Friday, May 16, 2014

Emma Louthan & Laura Knetzger

PLEASE NOTE (11/12/2017): Due to the revelation of Cody Pickrodt being a individual who has proven to be unsafe, predatory and untrustworthy around women (see: the testimonies of multiple women) in comics, all of his reviews on this site have been redacted. I have chosen to keep the reviews of those who he's published. Be aware that if he is still selling these comics, the artists involved are unlikely to receive any money from it.

Club Queen Rat King, by Emma Louthan. Louthan is quickly becoming one of my favorite young cartoonists. Her combination of a slightly ratty line, distorted character design, dreamy and weird settings, and frank but funny embrace of sexuality and style give her comics a feel all their own. I'd classify what she's doing as her own brand of Immersive comics, meaning that text, line and image blur in such a way that the reader has to carefully and willfully enter the world that Louthan creates on the page. The comic must be read on its own terms or not at all. That said, Louthan provides any number of visual cues and entry points for a reader. The first page appears to simply be a number of lines bifurcated by a solid vertical line in the center of the page. When one turns the page, we see the lines are curtains of a club, and we meet the titular "club queen". This comic is done in gold and blue, and Louthan isn't afraid to cram a lot of detail into very small panels. Sometimes, that creates a blurry mess, but Louthan turns that to her advantage in trying to create a disorienting environment for the reader in the bizarre club that's run by blobby figures. They beg her to work for them as a bartender and to tend to the Rat King in the VIP room. The comic is about rarity, beauty, and the slow acceptance of something horrible as actually something beautiful. It is also about the manipulation of image, aesthetics and fashion. There are a lot of layers to unpack in Louthan's comics, which are dense in more ways than one.

Flowering Vine, by Laura Knetzger. This comic is in two colors: blue and green, as Knetzger essentially takes a look at herself and her own growth through a series of anecdotes, drawings and thoughts all loosely connected as a sort of stream-of-consciousness narrative. The story is one of advancing and retreating, where her ambition is to always move forward and create but occasionally retreat when feeling broken. The loose narrative is frequently beautiful and poetic, with lines like "I made in myself a shining iron heart capable of molten romance" standing out in this back-and-forth series of illustrations. The comic has one serious flaw, and it's that the illustrations in it are superfluous. All of the text in this comic could easily be read as a poem without losing an ounce of meaning if the illustrations were removed. While the illustrations are attractive, they are all rather on the nose in working with the prose, rather than the prose and images working together to create something different. It's an illustrated poem and not comics-as-poetry, making it more of a visual exercise rather than a fully-formed hybrid work.

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