Saturday, March 15, 2014

31 Days of Short Reviews #15: Caitlin Cass

Caitlin Cass continues to make comics about the classics in an irreverent yet critically clever and forthright manner. Comics about philosophers are inexplicably in vogue these days, but only Cass has the actual training in philosophy and eye as a humorist to create comics that fully explore the possibilities behind both the people behind the ideas and the implications of the ideas themselves. In Those Indolent Greeks, Cass shows off her talents as an illustrator, as each page features a different Greek thinker, done in blue tones and designed to reflect the images of these men as is known but also attempting to soften their features. Each of the lines of dialog is reflective of what the thinker is known for, expressed in terms of their regrets, their fears and their secret desires to do anything but be a philosopher. With Euclid saying things like "I don't even like geometry" and Socrates saying "So it turns out that knowing you know nothing leads to crippling self-doubt and eventual death by the state...oh well!", Cass strikes at the heart of the doubt that afflicts every artist and thinker.

In the fifth issue of what seems to be a 20+ issue story, The Index, the antagonists (Susan and John) explore the Library of Alexandria that seems to have magically appeared. Talking to the great critic Diogenes, Susan looks through the scrolls and sees they're filled with snippets of books that she has read. Slowly, she understands that they've discovered an imaginary environment, one that's entirely "in our heads". This series is consistently odd and funny, as it seems to be Cass' own inner argument regarding truth, meaning, purpose and the pursuit of knowledge for its own sake. Her sequential storytelling is less interesting to look at than her static illustrations, as there are times when she tries to make up for a lack of cartooning skill by drawing extra lines. Her panel-to-panel transitions aren't especially fluid and her characters still look a bit stiff. On the other hand, the quirky, almost decorative quality of her lettering adds a lot to the visual presentation of her comics. The ideas are more interesting to look at than the art, all told, but this is such a fascinating premise and Cass' visual strengths are so unique that the series can't help but gain momentum as it proceeds, becoming her longest and most developed work to date.

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