Monday, October 5, 2015

Thirty Days of Short Reviews #5: Pablo & Jane and the Hot Air Contraption

There are few cartoonists better suited for a highly-detailed, interactive kids' comic than Jose Domingo. He and Jon Chad have done books jam-packed with simple but compelling images that both tell a rolling narrative as well as challenge the young reader to find certain shapes on each page. In Domingo's earlier book for NoBrow, Adventures Of A Japanese Businessman, he subjected the titular character to a series of ever-escalating and hilarious tortures that took the reader's eye around the page in seamless fashion. In Pablo & Jane and the Hot Air Contraption (published by the NoBrow kids' imprint Flying Eye), he sets up an adventure with a couple of kids, a mouse scientist, a villainous cat mad scientist and a machine that takes a trip into the Monster Dimension.

Domingo has a remarkable sense for how to create, sustain and build momentum in a narrative. By starting slowly and establishing the personalities of the two kids, the reader is immediately invested in the proceedings. With each character being built of overlapping geometrical shapes, he gives himself a versatile set of tools upon which he can easily move these protagonists through a variety of environments. Domingo also uses a deep, rich color palette to saturate each page with a vividness that conjures up the spooky house and lab. While he packs a lot of detail into a number of small panels, Domingo also frequently goes big for dramatic effect, creating an air of mystery and awe. When the reader finally arrives at the meat of the book as they are asked to find a missing part of their ship in a monstrous version of London, it serves as an "I Spy"-style activity as well as a chance for Domingo to go crazy in terms of providing eye-pops in every corner of the page. That formula is recreated in different environments, like forests, the minarets of Moscow, Athens, the swamp, India, Australia and more. The narrative has a satisfying but open-ended conclusion as Domingo sets up future books as well as future conflicts. The book is just the right size for a kid to hold and even has a padded cover that gives holding the book a sense of tactile comfort. This book is a happy meeting between a publisher willing to give their books high production values and an artist with the wherewithal to take full advantage of this.

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