessly, each reinforcing and supporting the other to create works of lasting strength and beauty.  The concept of the intelligent vocalizing cartoon animal – the “funny animal” – that gave rise to Felix the Cat, Mickey Mouse, Bugs Bunny, Donald and Daffy Ducks and countless others was more or less forged by Herriman, who in the process opened up a rich vein in the American psyche which is still being mined today. 

Here, in Krazy: George Herriman, a Life in Black and White, author Michael Tisserand broadens the context of Herriman’s life further, to encompass large swaths of American history, society and culture, and in the process places Herriman’s life not only at the center of the history of comics, but at the  crossroads of America itself at the dawn of the 20th century.  While it has long been known that Herriman was born in New Orleans of mixed “Creole” heritage, with African as well as European forebears, the specifics had always been murky, at best – but no more!  Tisserand, much of whose earlier writing focused on New Orleans, and who evidently knows his way around a variety of New Orleans archives, leveraged his preexistent knowledge, rolled up his sleeves and dug deep, tracing Herriman’s roots back to the 18th century as well as outlining much of his extended family history.  The story includes telling details of much of what transpired in post Civil War New Orleans in order to set the stage for Herriman pere’s decision to uproot the family, move to Los Angeles and “pass” (as white), at which point the book’s subtitle, “a life in black and white” becomes eminently clear. 

And that’s only the beginning!  It’s always instructive to be reminded just how big a force comics were in their early days at the dawn of the 20th century.  Before the movies really began to make their mark on the American scene, before radio, comics – appearing everyday in the majority of the country’s newspapers – were arguably the first mass entertainment, and as such made a tremendous, lasting impact in the popular imagination, and Herriman was there, almost from the very start.  Herriman had been creating and drawing numerous illustrations, sports cartoons and comics strips for well over a decade before coming up with his most famous creation, having seen his first drawings published at the close of the 19th century.  

Krazy traces the highs and lows and ins and outs of Herriman’s extraordinary life, uncovering many heretofore undisseminated facts while also debunking some of the myths and legends that had sprung up to fill various lacunae in his life story.  Not every mystery is solved, to be sure.  Plenty remains for future Herriman researchers to strive to discover.   And Tisserand may be among them, as he is reported to be paying attention to the responses he has been receiving to this work, perhaps for a future work, or revised edition.  But don’t sit on your hands waiting for that day (that may or may not arrive).  

Krazy is an essential work of scholarship that will leave you with an increased understanding – and appreciation – of America , its culture and the central, formative role of comics in it all.

ALSO:  If you’ve read this far, we can all but guarantee that – if you haven’t already – you’ll want to read Chris Ware’s incisive essay on George Herriman written on the occasion of the publication of Tisserand’s biography, HERE.


Double-Head Tour; Tornar and Riparna


Double-Head Tour; Tornar and Riparna // Lale Westvind // Self-published //  $8.00 


Risographed in purple ink on pink paper, with a hand screened two color cover printed on heavy cream cardstock, this is a tale found in “the museum of epics, in the city of memory.”  We are led to it by our intrepid guide, Lale Westvind, who takes us there through a very labyrinthine path indeed, one which crosses cities, continents, oceans and interstellar space – as well as psychic dimensions – and employs all manner of vehicular transport from race car to star ship, from surf board to monster truck, from beast back to energy wave:  whether it’s running from or running to, it’s all about getting from point A to point B, whatever it takes.  The actual vehicles here, however, are symbol and metaphor, rendered in a turbo-charged, quasi-draughtsman-like manner that is stylistically located in the vicinity of the somewhat obscure neighborhood of C.F. meets Fletcher Hanks.  The tale related in “Double-Head; Torvar & Riparna” is one of two souls meeting on the spirit plane while their corporal beings remain trapped in the material world, the struggles their meeting entail, and their search for refuge and, ultimately, sanctuary.  The challenge is how to convey the immaterial aspects of their spiritual correspondence onto the material plane so that it may be communicated here – and, crucially, perhaps enable readers to be transported by this communication to the spirit plane in turn, and share in this archetypal epic in the city of memory and so engage in a bit of spiritual correspondence themselves.  Readers will of necessity need to actively participate in this process in order to maintain the necessary ideational thrust to meet the required psychic escape velocity to achieve spiritual lift-off.  


