Friday, December 24, 2021

31 Days Of CCS, #24: Ashley Jablonski

Ashley Jablonski's comics have a sincerity to them that extends to whatever genre they happen to be working in. In Ghost Lights, for example, Jablonski explores the titular phenomenon which goes by other names, like will o' the wisp, where mysterious lights appear. While there are various scientific theories, others view this event as a portent--for good and ill. What I liked about Jablonski's approach here is that they used historical data in discussing the sightings before revealing their own experience. Jablonski's approach is always to approach an event from a number of different perspectives; they never force an interpretation on the reader. At the same time, their vulnerability in sharing this and other personal and private moments is one of the best qualities of their work. The use of an expressive watercolor palette here is crucial to the comic's success. 

Burn is a compilation of short dream comics, once again done in watercolors. One was about a vampire masquerade and being pursued by a real vampire. This showed off Jablonski's sense of humor, as the bat left behind a bloody valentine in order to woo them. The other was a dream of being on the star Vega and being told telepathically by the dead members of the civilization that Jablonski had been one of them. It ended with a silly pun. While neither of these comics are personal or deep, it shows Jablonski's willingness to go all-in on an assignment. 

Rituals exemplifies the best of Jablonski's work. It's a short comic, done entirely in rough pencils, about the rituals they use as an artist prior to beginning. Jablonski notes the rituals they've seen other artists use and how they've adapted these rituals for themselves, but this mini was also done as a way of passing it on to others. There's something deeply humane and generous about their work; Jablonski seems to be most interested in establishing a connection with their reader, to reach them at an emotional level, that is rare for artists. The pencil lines are expressive and make an immediate impression, further solidifying this direct appeal. 

p...a...r...a...m...n...e...s...i...a... is a different look from Jablonsi. Printed in landscape with a single image per page, it has a flip-book quality to it. That physical quality of the book is apt for the subject matter, as it's about a young woman who's being questioned by the police for an unknown reason. Jablonski slowly eases the reader into this chain of events that starts off with pleasant memories of being outside, then reveals the inquisition, then slowly clues the reader in that there's a serious lacuna going on here and some sinister events. Many of the pages are entirely black, signifying how trauma can blot out memories altogether in order to protect the victim. 

A technique Jablonski uses there and in other comics is the classic dissonance between word and image. It's the tool of the unreliable narrator. It can also be used for humor, like in their small minis Autocorrect Fails and What The Duck?! #2. In Autocorrect Fails, Jablonski draws precisely what the fail depicts; in a fail that used the word "blubber" instead of "number," they drew a walrus. In What The Duck?!, the words "dick" and "fuck" get replaced by "duck," leading salacious or angry texts to be depicted with a duck or duck toy instead. It's a good gag, and Jablonski is good at getting mileage out of them. 

Jablonski is ambitious in their drawing, and their skills as a draftsman sometimes aren't up to their level as a storyteller. Other technical aspects of their work, like lettering, need a lot of work. Jablonski does well when using something to enhance their line like watercolors or using that expressive pencil approach, but simplifying their line in all aspects as they develop those skills would probably lead to more cohesive results. It's clear that their storytelling and cartooning have become rock-solid in a variety of different genres, so this is simply a matter of just continuing to develop and getting better in public. e

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