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martedì 25 febbraio 2014

š! #15

Various Authors, Kuš! Komiksi, Riga (Latvia), November 2013, 164 pages, A6, $14 (worldwide shipping included).

Reviews of comics anthologies are quite similar to each other and so this time to talk about š! I decided to slightly change style awarding prizes to the best contributions in this fifteenth issue, dedicated to cats and published at the end of last November. So let's start immediately, because the new š!, this time with the villages as theme, will be out already in these days.
Best Cover - Well, the cover is only one, but I can't go on without mentioning the brilliant idea of editors David Schilter and Sanita Muižniece to commission Latvian illustrator Edgars Folks to design the book. Folks, born in 1951, has little to do with indie comics scene but his contemporary reinterpretation of images from the past is well suited to the general atmosphere. 
Best Folk Song Talking about "folks", in The Land of No Parydons English illustrator John Broadley reads the lyrics of some popular comedies of the early 20th century in his own way, accompanying them with the adventures of anthropomorphic cats. All done with his style between Central Europe and Victorian London.

Best Essay - Among the artists who decided to write brief illustrated essays about cats and their peculiarities, Mārtiņš Zutis did the best work, with eight original pages about the egalitarian power of "meow". 
Best Pumpkin-Head Cat - The one created by Edie Fake. His Beachball could also be good for a Halloween anthology. 
Best Artwork - As in the previous issues of š!, I loved the work of Latvian artists Dace Sietiņa and Rūta Briede, the first more complex and structured, the second simpler and playful, but I would like to give the prize for the best artwork to "biografiktioner" Paul Paetzel and its colorful Walter, the story of a cat collector full of bright ideas, and to Brazilian Pedro Franz, with a black and white work that mixes abstract and descriptive moments.

Best Commercial - The advertising broadcasted in Lars Sjunnesson's Errol works well. Cats won't quit smoking anymore...
Best Tribute - Definitely that of Weng Pixin to her cat Pica, died in 2013 and here remembered with some pictures as well.
Best Story - I really liked the development of a relationship told by Finnish Emmi Valve, but the best comic in the book is Guncats by Michael DeForge, about a land inhabited by fierce animals who kill tourists with gunshots, armed by local police to discredit environmentalists. But beware, these strange killers could arrive in our country... As usual DeForge manages to tell a complex story in a limited space, in this case only six pages.
Best Poster - The first page of Reinis Pētersons' 7 Deadly Sins for 9 Lives and Beyond! could be a beautiful poster for a movie.
Best Pub for Cats - The Ol Ktteh in Lost & Found by Dāvis Ozols is the ideal place for a feline evening. 
I could go on for a while, but I don't want to bore you too much. Of course in the 164 pages of š! there are also comics I didn't like so much, such as Interface by Léo Quievreux & Fredox and Palace of Cats by Ernests Kļaviņš, which I found out of context compared to other contributions. However the overall quality is always high and the Latvian anthology remains an example for any publication of this kind.

lunedì 24 febbraio 2014

Brinkman, Ratigher, Massagli, Martin e Tawaraya in U.D.W.F.G.

Under Dark Weird Fantasy Grounds is a new Italian biannual magazine published by Michele Nitri’s Hollow Press. The guest contributor of the first issue, out in March, will be Mat Brinkman, a founding member of Fort Thunder group, best known for his book Multiforce and recently seen in the latest issue of Monster anthology (here my review). In addition to Brinkman, author of the image above, the 96 pages of the magazine will host the Italian artists Paolo Massagli and Ratigher, Miguel Angel Martin from Spain and the Japanese Tetsunori Tawaraya (picture below).

All this for 18 euros, in English and in a limited edition of 700 copies. The comics, all self-contained, are fantasy but in a dark and underground way, so the mood will be violent and cynical, more disturbing than fascinating. The founding of the project is very original, since Nitri has already bought the original drawings directly from the cartoonists and he will subsequently sell them on the web. For further details, you can take a look at a preview published a few days ago on the Italian website Fumettologica, at Hollow Press page on Facebook and obviously at the website of the project, where the magazine will be sold. Come back here in a few weeks for the review of U.D.W.F.G.

lunedì 17 febbraio 2014

mini kuš! #18-21

Various Authors, Kuš! Komiksi, Riga (Latvia), November 2013, 28 pages and $6 (worldwide shipping included) each.

