Sequential State – the comics criticism archive of Alex Hoffman

Comics That Challenged Me in 2018: Part 2

We’re back today with the second of four posts of the Comics That Challenged Me in 2018. What were your thoughts about the first five books? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments or over on Twitter. The first part of the list had some fantastic books, and so does the second. Let’s jump right in to the selection and get moving.

2018 List Write-ups: : Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Full List

Alright – Max Baitinger

Max Baitinger is doing some really interesting work on Instagram right now, and his new collection Alright brings that new work into a collected form. How people engage with social media and how interaction is made more complex by social media is a central theme to Alright. Baitinger puts into words the ways in which apps like Instagram and Facebook Messenger train us to interact with our friends’ lives. Conceptually, the comics in Alright exist in the liminal space between moments. It’s a collection that lives in the in-between, the not good and the not bad. Printed in fluorescent orange, the comics’ color scheme emphasizes its strangeness.

Prism Stalker vol. 1 – Sloane Leong

I’m not reading a lot of comics distributed to the direct market, but Sloane is a cartoonist I have been following for a while, and her recent series Prism Stalker is a reason to get yourself over to a comic book shop. Prism Stalker is a powerful examination of colonialism and the stripping of native identity wrapped up in a psychedelic, vibrantly-illustrated comic that refuses to adhere to the sterile visions of science fiction so common and popular in current writing. Vep, the protagonist, is pulled away from her family and sent to an analogue of the Native American resident schools of the 1800-1900s. The goal is clear – suppress the students’ spirituality and cultural identity, and teach them to suppress the native creatures with the same kind of ruthlessness. It’s a smart comic that makes you play by its rules, and Prism Stalker reminds me what good science fiction can be about.

Grip – Lale Westvind

Speaking of comics that make you play by their rules, Lale Westvind’s Grip is likely the best thing she’s ever done. Grip whirls around you, dizzying in its intensity and its focus. I wrote a full review of this book earlier this year, and think it ended up on a lot fewer best-of lists than it deserved. Grip continues to have me in its grip, and I’m looking forward to the second installment.

7songs – Haejin Park

One of the strangest print objects I’ve seen in several years, 7songs is a “double album,” a comic that unfolds in the center to two books on either side, each with its own spine, each playing off the other. The illustrations are wild, inventive, and gorgeously colored. What is so fascinating about 7songs is that the narrative changes based on how you open the pages on the left or right side of the double book. Park’s beautiful drawings are full of symbolism, and each book of the double album offers its own complexities that are only fully revealed when read in tandem.

Qoberious v.1 – DRT

Qoberious v.1 was a fascinating read, complicated and smoky. It was hard to know where to begin with the book, and DRT’s use of psuedoreligious and sexual imagery overtop of intense formal experimentation made it a puzzling read. I wrote an entire review of the book at the beginning of December, and it’s possibly one of the most complicated books I’ve read. Still, I found the experience rewarding, and found more and more in its murky depths every time I read it.

We’re half-way there – the rest of the Comics That Challenged Me in 2018 list will go up next week. Have a great weekend!

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