Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Slice of Life Minis: Knickerbocker, Forsman, De Radigues, Speziani/Latella

This column will address a variety of slice-of-life minis, most of which center around high school and post-college young people.

The End Of The Fucking World Part Two, by Chuck Forsman. This is the second issue of what promises to be one of Forsman's most interesting stories. It's an interesting counterpoint to his friend de Radigues' Moose series in that it's being published serially in minicomics form and being published fairly frequently. The first issue of this series focused on a sociopathic teenage boy who reaches a breaking point and steals his father's car. His girlfriend, whom he views with barely-concealed contempt, is the focus of the second issue. They really living in a teenage version of a post-apocalyptic world as they wind up in a new town, living in a moment-by-moment reality. Her internal monologue is heart-breaking, as she sees herself as the one person who understands and can love the boy. In this twelve-page mini, Forsman really gets at the soul of this girl and how doomed she is, but also gets at the essential youth of her as well. With her hair in her eyes, she's more girl than woman, even as she tries to act tough by calling her waitress a cunt. Forsman's thin line conveys the fragility of their world as well as its grotesque nature.

Moose #5, by Max de Radigues. This mini focuses on a high school kid who is being mercilessly bullied. After a reprieve of a couple of issues, this issue sees the boy, Joe, being forced to return to class to sit right in front of his tormentor. The bully promptly ties a compass to his shoe and jabs Joe in the ass with it, but of course Joe is blamed for disrupting class. It's not unusual for a bullied child to hold his feelings inside but wind up acting out in other ways, and de Radigues gets at the pain of that reality. The Belgian cartoonist definitely carries on in the clear line tradition, with a spare but elegant line that's less fragile than Forsman's but still in the same ball park.

Rust Belt, by Sean Knickerbocker. Knickerbocker is playing in the same sandbox as Forsman and de Radigues, only his world is a little sweeter and more hopeful. Chad, his big-nosed protagonist with hair over his eyes, is a knucklehead in love with a girl who's out of his league but starting to give him the time of day. His best friend is clearly into him, but he doesn't notice. What lifts this story out of cliche' is the way Knickerbocker uses details. When playing a role-playing video game, he makes sure the princess character is named "Ashley", like the girl he's in love with. Chad also faces bullying on a daily basis but manages to fight back--not that this noticeably improves his life. Knickerbocker's use of more cartoony characters (not unlike Harold Gray in terms of the noses and blank eyes) gives the series a more whimsical, wistful feel than the other two series mentioned above.

By The Slice, by Giulie Speziani and Cecilia Latella. This is a modest effort by a couple of relative newcomers that starts off as one thing and makes a couple of surprising turns. Latella employs a conventional, realistic style that nonetheless has a chance to breathe expressively, especially when the main character, Gwen, gets angry. The story concerns Gwen, fresh out of college and without a job. She applies as a cashier at a pizza joint for an owner who seems to possess the sort of earthy wisdom one would expect in a story like this. Instead of turning into a story about the wacky ups and downs of working in a restaurant, Speziana seizes on some seemingly incidental details about the pizza owner (a crack about gender stories, calling one customer a bitch after she walked out) and turns it into a dilemma for Gwen: should she stay in a job where her boss is openly racist and sexist just to make money, or should she walk away? It's a surprisingly meaty read for something that seemed so lightweight at first, and that misdirection was a clever calculation on the part of Speziani.

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