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domenica 13 ottobre 2013

Optic Nerve #13, We Will Remain, Alamo Value Plus #1

I was trying to organize some comics read recently and I picked up three of them for a review, starting with Optic Nerve #13 by Adrian Tomine, released in July from Drawn & Quarterly. I liked a couple of years ago Tomine's decision to resume publishing his series in the classic comic book format, while all his renowned colleagues dedicated themselves to graphic novels or converted their ongoing series in books (just like Chris Ware and Seth respectively with Acme Novelty Library and Palookaville). Issue 12 of Optic Nerve in September 2011 brought a breath of fresh air, especially with the first tale, A Brief History of the Art Form Known as "Hortisculpture", in which Tomine did something new compared to the past, regarding form, tone and content. Unfortunately this new issue is a step backwards, since that - always in my humble opinion - the main tale Go Owls is not perfectly successful. Go Owls combines the author's typical themes - remembering especially the issues from 5 to 11 of Optic Nerve (collected in the paperbacks Summer Blonde and Shortcomings) - with the ironic feeling of Hortisculpture, though creating a not so exciting mix that after a two-years wait leaves a little disappointed. Even the story published as the comic book cover isn't so funny as it should be. So it's better to immerse yourselves in the eight beautiful full color pages of Translated, from the Japanese, where Tomine tells in epistolary form the journey of a mother and her child from Japan to the United States during a family crisis. Deep, melancholy, introspective, the story doesn't show the characters but only the places where they move: someone can even consider it an exercise in style, but for me this is pure early days Tomine with the drawings and the elegant colors of today.

From Brooklyn, where Tomine lives at the moment, we move to Providence to meet Andrew White, a 22 year-old cartoonist who published for Box Brown's Retrofit Comics We Will Remain, a 48 pages collection of short stories subtly interconnected. This is a partly immature work, but even in the alternation of styles and techniques and with some indecisions in describing the human figure, White shows to have good ideas and can be considered a promise. What I like about him is the ability to look beyond the realism of the stories. So he gives a mysterious and magical tone to As Leaves Change Color, puts the metaphysical in the "title track" and shows some Kirbesque influences in Travel, a notable sci-fi experiment. If he succeeds in creating the right mix of intimacy and less usual themes, he will do great things.

Different spirit for the first issue of Alamo Value Plus, new series published by the excellent Revival House Press and created by Rusty Jordan, who already realized for the same imprint Buger Warz (with Levon Jihanian). Jordan's cartoon style is already perfectly mature and is used in a way that looks at the tradition of underground comics as to Peter Bagge. The first pages show a long dialogue between the protagonist Baldo and his colleagues at the department store where he works. But you have to wait just eight pages to get a crazy flashback taking up the rest of the book, where Baldo tells in an excessively epic and totally unrealistic way his struggle against Nazis during childhood, his and his mother's imprisonment and finally theirs escape. The last part of the story comes back to the present and portends a showdown between the main character and his nemesis, Captain Max Schidthed, still alive and longing for revenge. Alamo Value Plus is an enjoyable read that promises bizarre developments.