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domenica 30 novembre 2014


William Cardini, Sparkplug Comics, Portland (Oregon, Usa), October 2014, 140 pages, black and white, $13.  

Since 2007 William Cardini has been building his Hyperverse, an unreal and bizarre world depicted through creative visual solutions that brings us simultaneously back to Atari and VIC-20 era and forth to a sci-fi future. Vortex, the last chapter of this cosmic epic, was published as a series of four mini-comics and now is reprinted in a single book by Sparkplug.
The story features the Miizzzard, the most important character in the comics set in the Hyperverse, "an inconsequential vagabond" who takes different forms according to the various eras in which he appears. The most common is that of a magician similar to Gandalf from Lord of the Rings and it's in this guise that he reaches a new planet to investigate why, despite the presence of hyperrays, there is no trace of any hyperstructure (in short, a true hypermess). There he starts fighting a seemingly hostile alien lifeform, who actually aims to recruit him to release some entities, the Vortex indeed, from slavery to the Empire of Tolx. To do so he breaks into a control device, taking a trip in a mindscape drawn as an obscure land full of psychedelic black and white figures, reminiscent of the first renderings in computer graphics of cyberspace.

Unlike the early Hyperverse comics, in Vortex Cardini has completely left the drawing board to devote himself to computer design. In particular, the thick flickering line used to delineate the Miizzzard and to divide up panels is created with Manga Studio, while the gray matter formed by substrates of lines and squares, which makes up most of the other figures and environments, is made with Photoshop.
This creative process gives life to an alien universe made of geometric shapes and graphic schemes, which is more similar to a vintage videogame (or even to a dark and underground version of Tron) that to the typical space and alien worlds represented in sci-fi films, TV series and comics. This visionary reality still hides many comics and literary influences. The first reference is to the cosmic comics from Marvel and DC, as Silver Surfer and Jack Kirby's The Fourth World and The Eternals. The plot is also permeated by fantasy and science fiction sagas, as confirmed by the same author in this interview with writer and journalist David Z. Morris. These sources, deriving mostly from adolescent readings, are revisited through a sensitivity which looks at the underground comics of the last twenty years. After all Mat Brinkman is admittedly a key figure in Cardini's formation and he has often mentioned Multiforce's creator as a source of inspiration. Vortex is also fascinating because it's a comic in Fort Thunder style but is made on a computer, therefore using a very different artistic approach from the visceral and handmade techniques of the Providence group.

Another paradox of Vortex is still about Jack Kirby. The King has filled the pages of The Eternals with technological devices of many kinds, riding a retrofuturistic trend widespread in the past and intended to imagine hi-tech futures and alien worlds. Kirby spent days drawing with pencil and ink majestic techno-gods, huge spaceships, futuristic buildings. Now that we have seen plenty of these hi-tech worlds, and that technology is part of our daily lives, Cardini uses a technological device, although much smaller than those pictured in The Eternals splash pages, to create bare and desolate worlds full of offbeat figures, which now seem to us far more alien than those imagined by Kirby. To investigate the influences of Kirby on Vortex (as well as on By This You Shall Know Him by Jesse Jacobs and on Forming by Jesse Moynihan, two recommended readings as well), you can read this interesting article by Robert Boyd on the blog The Great God Pan Is Dead.
Despite Vortex is a sci-fi book and the drawings often recall abstract art, in this comic we can also find a material aspect related to the body. Indeed bodily lacerations, mutilations and mutations are one of the recurring themes of the story since the first pages. The Miizzzard and his adversaries fight out in a succession of injuries, apparent deaths, meat that melts to the ground like in a Dali painting, monsters bursting out of chest as in Alien, corporeal scissions and cannibalism as in a tale of Greek mythology. The several trials and sufferings follow the protagonist in an arduous journey towards the epilogue, when he'll try to eat up the energy of a whole planet to save himself from death. And if you want to find out what will happen at the end of the road you have to read Vortex or look anywhere near the Hypercastle to find out if the Miizzzard is back home safe and sound...

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