Wednesday, June 12, 2013

New Comics from Noah Van Sciver and Joseph Remnant

Cartoon Clouds Part 1, by Joseph Remnant. I talked about the web version of this story by the talented Remnant, but he's releasing it in minicomics form. I'm not sure this makes any sense, but the story simply reads better on paper than on the web; it really feels like Remnant is most comfortable with this format. I'm not sure where Remnant is taking this story of a self-pitying recent art school grad named Seth, his fellow students that he mostly despises, and his female best friend on whom he has an obvious crush. From the cloud following Seth around on the cover to his generally miserable demeanor throughout the comic, Remnant makes it clear that Seth is the architect of his own fate in all sorts of ways, even if he is surrounded by an array of hilariously annoying people. Remnant is the master of the awkward social exchange at parties, as Seth has to make it through a gauntlet of privileged assholes going on trust fund-bankrolled European trips to the cutting-edge atheist who bases his entire career on that bit of iconoclastic behavior. Again, I'm not sure where he's going with all this, but he's off to an amusing start.

Blammo #8, by Noah Van Sciver. In this issue of Blammo, Noah Van Sciver returns to a lot of his very old ideas, like his Chicken Strips saga and his Punks vs Lizards feature. What's interesting is that he's become such a confident and skilled artist that these older ideas have taken on a new level of proficiency; they're simply being executed better. Even though these ideas are silly in the extreme, Van Sciver treats them with utter seriousness and really throws himself into them. The results are more tightly-plotted stories, better gags and better overall storytelling. They act as an apertif of sorts for an issue that's otherwise fairly downbeat and contemplative. "Expectations" is yet another excellent relationship comic by Van Sciver, who seems to hit on new emotional angles every time he tackles a new story like this. This one is about a guy who fell apart when his longtime girlfriend suggested "a break" and who completely disappeared from her life and the lives of their friends. The storytelling device of the park that was a pauper's cemetery is incredibly clever, since the whole story is about the past, and in particular, the ways in which we poorly handle our pasts and the people in them. Like Remnant, he has a real knack for getting across the awkwardness but also the potential for magical connections that can be found at a party.

Van Sciver's facility as a draftsman is on display in his adaptation of the Brothers Grimm's "The Wolf and the Fox", which is about a wolf and his hostage fox companion. Van Sciver expertly hits all of the key beats in this depiction of an abusive relationship that is escaped both through cleverness and a keen understanding of the weaknesses of one's abuser. The decorative aspects of the story are also beautiful and do a fine job in framing each page, especially the pages with acts of violence. Shorter stories, like the bizarre and funny "She's Losing It" and the "Dog on Wheels" short strips, displaying Van Sciver's continuing affection for the weirder side of his underground comics influences. The former story turns from a creepy and inexplicable relationship between a man and a little person into something that's far more weirdly poignant than one would have expected. The "Dog on Wheels" strips remind me a bit of what Evan Dorkin does in Dork!: mining comedy in the darkest of places with the most benign of set-ups. Throw in a great letters column, a guest strip from Matthew Thurber and other ephemera, and you have a genuinely exciting comic book done by an artist who's really coming into his own.

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