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mercoledì 30 luglio 2014

A midsummer night's mix of comics

Joseph P. Kelly, Mould Map #3

We're now in the middle of summer and while I'm closing the blog for holidays (I'll be back at the end of September), I decided to round up a few short reviews of comics I read recently in this long and messy post.
I'm beginning with some anthologies and in particular with Mould Map #3. Launched through a Kickstarter campaign and now already sold out, this third issue doesn't display a clear-cut theme but a series of themes (the thin line between present and past, futuristic architecture, technology/nature dualism and its sexual implications, global finance, contemporary consumerism, street riots etc.) creating a vague but extremely striking concept. The editors Hugh Frost and Leon Sadler - along with the artists - have built a place where the reader can live for some hours. I didn't like only the digital artworks, since I found most of them boring and banal. But if it doesn't reach perfection, this is an excellent anthology, with the best works provided by - in my opinion - Viktor Hachmang & GHXYK2, Noel Freibert, C.F., Sam Alden, Olivier Schrauwen, Lala Albert, Joseph P Kelly, Blaise Larmee, Lando, Gabriel Corbera, Sammy Harkham, Jacob Ciocci and Joe Kessler. For a detailed analysis you can check the review by Joe McCulloch for The Comics Journal, which also caused a critical answer by Jonny Negron (I liked his contribution...). 

Sammy Harkham, So Long, Mould Map #3

The Spanish Terry, published by Fulgencio Pimentel, is a great anthology too. It shares with Mould Map Sammy Harkham's So Long - reprinted here in black, white and purple and in a larger format (in Mould Map it was one of the A5 sections of the book) - and the names of Olivier Schrauwen and Simon Hanselmann. In Spanish but with an English sheet included, Terry showcases a mix of new comics and translations. The three cartoonists mentioned above provide the best things in the book: Harkham brings a kinematic and unsettling sequence in a frigid location, Schrauwen confirms his ability to make real the unreal with a detailed account of an alien abduction, Hanselmann in Owl's Room combines cynicism and calembours in one of the best tales of Megg, Mogg and Owl. I liked also the contributions by José Ja Ja Ja, Jim Woodring, Sindre Goksøyr, Gonzalo Rueda and Michael DeForge (with College Girl by Night, published in Thickness #2).

Gonzalo Rueda, The 3 Catalans, Terry

Descant #164 is another amazing book. This issue of the Toronto-based literary journal is fully dedicated to Canadian comics. Under the title of Cartooning Degree Zero it shows the several different approaches to this art, with excellent works by David Collier, Maurice Vellekoop, Ethan Rilly, Michael DeForge, Julie Delporte, Michael Comeau, Jesse Jacobs, Connor Willumsen and many others. The critical apparatus accompanying the stories is sometimes superficial, since it's addressed to people who usually don't read comics, but it also contains two interesting pieces: Dominion Days and Superheroes: The Genius of Seth by Mark Kingwell starts from childhood memories to analyze the art of the author of Palookaville, while Canadian Comics: An Unknown Literature by Rachel Riley focuses on the collection of Canadian comics built by John Bell. 
I already talked about š several times, but I'm glad to come back on the small Latvian magazine to point out the remarkable sixteenth issue. Dedicated to villages and extremely cohesive in the organization of contributions, š! #16 is distinguished by a more descriptive and melancholy tone than usual, striking with strong graphic works by Chris Reijnen, Placid, Evangelos Androutsopoulos, Anna Vaivare and Anthony Meloro: some pages are absolutely fascinating and I'd like to see them in a larger format. In the meantime the Latvian imprint also published a new issue of the anthology, entitled Sweet Romance, and four new mini kuš! by Oskars Pavlovskis, Rūta & Anete Daubure, Anna Vaivare and Roope Eronen.

