Friday, January 25, 2013

Past and Future: Vermilyea, Cardini, Chad, Leach

Battle Burger, by Jon Vermilyea. This isn't a comic, but rather a series of illustrations of Vermilyea's violent, creepy anthropomorphic food characters done up in full gladiatorial garb. Silkscreened in full color, these drawings are funny, beautiful and disgusting--all at the same time. My favorite images include a two-page spread of a Road Warrior-inspired armored tank driven by a bloodthirsty slice of pizza and cut of meat. Even better is a monstrous doughnut, its hole encircled by sharp teeth. Vermilyea has done too few comics by my estimation, which is unfortunate because he's a big-time talent. He probably has done enough minis and anthology entries to fill up a collection by now, but as it is he's underexposed.

Vortex #3, by William Cardini. I love the increasingly abstract and artificial texture of Cardini's series, which will likely wrap up with #4. It's a fascinating take on the Mat Brinkman/Fort Thunder school of exploring a space, as the protagonist, the Miizzzard, struggles to regain coherence while traveling through a dreamspace. Using a variety of repeating patterns, zip-a-tone and other effects, and simple shapes, Cardini keeps the reader's eye moving across the page without leaving them in the dark for too long. Cleverly, he makes the artificial feel of each page part of the story itself, as the Miizzzard breaks free of the illusion to reach the final stage of his journey, which is where the issue ends. It's interesting to see a book done in the "mark-making" school of comics drawn entirely on a computer, as it heightens reader tension and makes the contents all the more alien in its coldness.

New Sludge City, by Brendan Leach. This is a tight, moody futuristic caper story by the talented, emerging Leach. Published by Retrofit Comics, Box Brown's innovative venture, it's a modest-looking comic that looks like it was shot straight from pencils with some grayscale effects. It's a deliberately ugly, low-fi look for an ugly little story about a pair of thugs who plan to use boutique body-switching technology to pull off a big score. The scuzzy underbelly of the city is highlighted by its otherwise futuristic and even utopian trappings, like cars that drive themselves and fully automated homes. Of course, the punks aren't rich and are trying to get over by getting paid for allowing rich people to inhabit their young bodies for an evening, a sort of obscene cosplay for the futuristic 1%. When it becomes evident that there's no honor among thieves, one only wonders how long the eventual triple-cross that concludes the book was actually in place. The scribbly pencils and heavy atmosphere of the piece do a lot of the narrative heavy lifting in this comic, leaving the reader only to wonder about the nature of the relationships in this comic prior to its events. In this and his earlier The Pterodactyl Hunters, Leach seems to enjoy exploring cities and societies in their decline. In the former comic, certain characters will do anything to maintain their status. In New Sludge City, certain characters will do anything to escape their societal standing.

Maser, by Jon Chad. Chad's rightly received a lot of attention for his all-ages Leo Geo series, but his genre-inflected stories sometimes go in a darker direction. This mini he was selling at SPX is a short, funny and nasty story about a social outcast scientist who perfects his maser (different from a laser--Microwaves Amplified by Stimulated Emissions of Radiation) and calls up a random co-worker in the middle of the night to talk about it. Of course, when the co-worker curses at him and later belittles him at their job, the scientist first takes drastic measures, then takes even more drastic measures in order to get what he really wanted: a chance to talk about his maser with this random co-worker. Chad's a superb draftsman and draws the horrific scenes where someone's face gets burned with an almost loving attention to detail. This one's well worth reading if you can track it down.

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