Monday, May 11, 2015

Minicomics Round-Up: Guerra/Diaz, Taylor, Sikoryak, Alvarez, Purins

Rotland Dreadfuls #10: Sadistic Comics, by R.Sikoryak. Sikoryak is the greatest of all style mimics, and his mash-ups of classic literature and comics never fail to amuse. This comic from Ryan Standfest's Rotland Press is a mash-up of The Marquis de Sade's Justine and William Moulton Marston/Harry Peter's Wonder Woman. Using the covers inspired by the 1940s comics, Sikoryak hilariously skims the plot of Justine, transplanting the many terrors she faced into the type of S&M follies that Wonder Woman fell into. Considering That Marston was fascinated by S&M and bondage in particular (hence Wonder Woman constantly getting tied up), this pairing was low-hanging fruit as far as Sikoryak's mash-ups go. That said, it was the details that made it so funny, down to the chicken on "Just Justine's" bodice (symbolic of France) rather than the American eagle, as well as fleur-de-lis instead of stars on her costume. It would have been nice to have seen this in glorious color, but Sikoryak nails so many other details (his ability to match lettering styles in particular has always astounded me) that it scarcely matters.

Berries, by Whit Taylor.This is a lovely and weird encounter between the legendary Jersey Devil and a ruined stockbroker out to lose himself out in the woods. While the usual caveats apply to Taylor's art (the backgrounds in particular are rough), this is still quite a moving comic because of her focus on facial expressions. Even though one of the faces is that of a monstrous, dragon-like creature, Taylor makes sure that to let the reader know that it's a sad, lonely creature who could express kindness and experience camaraderie if only given a chance--especially since it speaks perfect English. This story is really a mutual expression and expression of despair and how breaking out of isolation is one of the few ways to get through it. The genre trappings really only add to that sense of despair, as the ridiculousness of the Devil's story is given a counterbalance of poignancy by the end of the comic. This is a little gem of a comic.

Two Toms, by Pablo Guerra and Henry Diaz. This mini was the only English-language release at the Revista Larva table at SPX 2015. The Colombian cartoonists had a fascinating anthology, and this mini contained the first four chapters of an upcoming book by Guerra (the writer) and Diaz (the artist). Diaz' work reminds me a lot of Brandon Graham: lots of sumptuously curvy lines influenced by graffiti art and perhaps even some of Graham's primary influence, Vaughn Bode. This is a science-fiction story that banks heavily on the nature of gender and sexuality, as a female researcher mistakenly (at least at first) has sex with an alien who resembled a missing crew member, which leads to all sorts of complications with her higher-ups. It's an enormously appealing and intriguing story, with just a touch of a blue wash to give the comic a bit more flavor. I'll be curious to see the finished version.

The Co-Dependent Tree and Hypno-Spiral Comics #2, by M.Jacob Alvarez. Alvarez is a relentless gag writer whose punchlines often rely on genre conventions. He also picks his share of comedic low-hanging fruit, like the titular "Co-Dependent Tree" being a send-up of Shel Silverstein's The Giving Tree. Alvarez's visuals are difficult to process thanks to the thick line and little variance in line weight that is present in nearly all of his work. A gag about comparing hipsters to bees is difficult to parse because it was impossible to figure out what was going on without the words, and even then that amount of labor killed the joke. Alvarez is at his best when he keeps things simple and direct, like the various "Tattoos I Don't Have The Balls To Get" and "You Got Your Shit Together Charlie Brown". When he returns to that thick and stiff line (to which he often inexplicably adds hatching, making it even harder to quickly process), there's an extra second that divides the gag's visuals and its text. That disconnect lasts just long enough to disrupt a number of genuinely funny lines. My favorite of his stories was the genuinely weird "Chambara Punk", about a samurai-movie loving punk who gets in a convenience-store fight with a lacrosse-playing, knuckle-dragging jock. Here, the thick line seems to make sense with regard to the exaggerated nature of the story's sheer loudness. Alvarez is a funny writer who's trying to find his way as an illustrator and isn't quite there yet.

Zombre #3, by Ansis Purins. This beautiful, oversized comic has all of the standard features of a Purins comic: visceral, disgusting horror; hilarious gags; bigfoot drawing; a highly skilled and controlled line in the service of pure silliness; and over-the-top satire. Visually, this is an exciting book to behold, as the color scheme changes from a blue wash to a green wash to full color and keeps changing from there. Purins makes extensive use of zip-a-tone, which both adds density to each page and gives them a more cartoony quality. That fusion of styles reminds me a bit of Chris Cilla or Mark Newgarden, where old-style and flat cartooning is juxtaposed against weird angles and weirder story ideas that are nonetheless treated with an entirely straight face. There's also a quite coherent storyline here as well, demented as it is. Purins starts all over the place: a lost dog, a benevolent zombie, a hippie park ranger who's terrified of losing his job but still is mostly shiftless, his hard ass boss who is some kind of mystic being, a giant spider and its attendants, and some redneck hunters all enter the same forest. As Purins starts to pull together the threads of his narrative, the story gets crazier and at times terrifying, before resolving into a happy ending. Purins is a longtime cartoonist and is doing his best work to date.

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