Anthony Meloro, Orangeville, š! #16

Now I'm taking a look at some zines that I have kindly received from the readers. Thanks to Milena Semeonova, that struck me reading the Lithuanian SW/ON #2, I could read Co-Mixer, a perfect bound magazine written for the most part in Bulgarian but with English translations at the bottom of the page. The fifth issue presents 33 short stories united by the theme/title In Movement and told using very different attitudes, from underground to manga, from realism to fantasy. Co-Mixer is basically a training ground for emerging authors, although there are some cartoonists who have already developed their own style: I think of Alexandra Ruegler, Lucija Mrzljak, Evgenia Nikolova and especially of Peter Aquino with the poetic These Things Move..., in my opinion the best comic in the book.
Half a training ground for the members of its collective and half magazine gathering contributions from all over the world, Lök Zine also comes out with a fifth issue, with illustrations and comics about the theme of identity. The quality level is significantly growing, despite some imperfections yet to be fixed, both in the contents and in the editorial work. However there are good things in this zine, as the comics by Matteo Farinella (who published recently Neurocomic with Nobrow) and Aaron Whitaker and the illustrations by Alessandro Ripane, Margherita Morotti and Felix Bork.
I take advantage of this space to recover the cool zines published by Andrew Owen Johnston under the brand Zine Arcade. The fourth issue, now dating back to 2012, looks like a notebook and collects drawings, sketches, strips and photos of various artists who enjoy interacting within the same page. So the figures of Sophia Moseley climb under the Polaroid of a skyscraper or the strange animals by Lizz Lunney sit impassively while a buxom lady drawn by Bernardo Morales prepares a bloody mary. And then there are the ruminations of Kevin Hooyman's characters, the shelves full of books by Jonathan Kelham, the collages by Zeroten. Absolutely fascinating. The following issue, in a smaller size and dating back to last year, is titled The Secret Spy Handbook and looks like an instruction manual for a spy organization fighting against a threatening enemy. Inside we can find the comics of the usual contributors, including the talented Hooyman and also Amanda Baeza and Elaine Lin, two cartoonist of whom Johnston published two nice monographic collections.

Now I'm leaving Zines World to talk about some comics and mini-comics. Hypermaze by Brian Blomerth is the first chapter of The Alltell Hyperseries, which chronicles the adventures of Pepsi, the sexy protagonist who cares more about her voluptuous desires than about the conspiracy in which she's involved. The cartoon-psychedelic style of Blomerth builds a series of beautiful pages, especially in the museum scene, reminiscent of the famous sequence of the Joker in the first Tim Burton's Batman. A little Jodelle, a little Luther Arkwright, a little Robert Crumb, Hypermaze would deserve an extensive review: I hope to get back on Blomerth in the near future. 
I have already spoken of Noah Van Sciver reviewing both his sketchbooks and his collection Youth Is WastedThe Lizard Laughed is a self-contained 32-page story printed on yellow paper by Charles Forsman's Oily Comics. Set in New Mexico, it shows the encounter between Nathan and his father Harvey. The two are essentially strangers to each other, as Harvey has abandoned Nathan leaving home when he was still a child. The dialogues are dry and even more bitter than usual. This time Van Sciver puts aside humor to tell a wonderful story of ineptitude, anger, resentment and perhaps forgiveness, even if it's hard to find positive characters and feelings here. The views of New Mexico are pretty well rendered and confirm the unstoppable artistic growth of the Denver-based cartoonist.

Noah Van Sciver, The Lizard Laughed

Hollow in the Hollows by Dakota McFadzean, published by One Percent Press, is another self-contained 32-page story. I have already talked about McFadzean in my reviews of Irene, the anthology he's editing along with dw and Andy Warner, but the Canadian cartoonist has also his own production, which includes the book Other Stories and the Horse You Rode In On, published by Conundrum Press. The same publishing house will print next year The Dailies, a collection of the strips posted on the author's blog everyday. The tradition of the strips is clear in the characters expressiveness, but the book also looks at other Canadian cartoonists as Joe Matt and Seth, the first for the curvy line, the second for the setting in a quiet small town and the use of the two colors. The story, however, has little to do with these references. Mary and Arnold are two troubled and uncool children, ignored or even mocked by classmates. When Mary finds the skull of a deer in the woods, her life becomes full of dark omens... or maybe of magic. Metaphorical, delicate, deep, Hollow in the Hollows is a moving and fascinating coming-of-age tale.

