Chinga, by Coryn Lanasa. This slender mini is an invocation of sorts, with delicate line art illustrating branches and text talking about how the branches should be prepared. The narration indicates that this will be the foundation of a particular woman's nest, summoning her eventual lover. There's a striking image of an eagle-headed man with an erect penis, with the image of a woman from behind on the next page. Both images are cut off in the mirror, as though they were framed by a window or perhaps an art frame pinning those images to the page. It's evocative and haunting, adding a layer of delicacy and reserve to a story dedicated to pure, carnal desire.
BlackStar 6, by Jeff Zwirek. Zwirek is really starting to round into form as he's fully absorbed his Ivan Brunetti influence and is starting to go in a very different direction. This sharply-designed one-man anthology collects a number of different short stories in a variety of formats. The stand-out is "Sales", a silent story which cleverly has a salesman confidently selling big word balloons. It's a device that's so insanely clever that I'm amazed that I haven't seen it used as extensively as Zwirek did here. As time goes on and his pitch is no longer quite as buoyant, his deflated word balloons are pushed away by his wife's indignantly angry balloons growing larger and literally pushing him out of the house. The sad but inevitable ending has its own clever poignancy, as he floats away with much difficulty. "Cuckoo" picks up the visual metaphor baton from the previous story, with a giant grandfather clock constantly haunting the protagonist. No matter what she does, the clock appears when it's not wanted, reminding her with an incessant "tik tik" that her time is limited and seemingly always running out. In the end, it's revealed that wasting time is something she does regularly, taking her away from beloved hobbies. "Caveman Eat" is a fold-out gag that requires a great deal of set-up and labor to get to its mildly amusing punchline, while "Capsize" tells the story of a guy who tumbles out of a capsized boat, requiring the reader to turn the page upside down to see how the story changes when told from a different perspective. "Leper" is as effective a story about fear as I've ever seen, featuring a shoe-shine man who becomes paralyzed by fear after a near-death experience--so much so that's he split into two. He's only able to trick himself into being able to live and act again by literally putting on that face of fear.
We, The Odd, #0 and #1, by Delicia Williams. Williams is another illustrator with a delicate touch, The story follows an exterminator who stumbles into a world of fairies and other magical creatures in a city setting, reminding me a bit of Neil Gaiman's Neverwhere. The zero issue features a fairy godmother who finds she has competition with dark forces over a baby, as well as that exterminator who falls from a vent into a building's sewer where she encounters hooded cultists and a huge frog that may or may not have eaten them. The #1 issue picks up with a box-headed creature chasing her until she manages to escape. No one believes her tale of weirdness until she bumps into a guy on a park bench at the end. This is really a slip of a sketch of a story at this point, more memorable for Williams' pencils and a few striking images than the story itself. That said, her The Grimm Files: How To Bake A Murder Cake demonstrates that she has an interesting way of inverting fairy tale cliches. Packaged in a clever manilla folder-style cover, it tells the familiar story of Hansel & Gretel from a different perspective. This time, it's the witch who's the innocent one, offering them food, only to find that the ravenous children wanted meat more than candy. The art here is a bit sketchier, mixing the spontaneity of an energetically scribbled line with some more worked-over spotting of blacks that felt a bit jarring. All of this feels like a warm-up for Williams.