I've already written about kuš! and its spin-offs in an article on the Italian website Fumettologica and in the review of š! #13-14, so I'm going to skip the introduction to start this two-part overwiev about the latest books from Latvia, beginning with the four mini kuš! published at the end of November. 
The eighteenth of the series is the work of Michael Jordan, a German artist, cartoonist and illustration and comics teacher, born in 1972 and best known for his collaborations with the Austrian collective Tonto Comics. This No Place to Stay is fascinating from the cover, in which the unreal colors and the use of Ben-Day dots enhance Jordan's classic drawings. The interiors confirm the Fifties atmosphere but update the Ec Comics-style of the author blending the narrative features for the iconic ones. The bearded protagonist undertakes a trip full of symbolic connections through desolated landscapes, a café hidden in the stone and an hospital similar to a prison. Here he meets a nurse with stigmata, graphically associated with his amnesia and with the curtain that allows him to escape from the nightmare he's living.

The use of symbols is an excellent trick to narrate a meaningful story in only 24 pages and Berliac, the Argentinian author of the mini kuš! #19, is perfectly aware of this. The man with a jaguar tattoed on his heart, portrayed on the cover, is the metaphor of what happens in Inverso. A biologist leave for the Amazonian rainforest searching for the "negative jaguar", a particular species characterized by black skin and white spots. But the departure displeases his girlfriend, provoking a break-up which will indeed leave a permanent mark on the main character's heart. It's outstanding how Berliac manages, in only 24 pages, to describe emotions in a very authentic way. The depiction of the Amazonian rainforest and its natives is also beautiful, with changing graphic techniques that alternate red, black, and green tones, elevating the work of an author to absolutely keep an eye on. 

Crater Lake by Jean de Wet, the mini kuš! #20, is a book without words and made of thin blue lines on a white background. The figures and the objects are empty but improved with the constant use of lines and points, as the author's style was a monochromatic pointillisme, characterized by the fascination for details rather than for the colors. The images tell the reaction of a little lacustrine village located in a volcanic crater after a cosmic event, probably a meteorite rain, while a strange unidentified object flies in the sky. The space-time references are rather ambiguous, but this isn't important, since de Wet guides the reader in a different world, giving him the sensation of the smallness of man against nature, as painters, poets and philosophers have done in the past. Absolutely charming.

The mini kuš! #21, Jungle Night, is also set in a little community, in this case near a jungle. The Polish Renata Gąsiorowska uses a fairy-like tone and her gracious drawings are associated with the diary of Lili, the animal girl who, during a night in the jungle with her schoolmates, walks away leaving no trace. Lili watches her "friends" playing and having fun but she can't do the same. She tries to drink but alcohol doesn't have the desired effect. So she thinks no one will ever notice her absence and for this reason, perhaps, it's better to disappear. Jungle Night is the story of every troubled teenager and has the merit of using lightness and simplicity to describe existential angst. The visual representation of the jungle is also remarkable, with a series of splash pages in which green is the dominant color.
Well, it's all for now but you can come back here in a few days for š! #15 review... Stay tuned!

sabato 8 febbraio 2014

Malachi Ward's Ritual #3 preview

I've already included the new Ritual in my Best of 2014 list some weeks ago. But now, courtesy of David Nuss of Revival House Press (thanks Dave!), I can post a wonderful page from the new issue, titled Vile Decay (out at the beginning of June with distribution from Alternative Comics). Since it's already known how much I liked Ritual #1 and #2, I'm happy that this excerpt gives me an opportunity to talk specifically about Malachi Ward here on Just Indie Comics. The Californian cartoonist writes complex comics, in which he deals with such themes as time, life, death, love and so on. In addition, he's known not only for Ritual but also for his self-published books, such as Utu, The Scout and Expansion, a sci-fi series realized with Matt Sheean. Sheean and Ward also worked on an Image Comics book by way of Brandon Graham's Prophet. This page from Ritual #3 is illustrated in a fascinating 2-color process and as usual brings the reader to a mysterious new world... A world I can't wait to explore.

