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giovedì 14 novembre 2013


Various Authors, Hidden Fortress Press, Providence (Rhode Island, USA), September 2013, 196 pages, $ 30.

During the late '90s Providence, best-known as the birthplace of Howard Phillips Lovecraft, became the center of a lively movement called "Fort Thunder Scene", named after a former warehouse occupied by young local creatives. That experience attracted musicians and artists from all over the United States and was particularly significant in the comics world, since many of its players were from the Rhode Island School of Design. Fort Thunder rebuilded the alternative comics of the '90s and beyond, reintroducing some raw and underground elements, mixed up with a fascination for fantasy, horror features and a lot of nonsense.
Paul Lyons, one of the main authors of this scene, after the experience of Paper Rodeo anthology, dedicated himself to a new publication, Monster, which from time to time is available at some comic shows and in some stores in very limited editions. The latest release, after the one published in 2010, came out the last September in only 400 copies and right now is the most ambitious project of Lyons and Roby Newton, the authors representing Hidden Fortress Press. Monster 2013 is a beautiful silkscreen volume by Heather Benjamin made of 196 pages of comics regarding the horror in its various looks and shapes, divided in three stapled books with embossed covers and brown and blue interiors.

While many anthologies bring often some kind of pleasure and pain to the reader, since they often mix up some great things and some not very interesting ones, this doesn't happen in Monster, because it keeps a very high level on every page. The first volume is a good example: it starts with Thomas Toye's bloody Intimidation Rite, goes on with an hyperrealistic representation of sadism by Edie Fake and then it explodes with Monsters or Teenage Girls Around 1989. Brittany Hague shows female bullying in American colleges and turns it into a social horror, where the images slowly fade to make room for a distressing text reminding Bret Easton Ellis or Brian Yuzna's Society. The book goes on with Jon Vermilyea's powerful drawings of a burning house and then with Leif Goldberg's surrealist pages, before the grand finale offered by Mike Taylor: Twelve Visits is a paranoid tale close to the early work of H.P. Lovecraft himself.
The whole anthology is not on this very same high level, but there are many remarkable things in the other pages as well, starting with the second book, opened by Sam Dollenmayer's Mirror, a teenage horror applied to the potential of the medium, enhanced by amazing arts. The work of the omnipresent Michael DeForge is good as usual and very effective in its simplicity, even if the Canadian cartoonist isn't one of the best authors of this anthology. I liked also Molly O'Connell's comic, three impressionist pages about sexual violence and fetishism. Perhaps the second book is the weaker one, but we can't complain about that.
The third volume is full of amazing cartoonists. Jordan Crane with its elegant and defined drawings provides a well-structured and dreamlike comic at the same time. Then Brian Ralph's Cosmic Poseidon, in which a robot manga version of Poseidon emerges from the sea to destroy New York by throwing tridents and sharks, is aesthetically charming: a must-see. You can also find wonderful arts in the contributions of Paul Lyons, who unleashes his satanic mood, and of the excellent Mat Brinkman, who recalls the not-so-original topic of the curse in a stylishly and charming way (as you can see in the sample below). Roby Newton offers a beautifully painted work about the war and its horrors, while Kevin Hooyman closes the anthology with a nonsense gem about two weird guys trying to detonate a bomb.

The only small imperfection of this Monster is about the printing, which sometimes is a bit out of focus and doesn't mix well both colors, looking like a 3D movie without the proper glasses. Luckily only few pages are affected by this problem, but for instance Keith Jones' amusing portrait of a group of fools going around in a car and getting drunk is spoiled by this kind of printing trouble, so that in a couple of balloons the text is hard to read. Anyway this is just a detail, because Monster remains a highly successful mix of visual art, storytelling, pure entertainment, social issues and creativity. In a few words, one of the best comics anthologies I've ever read.

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