Monday, July 10, 2017

Minis: L.Luna/P.Wishbow, H.Fisher, R.Jordan

Cosmoknights, by Hannah Fisher. This is a great example of how younger creators have completely eradicated the boundaries between genre comics and alternative comics. This is a slice-of-life comic that slowly reveals its more fantastical details about two young women from very different societal castes who develop an intense friendship. Tara, as we learn, is royalty. Pan, her best friend, lives a more hardscrabble existence but is in many ways her friend's connection to the outside world. This comic is all about moments and the ways in which the two characters relate to each other, and as such, it's heavy on body language cues. Fisher has a strong sense of line but an even stronger sense of how to use color as the key element of her emotional narrative. There's one sequence where the friends are at a nighttime, outdoors concert where the blacks, purples and blues provide an emotional backdrop for the friends dancing, and then later Pan shows Tara a spectacular view of the two moons of her planet. (This is when it becomes explicit that this is a science-fiction story.)

When Pan helps her friend escape from how prescribed her fate is about to become, she does it knowing that she will be arrested and will be separated from her friend no matter what. As the back cover notes, a knight can be "the devoted champion of a lady", and that's precisely the role Pan plays for Tara in this first installment of a much longer story. Fisher is able to make this comic a complete story in and of itself, with a fully realized emotional arc. Obviously, there's a longer narrative arc in the offing, but it's clear that the series' emotional arc is its most important component.

Give, by Pam Wishbow/Hunt, by Leigh Luna. This is the last release of the sadly departed Yeti Press, but it's a good one, spotlighting two up-and-coming cartoonists. Wishbow's creepy comic about plumbing the mysteries of the forest uses a sickly green as a spot color as the story's narrator tries to resurrect a dead mouse using various herbs and ephemera she finds in the forest. When she's eventually successful, she learns that getting what she wanted wasn't necessarily what was good for her, as the forest gave and then took it away. Wishbow's art is dynamic and abstracted in the way children's illustrations sometimes are, popping off the page with powerful, stylized compositions. The way Wishbow incorporated text into the art itself made the comic more immersive, creating a world that the reader is drawn into.

Luna's story juxtaposes multiple bright colors against a pitch-black story, as tradition dictates that the mothers of a small town must put their daughters out into the woods with the wolves for a night. Tellingly, there is no reason given as to why the women allow this: it simply happens, because the wolves take them. The most the women can do is prepare them, fixing their hair and putting them in beautiful dresses as a kind of "preparation" that is not actually a safeguard of any kind. The comic is a brutal condemnation of rape culture without once using the word, with the ending featuring the women taking the sons of the wolves to "teach them to be good". The comic goes from a multigenerational commiseration of helplessness and inevitability to a seizing of power and agency. There's a delicacy throughout the comic in terms of the figurework and use of color, and that doesn't change even at the end.

Duane's Big Walk, by Rusty Jordan. This is a kind of catch-all zine for some of Jordan's recent short stories involving his Duane character. Jordan's trademark is exploring various contrasts with blacks and shades of gray, with Duane musing existentially with his bird friend Christian. There's a bizarre puppet/claymation story featuring a TV newswoman whose story starts to hilariously and disturbingly unravel as the comic proceeds. The worlds that Jordan creates are evocative and strange, full of losers, bottom-feeders, hard-travelers and the desperate. "Off The Schneid!" puts them all together in a single story and lets them all intermingle. A lost romance is rekindled. A friendship is repaired. A bar is the setting for all of this, as all of these desperate people become a community of sorts. There is warmth to be found in Jordan's world, even if it's covered up by grime and toil. It's reflected in his grotesque but friendly character design, all lumps and bulging eyes and tufts of hair out of place. These characters are familiar, like on the edge of one's social circle from years ago. There's a lingering sense of absurdity in Jordan's comics and a touch of sadness combined with an unformed but still present sense of hope.

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