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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.

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