The Love Bunglers by Jaime Hernandez

LoveBunglersBIGThe Love Bunglers // Fantagraphics Books //  $19.99 //112 pages


It’s hard to know where to begin with a work as remarkable as this.  Originally published in six chapters inLove and Rockets: New Stories 3 & 4  in 2010 and 2011, it includes a flashback chapter titled “Browntown”that, in comic book parlance, could be said to be the – or, at least, a – “Secret Origin of Maggie”, as readers are finally made privy to heretofore undisclosed primal scenes at the root of significant swaths of Maggie’s personality and character.  While it may be a commonplace to state that character is forged in the crucible of family, it is rare indeed to be given the opportunity of witnessing an incidence of this that has been prepared with such consummate skill that it achieves the degree of verisimilitude achieved inThe Love Bunglers, sharing such startling psychological insights in the process. 

Naturally, parents predominate in scenarios set within the family arena; their characters are asserted and consequently imprinted upon the children.  This scenario certainly plays out in “Browntown”, but intriguingly – and crucially to the understanding of Jaime’s world view and working method and sense of character construction – much of what is revealed here, that is linked to the formation of Maggie’s persona, transpired in her absence, to other members of her family.  Here, the unintentional looms large, as revelations of hidden parental acts become keys in the children’s hands, used to decode their parents’ motivations and values and learn the actual reality undergirding the constructed reality as it had been given to the children by the parents.  The drama here simultaneously reveals the quotation marks around”truth” and the effect that this revelation has on all concerned – in one of the great three-panel sequences (establishing – POV – reaction) in the history of comics as one particular revelation is is registered.  There are the corollary experiences of Maggie’s brother, Calvin (adding yet another layer to this historically significant name…), which, while primarily serving the self-contained narrative of The Love Bunglers, carry the added charge of immediately registering to long-time Love and Rockets readers as being integral to the development of Maggie’s character and personality.  And, finally, the family-is-destiny theme returns with a vengeance in the novel’s climax.  Employing the heretofore hidden sequence of events revealed in “Browntown” as the dramatic catalyst, Jaime triggers the release of thirty years worth of potential energy and converts it  into an emotionally devastating catharsis of great power. 

Upon reaching the conclusion of The Love Bunglers there is an inescapable feeling of finality and closure to the the saga of the life and times of Maggie Chascarillo.  While it is almost certain that we will be seeing more of Maggie in future issues of Love and Rockets, Jaime’s discovery of these hidden pieces of the puzzle of Maggie’s persona seems to have allowed him to at last reach the holistic understanding of her character and it’s fundamental relationship to Ray as its terminus that he had been striving for these thirty years – and communicate this understanding to his readers in this magisterial work.

Black is the Color by Julia Gfrörer

medium_f341bdd3b8009573d8c3aac75e41df8aBlack is the Color // Fantagraphics Books //  $14.99 // 72 pages

A fantastic pen and ink meditation on mortality, 18th century sailor style, but this time from the perspective of the mermaids!  This work puts us in the mind of a cross breed of the work of Tony Millionaire and Dame Darcy with Sammy Harkham as spiritual guide.  Pheobe Gloeckner sez: “(Julia Gfrörer’s) work is spare and elegant, yet the hand of the artist is always evident in her line.  Her characters inhabit cold or desolate environments, often on the brink of inanition or beyond, yet still yearning to love and be loved.”  Here in this 72 page French-flapped graphic novella, we have her most substantial published work yet.

MOME Vol. 1 – Summer 2005

bookcover_mome1MOME Vol. 1 – Summer 2005 // Fantagraphics Books //  $14.95 // 120 pp.

This is an excellent semi-regular anthology that is stepping up to meet the demand for new work by the talented  generation of cartoonists that have been filling the pages of annual anthologies like Non, Kramers Ergot, Top Shelf, Rosetta, SPX and others.  A novel feature of this anthology title is its declared intent to feature the same collective of artists every issue, allowing the artists and audience to grow together and build an ongoing identity that is highly unusual for the world of contemporary comics. Only time will tell how this intention plays out when confronted by the realities of a publication schedule, but we can attest with confidence that it’s off to a solid start.

First off:  it looks good!  Designed by Jordan Crane, MOME 1 is a chunky, squarebound 136-page edition that’s formatted a tad larger than the Raw Volume 2 editions which it resembles enough to be considered a successor of sorts.  It also feels, on the other hand, a bit like a comics equivalent to Granta, the British literary magazine that has flourished for over two decades.  It’s printed on a high grade flat white paper, the stories are printed in a variety of color palettes and B & W as called for.  The nature of the material presented in this anthology ranges far and wide, yet the quality and intelligence of the work remains uniformly high throughout.  Kudos to Mssrs. Groth and Reynolds on their editorial discernment.

