Monday, December 21, 2020

31 Days Of CCS, #21: Ivy Lynn Allie

Ivy Lynn Allie's most recent minicomics show an artist who's come into her own stylistically and as a writer. Her short fiction is exceptionally clever, subtle, and unsettling, and her ability to effortlessly cross genres mark her as someone who can go in any direction as a cartoonist and do well.

Last Stop, for example, mixes two genres. There's a heaviness to this story as she quickly establishes her nameless protagonist as a man who's reached the end of his rope. He's broke, he doesn't have a job, and he's completely isolated himself from his family and his therapist. Allie gets this across with one succinct panel. This is a character psychodrama. The story begins when he falls asleep on the subway, only to awaken at a stop where a talking raccoon in a cop's uniform rousts him and throws him off the train, and he finds himself in a part of the city where anthropomorphic animals are dominant. That minor-key tone of his depression mixed with the weird absurdity of the world he finds himself trapped in are a potent high-concept, and him finding another human and glomming on to him provide the spark for the beginning of a potentially longer story. As it stands, the combination of despair and lunacy resonates. One can see Allie's drawing tighten up and sharpen as the issue unfolds, with the black gutter space emphasizing the comic's sense of gloom. The character design, especially for the animals, is expressive; it's silly but also gritty and realistic at the same time.

My Friend Meredith is a brutal take on how childhood friendships can be every bit as abusive as other relationships. A girl named Terri and her family visit their friends, and a loving, open Terri is happy to see her same-age friend, Meredith. Allie is not subtle in waving the red flags regarding Meredith from the beginning: she wants Terri to watch a scary movie at her, and then screams at Terri and hits her with a pine cone when Terri beats her in a foot race. The point of the story is not that it establishes Meredith as a sociopath (and Allie does pile it on), it's that Terri is willing to take it, because she thinks of her as a friend, no matter what. What's left unsaid are the social forces that pushed Terri to think this was so, and how her faith in them clearly wavered in the comics' final, silent panels. 

Sanity Check was not only the most fully-realized of these three comics, it was one of the better minicomics I read in 2020. It's a collection of her shorter comics in the tradition of series like Eightball, and the small aesthetic touches and interstitial pieces in the comic make it greater than the sum of its parts. It's a satisfying read from beginning to end, starting with "Of Course, No One Knew." Allie begins the piece in media res, as she at first leads the reader to believe that this is a flashback comic of some kind with invisible narrators talking about a film they had made together. Allie deliberately confuses the reader as to the point of view in this story while relishing the opportunity to talk about the making of a small-budget horror flick. The swerve she introduces has a huge payoff that makes everything make sense while revealing how different projects can be hugely meaningful to people, especially young people. 

"I Made A Friend," with pink as its spot color, is a horribly tragic and tender account of the magic spark of creativity and how cruelly and quickly it can be snuffed out. "The Situation" is about a woman whose job it is to remove poisonous toads, but who didn't want to kill them. The decisions she's forced to make are heartbreaking, but it's even more heartbreaking when it's clear this experience hardened her emotionally. The pea soup-green in this comic is crucial in establishing its atmosphere. Allie's restraint as a storyteller and willingness to explore emotionally complex characters and situations signals that she's ready to sink her teeth into a longform comic or continue to build this body of short story work. 

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