Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Thirty Days of CCS, Day 11: Reilly Hadden

Bird Girl, A Mass Of Shapes and Scratches and Astral Birth Canal 0, by Reilly Hadden. Hadden is a talented second year CCS student, and these three comics show three radically different styles and approaches. Bird Girl, a tiny mini with a dashed-off and scribbly approach, represents Hadden at his most spontaneous. It follows around the titular character and her abuse at the hands of her fellow birds, and then takes a hard left turn when she's abducted by aliens and pecks the eye out of a carrot-like creature. The entire thing feels spontaneous and free, as though Hadden wasn't sure how he was going to solve a storytelling problem until he got there. The heavy use of blacks, the sullen but expressive bird characters and the freewheeling scribbles on each page represent a cartoonist who's in his own private comfort zone, simply making up silent stories as they come to him.

A Mass Of Shapes And Scratches, on the other hand, is a little more labored. It's essentially an argument between two friends about finding meaning and the essential fruitless meaninglessness of life. That argument is given a kick in the pants by the end of the story, as they work through the one man's nihilism, only to see him trip and hit his head hard on a table, leading to his demise. It's kind of an obvious gag, and the neurotic energy Hadden brings to the page with extensive use of hatching, cross-hatching and spotting blacks is undermined by the stiffness of his character design--especially in how characters relate to each other in space. While there are interesting ideas here, this is a comic that feels underbaked on the whole, though it clearly represents the artist trying to break out of his comfort zone.

Astral Birth Canal #0, on the other hand, sees the artist hit upon a winning idea and absolutely seizing it. He uses a simpler and modified style of his character design from Mass of Shapes, one that puts greater emphasis on the character itself, rather than the labor that went into making the character. It also allows the characters to connect to each other in a more meaningful fashion, It starts as a "teen in distress" comic that's not uncommon for CCS students to write about, as a boy named Crockett is forced out of his house by his ridiculously oppressive and abusive father. Hanging out with his female best friend (who is concerned about his welfare and wants to talk to him about it, to no avail) and her brother at a bowling alley/arcade, they happen upon a new video game called Astral Birth Canal. When her brother flips a switch, the game transforms into a shape and takes them to another planet, and an adventure. All of the original themes are still intact when the trio arrives on the planet, but the story takes a hard left turn into genre weirdness. This fusion of genres should prove to be interesting, especially since Hadden seems to have found a visual style he's happy with.This will be a series to watch.

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