Dakota McFadzean, Hollow in the Hollows

#foodporn is the latest effort by Meghan Turbitt, a New York-based artist who already showed off a rough, wild, Dionysian style with her Lady Turbo mini-comics. The new release is based on extremely effective and funny gags in which initially unattractive chefs, bartenders and waiters look like perfect men or women after preparing food for an insatiable girl. So an awkward and dirty pizza maker becomes a sexy man after showing his ability in handling a pizza, the protagonist watches a guy preparing some sushi and then she undresses lying naked on the counter with the fish all over her body and - in the most filthy of these gags - Turbitt's alter-ego is so delighted while drinking a beer that she heads to the bathroom to taste the wc used by the bartender. Each page is a statement of guts, instinct, sometimes anger and sexual desire, without intellectuals mediations. The comics by Meghan Turbitt are incredibly crazy and funny.

Meghan Turbitt, #foodporn

After a Kickstarter campaign, Pat Aulisio of Yeah Dude Comics started to publish a series of mini-comics sent via mail to subscriptors. The first release was Stoner Alien, a series of gags centred on an alien and a ninja turtle, foolish and always stoned, creating an irresistible duo that can remember the Wilfred TV series or the characters of Simon Hanselmann. However Aulisio has his own comic timing, mixing great gags and pure nonsense: the scene of the old lady explaining to the alien behind the counter how she wants sliced ​​the ham is absolutely irresistible. After Stoner Alien, Aulisio published two minis of 12 pages each: Find Me, Look For Me by Laura Knetzger, still about an alien but this time using sensitivity and grace, and Iron Skull by Skuds McKinley, a powerful graphic work, which begins with two pages dedicated to a woman and ends with Black Flag lyrics. The broad strokes refer - for author's own admission - to Paul Pope, but McKinley's art is original and intriguing. The new booklet in the collection, Future Masterpiece by Victor Kerlow and Josh Burggraf, is coming out in these days.
We remain in the world of American self-published mini-comics with Ian Harker's Sacred Prism. While Yeah Dude's books have sizes, pages and concepts different from one another, Harker prefers the regularity of 16 pages two-color risograph minis. The use of color is one of the strong points of the whole series and finds masterful expression in Internet Comics by Maré Odomo, a personal diary full of ideas, notes, sentences about world wide web and social networks. After a beautiful first issue in blue and pink, Harker published the follow-up this year, this time using yellow and blue. CS by Inés Estrada is also a wonderful and funny essay on the use of color, this time in green and pink, while the latest release is the second installment of Blades & Lazers by Benjamin Marra, an amusing fantasy-futuristic serial starring two mercenaries, one skilled in the use of blades and the other - of course - of lasers. Sacred Prism is a guarantee of quality right now and all we can do is to wait for the new books.

Maré Odomo, Internet Comics #2

I'm concluding this long round-up with the preview of Night Burgers, a new stapled anthology published by Negative Pleasure after Felony Comics and Revulsion Comics. At the moment I could only see a pdf of it, since it's still in print, but I can already say that the new work by editor and cover artist Harris Smith shows great graphic features. And for sure the book will be even more fascinating when printed, since it uses blacklight colors and it's sold together with prismatic glasses "for full psychedelic experience". In the 24 pages of Night Burgers there are comics and illustrations by Victor Kerlow, Anthony Meloro, Josh Freydkis, Josh Burggraf, Jason Murphy, Amy Searles and Ken Johnson. I liked the works by Meloro and Burggraf above all: the first employs his usual pop-retro style to tell the story of a woman who becomes a medium after eating hamburgers, while the second realizes an aesthetically colorful but dark in contents representation of the future.

Josh Burggraf, Truly This Is Our Darkest Hour, Night Burgers 

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