Thursday, October 22, 2015

Thirty Days of Short Reviews, #22: Sophia Wiedeman

Sophia Wiedeman's comics explore dark places and spaces with a deft, feathery touch. Her latest collection of short stories, Born, Not Raised, continues her tendency to frame her stories as reconsidered and reconstituted myths. She always has one foot in what it means to be a woman in terms of how gender is constructed, how boundaries are violated and how aspects of our culture associated with feminimity are devauled. Her take on the Leda/Zeus myth speaks to the way the masculine aspect of aggression through rape is excused because of Zeus' godhood, when "who cares that he was a god if he has made a hen out of me?" Those words are stretched across a 12-panel grid, where each image is related to each other across time.

"How To Eat A Chicken" speaks to the responsibility a young girl is made to feel when her mother leaves her to tend to her dead grandmother. It's phrased as a "how-to" comic, but what it's really about is not falling apart. Using food as a metaphor for the ways in which families unite around certain rituals, it speaks to the importance of work that is not otherwise rewarded. There's also an amusing story about young Sophia refusing to be badgered into saying "I love you" to her father when her mother wasn't there to tuck her into bed. The use of shadow and cross-hatching gives the story a certain dark density, but Wiedeman's use of black dots for eyes allows the reader to make their own judgments about emotions expressed and unexpressed.

Another story, this one silent, that dips into the darkness and mysterious of the forest finds a man and a woman going for a walk. The woman goes off on her own for a bit, and when she returns, she reveals a gunshot wound in her torso. The man, instead of helping her, is hell-bent on instead exacting revenge, only to find that his aggression has led him down a dead end and to his own doom. There's an especially telling panel when the woman is talking to him, but the word balloon is empty. Her words had no weight or impact on what he had already decided to do: indulge anger over compassion. Wiedeman's work continues to become sharper even as her symbology becomes more elliptical.

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