Another week, another installment of my 2014 Books That Challenged Me List. I hope that everyone has had a wonderful holiday season thus far.
It occurs to me now in composing the third piece of this list that I’ve read a lot of books this year. Something to the tune of 100-150, mini-comics and zines excluded. I’m not sure that they should be excluded, given their propensity to be on this list. I’m happy with the overall development – last year I didn’t read as much as I would have liked.
2015 will be a year full of comics – my trying to keep up with you wonderful people and also delving back into the past of the medium, to see A while simultaneously seeing B, if you will.
I’ve talked at length about Alden’s work this year, with some thoughts on his short story Wicked Chicken Queen from Retrofit Comics and a review of his two story collection It Never Happened Again. One of the two pieces in It Never Happened Again, “Anime,” is both an exploration of fandom and an intense character study. Janet, a Japanophile, plans a supposed life-changing trip while ignoring her life in her hometown. The trip turns out to be something of a disaster – nothing close to transformative. Alden uses a particularly haunting series of panels where Janet moves through Japanese streets, walled off, isolated. Alden’s Janet is both fascinating, frightening, and saddening. It’s clear that Alden has an eye for stories with damaged people, but the resolution to their stories is less about an objective truth than Alden letting his reader make their own conclusions. Seeing myself in Janet was hard to take and hard to understand. Alden’s cartooning throughout “Anime” was transcendent.
It was a great pleasure to meet MJ Robinson at Genghis Con in Cleveland this year and an even greater pleasure to see them present with Cathy G. Johnson at Oberlin. I picked up a copy of Rind and despite its small stature, I’ve been reading and reading this comic since the end of November. Through Rind, Robinson grapples with the nature of desire. At first, a pile of seemingly useless objects impedes their progress. But later in the book, that same mound of objects turns out to be dark red citrus fruit, ready for consumption. But consumption doesn’t seem to be the answer, or perhaps it is half of the truth. Are these internalized problems, or are they things we hate about ourselves that we come to accept? There’s a thought of scattering, the things that break us apart and/or down. How do we build ourselves back up or pull ourselves back together? Can we, truly?
As a subscriber to Space Face’s 2014 subscription, I got access to a wide variety of books I likely would never have purchased – one was Jordan Speer’s QCHQ. I’m glad I subscribed, and I plan to subscribe again, if only for these books that push me out of my comfort zone and make me reevaluate what I’m looking for in comics.
I saw things in QCHQ that I didn’t see in any other book in 2014. Speer’s use of color, highly complicated, repetitive imagery was fascinating. Speer’s coopting of corporate culture to tell a story of post-apocalyptic capitalism that felt like a blast of the buckshot of “now,” pulling together concerns of surveillance and the financial woes of the world. There’s a rawness, a bitterness to QCHQ that feels personal despite the intentionally displacing art and written word.
I first came upon GG’s work through comicsworkbook’s Composition Competition 2014 and their entry Semi-Vivi. But it was Don’t Leave Me Alone, with its stark portrayal of bullying, family, and police brutality in the setting of institutional racism that connected more with me. GG uses color in Don’t Leave Me Alone in a way that is mesmerizing, showing both sirens and the wretchedness of humanity. Don’t Leave Me Alone’s pacing is like an asthma attack – danger slowly building and building until the inevitable: ragged breath on ragged breath.
I’ve already spilled some ink on CS, but the comic is one of the best minis I’ve read this year –Estrada’s strong illustration is a highlight to a love story that defies expectations. To my reading, Estrada warns of over-commitment and the loss of individuality in service of the relationship, but there’s also this sense owning where you want to be, even if it isn’t always a positive thing. The body horror/humor feels like a part of this comic I didn’t spend enough time considering the first go-around. What does it mean that the protagonist of our story is able to find access so easily to the inside of their lover? Why is the sore/opening a reflection of the present macro world?
Next week is the last five. I hope you’re enjoying these. See you around.