As Aaron Cockle's storytelling aims become ever more opaque, his actual storytelling has ironically become clearer and clearer. That's primarily because he has a greater understanding of how to make his limitations as a draftsman work for him by simplifying and even abstracting his line in the service of his mystifying tales of paranoia, conspiracy and intelligences beyond human comprehension. In particular, Cockle writes about the use of language itself as a weapon and the ways in which subject and object blur and intermingle. In his ongoing series, Annotated, #17 features a series of interrelated and even interlocking short stories.
The first story, about a woman who attends a luncheon with coworkers she despises, is suddenly abjected from her understanding of reality when the entire party leaves when she's in the bathroom and no one in the restaurant acknowledged their existence. That led into an amazing short story that featured a text narrative wherein a woman is being questioned about going into a particular sub-basement and what actually happens when she does, which is communing with an intelligent chair looking for a human to work as their agent. All of this starts to coalesce with other stories about surveillance, chairs, art, zine-making and the stultifying routines of office life taking on new and sinister contexts. As the comic proceeds, we learn more about the conflict between chairs and the corporation, with the latter becoming acutely aware of their enemies and the ways they work to subvert knowledge through means like office porn. The essence of the stories is the way they ultimately address the intentional alienation of the individual by the corporate identity, by way of separating and isolating its participants. Cockle gets at this with dizzying formal decisions: lots of shadows, lots of unusual angles that stretch the eye across the page and a method that instills mundane items like chairs with a sense of dread.
Cockle was also kind enough to pass along the latest installment of an anthology he's involved with entitled Derring Do. This issue focused on "True Crime/False Crime", which covered a range of activities, both true and unverifiable. There's a lot of excellent young talent in this anthology with a wide range of approaches. E.A. Bethea (an artist I became aware of through Austin English) had a remarkable story that began with the artist Vigee Le Brun drawing portraits of Marie Antoinette that segues into Bethea recalling a school friend who later went missing. The fact that her friend was African-American meant that fewer people in the media and police cared, a chilling understanding that Bethea tries to process through drawing the story. The final story, by Jude Killory, focused on a brilliant sex worker friend of his who was murdered and had connections to local politicians. Both stories point out the astounding lack of empathy for those of color or do whatever they can to survive. Josh Bayer is always an MVP of any anthology he's in, and his scrawled, manic accounts of John Hinckley and Richard Nixon as deeply disturbed individuals from an early age speak to how mental health warps decision-making.
Jennifer Camper's account of a woman who murdered her children inadvertently becoming an art gallery star points to any number of different crimes--the murders, of course, but also exploitation. Sarah Schneider's story is an oblique, silent account of a crime with an axe; Laurus gets silly with a story about a soiled book that she tries to get rid of; and Carlo Quispe relates a personal tale about stealing a pen, getting harshly punished and it being all worth it. Cockle uses giant pixelated imagery that further deals with paranoia and government inquests regarding uncertain topics. Other highlights include Sara Lautman's scribbly account of a dinosaur being exploited by Thomas Edison, Whit Taylor's grim account of Beach Boy Dennis Wilson chilling meeting with Charles Manson prior to Manson becoming infamous, Brendan Leach's futuristic account of a junk bond trader deftly exploiting others and Katie Fricas' hilarious and speculative story about Nancy Kerrigan meeting up with Tonya Harding years after their ill-fated dust-up. Her grotesque, exaggerated line and absurd resolution to the story still managed to incorporate everything that was hilarious and terrible about the original incident.