Monday, April 16, 2012

Sci-Fi Minis: Cardini, Smith, Costain

SF Supplementary Files #2, by Ryan Cecil Smith. Printed on Risograph (a reproduction process that uses ink and allows the easy use of color), these three minicomics (each of the three issues is #2a, 2b or 2c), find Smith once again veering away from the main narrative of his over-the-top sci-fi series to explore a particular character or indulge a particular interest. In this case, he adapts Matsumoto Leiji's Queen Emeraldas, a space pirate fantasy which is adapted faithfully in a number of respects. For example, the narrative reads from right to left, from the end of the book to the beginning. The comics themselves are bizarre artifacts that feel like they were made thirty years ago, the sort of thing one might find in an obscure corner of some dusty bookstore or comic shop. The story follows a pirate dropping a boy off on a world, only to discover that the world is a fake and the boy has been captured by a fiendish mastermind. Issue C in particular is one crazy image after another on a different one-tone color sheet. The colors feel "wrong" in the best way, as they jar the reader on page after page as the action gets more and more intense. I'm guessing that Smith chose to re-do this story because it fit into his ultimate storytelling goals for SF, but also because there are so many great things to draw: the scars on Emeralda's face, the sleek design of her spacecraft, the scenes underwater, etc. While the story is ultimately fairly conventional, Smith's design continues to be the main draw, along with his impeccable sense of pacing.

Entropy #7, by Aaron Costain. Costain sent me just the seventh issue of an ongoing series, but it's an intriguing one. There are two different storylines. One involves a man's car breaking down on the side of a road in a heavily forested area. He walks with his infant son on a bridge that crosses a river until he is accosted by a dog and falls off the bridge. In the book's key sequence, we see the man tumble off the bridge in a series of five vertical, rectangular column panels, and underneath them, we see the baby tossed to and fro until he loses consciousness. On the next page, we see a humanoid figure impaled upon a huge spike for an indeterminate but obviously long period of time in a series of five vertical, rectangular columns. Beneath those columns are smaller square panels that go from all black (unconsciousness) to a close-up of the inert humanoid form being buffeted by the seasons. The creature, as we learn, is a golem, and an angel appears and gets him off the spike. He carries him much like the father carried the baby for much of the issue, cleans him up, and revives him. The golem's obvious question as the issue ends is "Papa?". I'm not sure if the connections between the two storylines were more obvious in the earlier issues of the series, but Costain cleverly uses a number of visual tricks to keep the reader interested in what is essentially a bunch of walking around. For example, the angel is first seen as a burst of energy defined by blank space in the shape of a man, and then inverts the energy to become a sort of man-shaped vibration. Simply looking at the angel performing mundane tasks is interesting because of the way it sticks out in every panel. I don't have much else to say about this comic in terms of narrative, other than that Costain likes to take his time and make the reader think about the physical reality of both mundane and highly strange activities.

Vortex #1, by William Cardini. I've enjoyed Cardini's development as an artist and the refinement of his heavily Mat Brinkman-influenced style. Cardini works big in this sci-fi/fantasy battle comic, but more interestingly, he uses a deliberately artificial-looking style of line. You can see the dots and pixels on the page, giving the whole thing a cold and digital quality that is trying to separate the reader from Brinkman's warm, organic and oozing imagery. That slight distance and primitiveness of the line quality (as opposed to the drawings themselves) adds a certain extra comical layer to a story that involves a wizard quite graphically and viscerally biting off the arm of a monster. The whole thing has a light-hearted feel, much like the rest of Cardini's work, odd as it may appear on the surface. Working bigger certainly suits him, and I enjoyed looking at the images as images.

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