venerdì 7 febbraio 2014

Yeah Dude Comics 2014 Subscription

Among the various fundraisings based on comics, today I want to talk about the campaign launched by Pat Aulisio's Yeah Dude, of which I already talked about here. The goal of this Kickstarter campaign is the publication of a semi-monthly, 16/24 pages anthology, with one/three comics from different artists in each issue. The first issue will be Stoner Alien by Aulisio and the line-up of the following books includes cartoonists who already published for Yeah Dude Comics or working in the Philadelphia area, with some guest-stars. So we'll see comics by Box Brown, Ian Harker, Laura Knetzger, Skuds Mckinley, Conor Stechschulte, Emma Louthan, Tom Toye, Josh Bayer, Aaron Lange, Tara Booth, Keenan Keller, Nikki Burch, Victor Kerlow, Josh Burggraf, Sean T. Collins and Will Laren. Pat Aulisio will obviously be the editor of the anthology and I'm sure he'll be good at creating the right mix of art, experimentation, madness and funny jokes. The campaign will be available until the 6th of March but you'll better hurry since some "sets" including comics from Yeah Dude catalogue are limited. I'm sure it'll be worthwhile, this year Yeah Dude Comics will amaze you.

lunedì 3 febbraio 2014

Irene #3

Various Authors, Irene, October 2013, perfect bound, 136 pages, black & white, A5, $ 13.

Irene is an anthology mostly realized by artists coming from Center for Cartoon Studies in White River Junction, Vermont, a school that during the last years has produced a large number of talents. Edited by dw, Andy Warner and Dakota McFadzean, Irene was created at the end of 2012 and since then it's published regularly, which is not an usual thing for alternative anthologies. The latest issue dates back to last October and it's a 136 pages perfect bound book containing short stories and some dw's illustrations with the band Veronica & The Good Guys as theme. Here I'm talking about this third issue, giving more attention to the contents I appreciated particularly.
The book starts with Alabaster's Gin, a tale in which the cartoonist from Ridgewood, near New York, uses the characters from her Mimi and the Wolves series. The allure of this comic is in the interesting and original structure of its pages and in the contrast between the drawings, gracious in a minimalistic way, and the deep and sometime raw topics. I reckon that not so many cartoonists would think to handle the complexity of interpersonal relationships by telling the romance between a little girl and an alpaca, but Alabaster did it and did it well.

Jess Worby's The Sasquatch in Brooklyn is certainly among the best contributions. Drawn in a french style and told in a journalistic way, it narrates the quest for the Bigfoot in New York and it stands out for using the ink-wash technique, prevalent in the last pages, where form and content are efficaciously combined. After Mark Connery's Whut It Means, brief but funny, and Andy Warner's Boatlife, a snap-shot of two teenagers in a turning point, it's time for the suggestive Nap Before Noon by Libian cartoonist and filmaker Barrack Rima, a dream pictured as a movie, with undefined silhouettes moving on black and grey settings. Rima's work is considerably different from the other contents of the book and it's particularly good at mixing a dreamlike story with political topics and author's family vicissitudes.

Dakota McFadzean's drawings in the following Ten Minutes' Break, written by dw, are more traditional, even if the contents are all but conventional. The two authors succeed in making us imagine a story of futurist civilization through the pause of two workmen who can't stop to repeat "Yeah man". Ben Horak's What're fiends for? is instead an extremely funny tale and it's followed by two silent works, Leif Goldberg's Newton's Mist and Dan Rinylo's Find "Sleepy". In Edna II Sophie Goldstein is mysterious and touching at the same time. The setting is in some way similar to that of dw and McFadzean, as similar is the process of creating a distopic and undefined future that the reader can barely grasp. Luke Howard's Dance Yourself to Death closes the book with a dark story in which an artist in creative crisis wants to recover his inspiration no matter what.

Even if the most of the authors has a cartoon or comic-strip style, Irene is an heterogeneous anthology and it's impossible to find an element that can put together all the contributions. This doesn't compromise its success, since these comics are full of ideas and they try to use the medium in an original way, pushing it beyond its habits and conventions, but without crossing the border of the gratuitous experimentation. The fourth issue is already in process and as a reader I would be satisfied if it'll be on the same level of this one.