Monday, November 7, 2011

CCS Minis: Cockle, Frakes, Taylor

#7, by Aaron Cockle. This is Cockle's best work to date, a comic where the artist found a way to match his rendering ability with his deliciously enigmatic and bold storytelling choices. Cockle is very much interested in telling genre stories, but it's hard to pin his work down to a particular genre. I suppose "science-fiction" is as good a descriptor as any, especially given that aliens are a major presence in this story, "S.O.S." It concerns an author living on an elaborately-equipped ship at sea, visited by alien luminaries and reporters while dealing with foreign dignitaries and traitors in his midst. Cockle has a way of unraveling a high concept out of sequence, but does so in a way that intrigues rather than confuses. He also loves playing with text and information; for example, the author's name is redacted throughout the story. The story centers around the author's unique discovery: the ability to change around human consciousness and memory through an elaborate series of Edits and Revisions--a sort of MLA guide applied to the mind. Cockle is careful to keep the author's motivations a mystery but hints that he may not be exercising as much free will as he thinks. The author is depicted with a delightful bulbousness--all jowls and nose and receding hairline. This is the latest in a loosely-related series of stories (at least thematically) dealing with Cockle's fascination with eschatology, each one dealing with a different way in which secret deals and knowledge might cause the end of the world. Cockle's work grows more exciting with each passing issue, and he's on his way into developing into a major talent.

Tragic Relief #10, by Colleen Frakes. This is a typically strong entry for Frakes in her oeuvre of dark fantasy/fairy tales. The way she spots blacks in particular is quite striking, as the trees in the forest are just jagged lines of white standing in relief against an oppressively pitch-black night sky. This issue is the the third part of her unsettling but humorous adaptation of the Basket Ogress myth, and it builds to what seems to be an exciting climax. The Ogress took one girl away from a sleepover for telling stories about her, leaving the other to track her down, with the help of a series of animals whose speech she is suddenly able to understand. In a clever sequence, the captured girl entertains the Ogress (waiting for the rocks to heat up so she can eat the girl) with the story that details her demise as the other girl finds a way to defeat her (in an amusingly gross and fantastic fashion--she slid down the giant Ogress' throat and tossed lit matches into her stomach). Frakes' brush captures the simplicity of shadowy figures as though they had been scrawled in the dirt or on a cave wall, rendering them in a more cartoonish fashion on other pages. All told, this seems like a much more all-ages story than her usual, more visceral fare, but there are genuine scares to be found in this story, like in all good fairy tales. I'll be eager to see this story in its eventual collected form, because it will really pop off the page given the right format.

Light Riot: Departure, by Rio Aubry Taylor. Taylor labels this truly strange comic "Fantastical Autobiography", and I've certainly never read anything quite like it. The comic opens with a psychedelic, anthropomorphic pterodactyl creature who lives in the moon ordering her servant to bring him a special soul from Earth for testing. That soul turns out to be that of the author, drawn in a manga-influenced (almost superdeformed) style, pondering whether or not his girlfriend is a junkie. From there, his soul gets separated from his body, which goes on to live and act without him. The soul goes through a series of trials with the insectoid servant of "Mother" on its way to the moon, while the body is retrieved by friends, where he learns that his girlfriend killed herself. "Mother" tells Rio that she's going to help him learn how to control his pain as he learns his "spiritual capacity". Taylor doesn't skimp on sci-fi spectacle in the action sequences of the book, with all sorts of eyeball-melting pyrotechnics, flying death's head marauders and a trippy light show on the way to enlightenment. The autobio elements are raw and almost uncomfortably intimate, assuming that those aspects of the story are based on Taylor's actual experiences. Even if they aren't, it's a heavy counterpoint to the fanciful sci-fi story. Taylor isn't quite in control of his line just yet; his gestures and body language is a bit stiff at times, and there's an awkwardness to the way his characters interact in the space of a panel. At times, his intense stylization is ahead of his basic storytelling ability and character rendering skill. Taylor is an artist who is clearly thinking about deeply spiritual issues, which are further explored in his four-page mini "Masks That Grown-Ups Sell Me And The Lies They Tell We". The point of this comic is to approach the world by seeking hopeful spaces and trying to remain as child-like as possible in the sense of not hardening our masks of identity, fear and pain. Taylor is treading on territory similar to that of Theo Ellsworth, another artist who lives in a different headspace at times, but he's clearly willing to go pretty deep into the well of his own personal pain. That's powerful stuff, even if he's not all the way there yet as a storyteller.

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