Wednesday, May 7, 2014

The Hunt: A.Meloro, J.Willems, S.Wiedeman, L. Milevski

Let's take a look at some minis that talk about being hunted, hunting after something or experiencing a life of being set up as prey.

Funnies, by Anthony Meloro. The three one-page stories and the accompanying purely decorative pages speak to Meloro's aesthetic: raw and dirty on the one hand, and densely but abstractly beautiful on the other. The stories here are about restless people hunting for relief: a man getting his fortune told, one that indicated he'd never get out of his rut; one where two professionals examining a corpse are struck by its similarity to an old lover; and a man giving into seduction somewhat releuctantly. Meloro's figures are shadowy and even ephemeral, eliciting emotional reactions with a remarkably sparse amount of detail. His narrative captions are similarly terse, yet they work hand-in-hand to create that atmosphere of longing, of things out of our reach--or worse yet, desires fulfilled in a less than satisfactory manner. The strange color of the cardstock used and the texture of that cardstock only add to the comic's strangely appealing qualities.

The Lettuce Girl #4, by Sophia Wiedeman. This is the last chapter in Wiedeman's reworking of the story of Rapunzel. It's a story about bad parenting, absent parenting, selfish parenting and the effects that each have on children. Hazel, the Rapunzel stand-in, has been locked in a tower her whole life by her false mother. The (implied) witch acquired her thanks to Hazel's father cowardly promising her to the witch after stealing lettuce from her garden, lettuce that her pregnant mother demanded. From the very beginning of the series, Hazel is fed a series of lies and simply accepts them because it's all she's ever known. She's kept in the tower for her own "protection", even as she longs to see the world. When Hazel manages to break free, thanks to a talking serpent looking for her mother, she learns that her "mother" was not entirely in the wrong. She winds up being drawn to a gingerbread house, where she's being fattened up to be another witch's dinner. This take on the story about mothers and daughters is more of a feminist version, one where there are no male rescuers who swoop in to save the day. Instead, Hazel has to figure out her own salvation. Meanwhile,her "mother", who has grown another child from magic seeds, finds that controlling the fate and behavior of your children is an impossible task. When Hazel and her "mother" meet again toward the end of the book, Wiedeman's storytelling is excellent. Framing them in the background of each panel, so as to keep them just barely in the sight of the reader, their conversation is private, intimate and clearly ultimately healing for both parties. When they part, they know it's for the last time (there's no longer any place for Hazel in her mother's life), but they parted with a far greater understanding of the other. It's an emotionally powerful moment of forgiveness on the part of Hazel in particular, but also for her "mother", who had previously reacted as though Hazel was a piece of property rather than her child. Humanizing her was Wiedeman's most intriguing innovation in this story, as was having the ocean in front of Hazel and her serpent companion at the end--what better symbol for the unknown? Wiedeman's line is a pleasing mix between loose and dense. The characters all have a loose, expressive quality that gives the entire story a spontaneous feeling. One can sense the energy on each page as the panel-to-panel transitions are smooth and fluid. At the same time, Wiedeman isn't afraid to use dense hatching for her forest scenes or a more delicate and refined line for other key scenes, like the vast tower and finely-rendered forest in the background of an embrace between Hazel and her "mother". The entire story is an understated study in balance, in terms of the visuals, the narrative and the characters themselves.

The Wild One, by Laila Milevski. This is a disturbing, visceral story drenched in dense blacks about a teenage girl lured by a wizened woman into performing a ritual to appease the jungle's jaguar goddess. The only problem is that girl backs out at the last second before the ceremony is over, leading to disastrous consequences. The aftermath of the event forms the latter part of the mini, as the old woman has not only disappeared, but has seemingly slipped out of everyone's memory, leading the girl into the jungle for her own encounter with the jaguar. Milevski crams a lot of panels onto each page, which serves to create a sense of claustrophobia as well as heighten tension and suspsense by forcing the reader to jump from panel to panel. This is a story about alienation, folklore and the consequences of crossing certain lines. The main character, Camilla, essentially had her fate sealed the minute she started talking to the old woman, even if she didn't know it at the time. Of course, her fate is an ambiguous one in the sense that she is now entirely severed from society--it's neither happy nor sad, it's just new and savage. The story is all about rules and rituals, and how fragile they can be. It was interesting that while the backgrounds in the jungle scenes were all drawn in a lush manner, the backgrounds in the other scenes were frequently blank. Part of this was to add clarity to scenes with lots of talking heads, but that lack of background detail in Camilla's daily life was telling in some ways. This was another smart, gritty effort on the part of Milevski, whose other comics have explored the frequently violent and troubled relationship between civilization and nature.

The Fatal Marksman Act I, adapted by Jaime Willems. This is actually Willems' second crack at this story, adapted from the Thomas DeQuincey story "The Fatal Marksman". It's about a young man named Willhelm, who's hoping to earn the hand of Kate, the daughter of a huntsman. Her father refuses the union because his son must be a huntsman in order to keep the land in the family. The reason this was so because his ancestor who originally won the lands as a reward from a nobleman was accused of having used a "devil's shot" to kill his prey--unerring but demonically-rewarded aim. To continue to defend the family's honor, each descendant must prove his own worth. Of course, Willhelm is a writer, not a hunter, but the end of the first act sees him gain aid from a shadowy figure. Willems' adds a bit of depth and richness to the story by starting it off at a carnival, with a carny barker setting theme and adding some potential portents on the first page. The key difference in this version is really in the art. Willems' figures are so dark as to appear to be woodcuts. Eyes are deep and sunken and every line is thick, with hatching looking like dense shadows and the frequent use of spotting blacks creating an atmosphere of dread. The features of the figures are slightly grotesque, appearing almost to be marionettes thanks to their exaggerated cheeks and eyes. Willems' frequently curvy and erratic panel design adds to that sense of distortion and unreality that the book evinces; even the structure of the page itself can't be depended upon by the reader. Even though nothing bad happens in this comic, Willems has created an atmosphere where one expects things to fall apart at any moment.

No comments:

Post a Comment