Friday, March 25, 2011

Sequart #154: MariNaomi & Jeff Lok

This review was originally published at I'm reprinting it as a supplement to my interview with MariNaomi.

ESTRUS COMICS #6, by MariNaomi. MariNaomi's ESTRUS COMICS #4 and #5 were really excellent autobio, focusing on love affairs of all varieties told over her lifetime. Issue six is perhaps her best work date in these self-described "kiss and tell stories", in large part due to a powerful and unexpected poignancy in one of the stories that not only is bracing in its own right, but its ramifications echo down into her other narratives. The first few strips in this collection are the sort of breezy, blunt and hilarious sexual anecdotes that one grew used to from the earlier issues. MariNaomi is quite frank in talking about how early she became sexually active, but it's described in a very matter-of-fact manner. This is simply who she is, with sex being an important outlet and part of her identity but certainly not the only one. Another emphasis is that she was in charge of her body and made her own decisions, without coercion.

We see tales of MariNaomi dumping lovers who were too weird for her, of being dumped by someone who claimed she was too young for him (only to apparently lie about this later), of being used emotionally by others and using others. There are plenty of laughs and plenty of wacky sexual anecdotes here, until we reach the story of Jason. This story, filled with all sorts of bizarre twists and turns (including prison, international modeling, theft and other amazing details), was obviously a story that MariNaomi had been leading up to all along. It was this relationship, at a crucial time in her life, that had a powerful and indelible emotional impact on her life. This was the relationship whose end was always going to haunt her--especially when she learned that he may have died in an accident after they lost contact.

Every story set in a year after this one tied into it somehow, as lovers accused her of waiting for her boyfriend to get out of jail (which had more than a little ring of truth to it). That was especially true in the story of Jack, which starts off rather lightheartedly but winds up getting unexpectedly heavy. MariNaomi's line and its variations are pitch-perfect for the emotional tone she's trying to set. She keeps it mostly pretty simple for lighter stories, often using dots for eyes and sketchy forms--that's especially true for stories where she's depicting the sexuality of children (like herself). I think that's a deliberate choice, because these while these are comics about sexuality, they are not meant as erotic comics. Her composition is clear and uncluttered while still often making use of decorative elements. There's a cleverness in her design, like a panel where she's pouring water for an attractive guy where her head becomes the pitcher. All told, this is one of the best minicomics I've read this year.

POCKMARKED APOCALYPSE #1, by Jeff Lok. Lok is yet another recent graduate from the Center for Cartoon Studies and one of the co-editors of the SUNDAYS anthology. This first issue of a planned 8-part series is a slow, deliberate introduction to our protagonist and his world, one devastated by war and the ruination of the environment. The book is a quiet activist dagger, as the end of the world is told in an entirely matter-of-fact fashion. The apocalypse here is an extended and protracted one, and it's clear that Lok is arguing that we're already in its beginning stages. It's no coincidence that the protagonist lives above a highway near an old Exxon station--the worst of the worst of Big Oil. Given that this first issue really gave us more insights into the world as it stood than the protagonist, I'll be curious to see where Lok goes from here.

The most interesting part of the issue is when the protagonist encounters another person on a highway, helping him up after he fell but exchanging no words. That scene neatly encapsulates the feeling that even if humans are still alive, civilization itself is dead. Communication no longer has any meaning as humans become more and more isolated. The protagonist notes that the man he encountered was "screaming inside his head", having seen "too much evil". I really like Lok's character design, which reminds me a bit of Frank Stack's work. I'm not sure his line is assured enough to depict some of the things he includes in the issue, particularly machines. His non-figure work lacks the same kind of assurance and boldness that his figure work possesses, and this hurts a story where the physical environment is as much a character as any of the humans. I'll be interested in seeing how Lok shapes this world and how he continues to develop his line.

New High-Low @ TCJ: Revival House

In the newest iteration of good ol' High-Low over at The Comics Journal, I reviewed the latest offerings from Portland publisher Revival House. That includes Trigger #2 by Mike Bertino and Everything Unseen, by Drew Beckmeyer.

Interview with MariNaomi

My first article for the new was an interview with Mari Naomi about her career and her new book, Kiss and Tell.

Monday, March 21, 2011

TCJ Entries For February

This will be the last collective posts for my articles that appear on; since I'll have fewer articles on there from now on, I'll post an individual link to each one.

That said, here's the farewell tour:

Tubby, by John Stanley & Lloyd White.

Solipsistic Pop V3, edited by Tom Humberstone.

Nipper, by Doug Wright.

Miscellaneous Comics by Desmond Reed, Dina Kelberman, and Kel Crum, as well as comics edited by Lydia Conklin & Josh Blair.

Mineshaft #26, edited by Everett Rand & Gioia Palmieri

Comics-as-poetry 1: Jason T Miles, Aaron Cockle.

Comics-as-poetry 2: Malcy Duff, L.Nichols.

The Broadcast, by Eric Hobbs.

Ignatz 1: Sammy The Mouse #3, by Zak Sally.

Ignatz 2: Niger #3, by Leila Marzocchi.

Ignatz 3: Grotesque #4, by Sergio Ponchionne.

Ignatz 4: Interiorae #4, by Gabriella Giandelli.

Twilight of the Assholes, by Tim Kreider.

Lewis and Clark, by Nick Bertozzi.

Freewheel V2, by Liz Baillie.