Here’s a closer look at the first issue:

I Feel Nothing by Gabrielle Bell — A strong opener by a talent who has been doing a lot of growing lately, both in regards to the quality of her artwork and that of the storytelling which it serves.  It’s a simple slice of life tale that contains a story within a story, and a nice deconstruction of a decision via the mechanics of the imagination that effectively demonstrates both the efficiency and the power of comics as a medium of communicating the contents of the human mind. B & W

Passing Before LIfe’s Very Eyes by Kurt Wolfgang  — A visual meditation on clichés.  Primarily on the cliché of “life passing before one’s eye’s” at the moment of death, and then, subordinately, on the clichés that make up this life.  Cleverly employing the trope of smoking, the story manages to escape being a cliché itself, and that’s something of an accomplishment all on its own.  Duo-Tone.

Part Time by Jeffrey Brown — Well, to be honest, this one’s a bit of a let down:  yet another strip about being unable to come up with something in time to meet the deadline.  Yes, it’s self-reflexive, yes, there’re a few clever twists on the theme, and yes, it has a few laughs, but the main thing to recommend it is that it’s by Jeffrey Brown, who is seemingly blessed with the uncanny ability to produce unfailingly enjoyable comics about his personal foibles.  B & W.

Life with Mr. Dangerous, Part One by Paul Hornschemeier — This piece is, in effect, an extreme close-up on the psyche of its sole protagonist, a twenty-something woman living alone, who is, it appears, not entirely in touch with her own emotional core.  In it, Hornschemeier successfully carries out the difficult trick of letting us know more about her character than she seems to know herself.  This is accomplished through his well-conceived orchestration of dialogue which consists entirely of one-sided conversations and narration which consists entirely of introspection, with the counterpoint of a delicate delineation of subtle variations in her facial expressions and body language.  With “Mr. Dangerous,” Hornschemeier continues to build a body of work that demonstrates that he, perhaps more than any of his contemporaries, has fully digested the advances in rendering psychological nuances in comics pioneered by the work of Clowes and Ware.  Full color.

The Beast by Anders Nilsen — With “The Beast” —  the most difficult and challenging work in this anthology —  Anders Nilsen clearly stakes his claim to be in the avant-garde of contemporary comics.  An intriguing montage of a borderless 4-panel comics grid overlaid on a sequence of double-page spreads of landscape photography, this multivalent metaphysical investigation demands multiple readings — each of which may supply the reader with a different interpretation:  first to come to light is the obvious yet superficial political commentary; next, perhaps, an examination of  delusional consciousness; digging deeper, a personal eschatology; cultural historians with a background in comics may find this story to be a descendant of the worlds-within-worlds/no-one-sees-it-but-me genre that were the staple of the pre-superhero (1959-61) Marvels authored by Steve Ditko, Jack Kirby and Stan Lee, which grew out of the anxiety and paranoia of that most intense period of the cold war which led up to the end game of the Cuban missile crisis, and so, perhaps, reveals the burgeoning of a related if more complex strain of paranoia and anxiety growing out of contemporary global conflicts.    The main thing, finally, is that Nilsen is struggling to construct a radically open form of comics that fully engages — if not outright requires —  the interpretive powers of the reader to complete.  Full color.

Dance with the Ventures by Jonathan Bennet — This thoroughly enjoyable story — expertly placed to provide a moment of soothing relaxation after the arduous struggle with Nilsen’s “Beast” — convincingly recounts the details of a morning’s urban idyll, seamlessly meshing visualizations of the interior psychological components of the tale with the external Pekar-esque drama.  B & W.

Eddy Bear “Takes His Share,” “Tanya” & The Mom in “God Bless America” by Sophie Crumb — This triptych of tales —  interspersed through the final third of this volume — takes on the classic urban themes of alienation vs. conformity, material comfort vs. independence, immigration and integration.  B & W.

221 Sycamore Ave., Part 1 by John Pham — It is appropriate, perhaps even inevitable, that John Pham, one of the reigning masters of the graphic architecture of the comics page, should produce a story whose thematic elements incorporate architectural concerns.  In 221 Sycamore Ave., Pham — at least from the evidence provided by the first part printed in this issue — effectively communicates the feel of the lives lived at this address.  Tri-tone color.

Overpeck by David Heatly — Building on his large body of work dealing with his dreams, “Overpeck” takes the game one step further by creating a dream locale — Overpeck — where a continuing cast of characters will carry out “lives” in a world of dreams in which cause and effect, narrative and characterizations will all be subject to the language and laws of dreams rather than that  of “reality.”  A great idea that’s off to a good — if disturbing — start.  Full color.

The Jewels of the Sea by Andrice Arp — As stated in its sub-title, this is “a story from ancient Japan” (well, as a note at the conclusion makes clear, it is actually two stories from ancient Japan, the second subordinated and integrated into the first).  It is a classic tale of love and power, clever trickery, and mythological creatures.  A fitting conclusion for collection.  B & W with pantone grey.