This is a partial and rough English version of my blog Just Indie Comics (Banner by Pat Aulisio)

lunedì 28 aprile 2014

Nobrow #9

Various Authors, Nobrow Press, London (UK), April 2014, 128 pages, four colors, 219 x 310 mm, £ 15.

The magazine Nobrow is the flagship publication of British Nobrow Press, an imprint that is leaving its mark on the European comics and illustrations scene with books and events such as Elcaf. Since the sixth issue the magazine has become a double flip-cover book, with a half dedicated to illustrations, the other one to comics. The contents of the comics half are in turn divided between the works of the Nobrow authors, following the aesthetics typical of the publisher, characterized by cute drawings, a geometrical representation of the human body and a refined use of color, and the ones of some guest stars bringing a breath of fresh air and diversity. In the sixth and seventh issues, certainly the most successful so far, there were cartoonists as Joseph Lambert, Brecht Vandenbroucke, Matthew Forsyhte, Michael DeForge, Till Hafenbrak, Kevin Huizenga, John Martz, Jesse Jacobs, Malachi Ward, Ana Albero, Jack Teagle, Paul Paetzel, Tom Gauld, Anders Nilsen, Eleanor Davis, Joost Swarte and Ethan Rilly. The eighth issue was instead less interesting both for the comics and for the illustrations: probably the decision to focus on emerging authors rather than on established names didn't work as the editors Sam Arthur and Alex Spiro wished.

Bianca Bagnarelli

The new issue, released in these days with the contribution of Ben Newman as art director, is titled It's Oh So Quiet and is obviously about silence. So in the comics section we have wordless tales of four pages each, and some of them are among the best things ever seen in Nobrow. I think, for example, at the opening story by Jon McNaught, where the melancholic atmosphere and the division of the panels recall Chris Ware. Even Bianca Bagnarelli's and Arne Bellstorf's comics look at Ware's work, in particular for the graphic description of the details, and they are two equally gorgeous piece. Excellent contributions also came from Jim Stoten, who exhibits a hyper-detailed graphic creativity with a pleasant dash of psychedelia, Mikkel Sommer with an ironic story characterized by an intriguing drawing style, Kirsten Rothbart who in a few panels outlines a beautiful profile of a truly alternative rocker and finally Hellen Jo showing absolute cynicism with an invocation to Lucifer.

Jim Stoten

The illustration section, instead, is affected by an excessive uniformity to that "cute" aesthetics I mentioned before. Recently this trend is spreading anywhere in Europe and in Italy too, also in publications coming from the underground and that should be more formally complex and aggressive. The risk is to bother the reader, especially if he's someone like me who doesn't go crazy about this kind of stuff. Of course we can't blame Nobrow if it's imitated far and wide, but perhaps it's time for the editors to react and propose something new, breaking a crystallized form and also taking into account that it's one thing to admire the work of Jon McNaught or Ben Newman and it's another to look at their imitators. However here we have some enjoyable illustrations, though the better works are the ones that are different from the predominant style: I am referring in particular to the strange march portrayed by the Dutch Merijn Hos, creating a surreal atmosphere mixed with some psychedelic details, and the contribution of Stephen Carcello, who offers a fascinating interpretation of the silence in an apocalyptic way.

Merijn Hos

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