Thursday, August 4, 2016

Foxing Reprints #14: Kat Verhoeven

Towerkind 1-10, by Kat Verhoeven. There are actually now thirteen issues to date of this series, with each issue running about twelve pages [The comic was later collected by Conundrum Press]. The format is very much along the lines of the Oily Comics model, which was originally adapted from Max de Radigues. Each issue is short and sweet, but they also have artist commentary, extra drawings and other supplementary material that makes these worth getting ahead of the eventual collection. In Verhoeven's case, Conundrum will be collecting her series.

It's set in the Toronto neighborhood of St. James Town, which is made up of about 25,000 people in 23 different apartment towers and buildings. It's an incredibly densely populated area and one that's home to a number of different immigrant families, low-income individuals, etc. In other words, a true melting pot of interesting experiences, cultures and ideas. Verhoeven's series follows the lives of a number characters whose lives inevitably intersect. There's a touch of the supernatural in this story, which also carries the kind of densely packed paranoia as the J.G. Ballard novel High-Rise. However, nearly every character here is a kid or a teen, giving it the kind of innocent resonance of a de Radigues, Chuck Forsman or Melissa Mendes story. 

There's Ty, the self-proclaimed King of the neighborhood (his Kobe Bryant jersey is a tell-tale sign of his arrogance). There's Moses, the sensitive polyglot who gets hurt by him. There's Dina, the Muslim adventurer. There's MacKenzie, who can talk to dead animals. There's Maha, who sees visions of the apocalypse, and the "twins" DukDaniel, who learn to experience everything the other is experiencing remotely. Moses starts to notice animals dying mysteriously, including birds just dropping from the sky. Verhoeven deftly moves from quiet character studies to moments that nudge the plot forward slowly. Her multi-ethnic cast doesn't sidestep issues of ethnic identity as either character or plot points, yet the fact that there are so many different people in this area is simple an organic fact of life. The mysteries surrounding the dead bird and the general weirdness in the air becomes a uniting factor; indeed, seeing through differences to make cross-cultural allies is the underlying theme of the series so far. Again, Verhoeven manages to do this in a natural, unobtrusive and unpedantic manner, thanks to how sharply she defines her characters through what makes them unusual. Her drawing style is cartoony, but her line weight is thicker than any of the artists I've mentioned save Mendes. In her line, she combines a bit of cute with an air of menace, a description that can be used to sum up the series in general.

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