Minnesota cartoonist Will Dinski's comics were some of the first I reviewed in this column two years ago, and he's really been on a roll as of late. The formal qualities of his comics have always been unusual and distinctive. For example, the presentation of his comics is often eye-catching, though fully integrated with the comic's ideas. For example, comics about smoking that resembled a pack of cigarettes or a comic about a personality test with Scientologists was designed as a graph. Beyond such decorative but functional flourishes, Dinski's panel and page composition is distinctive. In a tact that somewhat resembles a silent movie, we often see a panel of character interaction followed by a panel of accompanying dialogue. It's a separation of word and image that forces the reader to focus in on images, especially when there are several consecutive wordless panels. He often employs blank panels with a triangle in the bottom corner to reflect time going by--"turning the page", as it were. In his character design, Dinski is all about sharp angles: noses, chins, heads and bodies.
Dinski loves humorous twists and irony in his commentaries on superficiality, modern life and the rituals of everyday life. At the same time, ambiguity and even ambivalence are an important part of his comics; no ending is left pat and comfortable. In three recent minis, Dinski has taken his work to another level. In SHIFT, a 3-page mini printed on cardstock, the panels are printed at a tilting angle, reflecting the way the older version of the character we meet has found his life completely altered--until he realizes that it's not everything else that's shifted.
BEAUTIFUL, COOL & IRREPLACEABLE is Dinski's best long-form comic to date. It's about a plastic surgeon, his ambitious young partner, his celebrity clients and the wife he ignores. This comic is all about distance and the relationship between surface qualities and "true" identity. The icy surgeon is obsessed with his "work"--he views his patients as his creations, and can't stop thinking about the one remaining flaw in the famous actress that he had been working on for years. His attentions were misunderstood by his wife and the actress--they took his focus on physical flaws as attraction. There's a brilliant twist near the end of the story that's hinted at early on; Dinski then takes that twist and unravels it in some unexpected ways. The final punchline is especially clever, as the surgeon's wife makes a desperate bid for his approval based on what she thought he wanted.
My favorite of Dinksi's three recent minis is ERRAND SERVICE, a 6-pager printed on folding cardstock. Dinski starts with a clever premise: a first-person account of someone who performs errands for others as their job. Those errands include locking and unlocking a door five times for an obsessive-compulsive who wanted to delegate the job. The errand woman is a professional and feels compelled to take care of her assignments to the best of her ability and can't judge her clients...at least, not on their time. The story suddenly flips to the point of view of a different errand woman hired by our first narrator, hired to carry out her judgment against a client. The story ends with yet another clever twist, and it's a fascinating study of diffusion of responsibility. This is the best conceived and executed of all Dinski's work and certainly one of the best minis I've read this year.