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lunedì 21 luglio 2014

Short and Merciless Stories

Marco Taddei & Simone Angelini, Tinto Press, August/September 2014, 112 pages, black and white, perfect bound, 6.69" x 9.45", $ 13.

I reviewed the Italian version of this book some months ago. It was published by Bel Ami Edizioni last October under the title of Altre storie brevi e senza pietà and now will have an American edition due in August or September thanks to Ted Intorcio of Tinto Press. I took a look at the pdf of the English-language version, so this is both a translation (with some changes) of my Italian review and a preview of the new book.
The two authors are well-known in the Italian indie scene: the writer Marco Taddei is also a novelist, photographer and editor of Stra magazine, while the artist Simone Angelini is the creator of a "comic book fight club" called Canale delle Mazzate and of the Pics Festival in Pescara. They published a collection of comics of the same kind previously, but it's with this one that they found their own personal style. Inside there are eight short stories about themes such as death, human misery, madness, alienation, existential vacuum and sometimes also social networks and politics. They often seem urban legends, unsolved crime news, tales heard in a bar but at the same time they speak about all of us. Usually there is someone relating these tales, a voiceover that gives regularity and also gravity to the narration. This is reflected in the structure of the page: every comic uses a fixed number of panels, breaking the order only to mark key moments in the plot. So The Story of Oscar's Mother is about a baffling disappearance, The Story of the Uncle is a metaphor about insanity that raises existential questions, The Story of a Fly shows an insect becoming a star on Facebook and dreaming a bright future, The Story of Mario in Hell describes an afterworld very similar to everyday life, The Story with Death ends the book reminding that nothing makes any sense at all.

Taddei's storytelling blends a lot of different things together and reaches the best results while using surreal elements and nihilistic humor. Otherwise - when the themes are political or social - he tends to moralize a bit much, as the story has to convey an explicit message. Much better is when he jeers at social conventions, watching the characters with a mix of sneering derision and sympathy. Angelini's drawings are essential and serve the story well, but they also have some remarkable visionary moments, as in the horrible corpse rendered in The Story of a Fly or in the final sequence of The Story of Mario in Hell, where a three-headed monster eats a whole line of unlucky men.
While Short and Merciless Story is coming out in the USA, the two authors are working on Anubi, a new project they're developing in a Tumblr page and which will become a book in a near future.

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