Review: Inaction Comics Anthology no. 1 – productivity,
edited by Kimball Anderson with editorial assistance by MJ Robinson
Inaction Comics no. 1 is an anthology collecting the work of
12 cartoonists into a 100-page perfect bound book that studies, fights, and
comes to terms with the concept of “action” or “doing.” Edited by Kimball
Anderson, a cartoonist whose art practice is focused on isolation as well as
the first person experience of sensation, this anthology attempts to meld the
very stylistically different work of its contributors into something of a
I tend to think of action on a gradient; there are various
levels of activity, ranging from the catatonic to the frenetic, and most people
fall somewhere in-between. It’s this sort of structure that informs what I consider
to be the main “story” of Inaction Comics, if such a thing exists. Inaction
Comics no. 1 has been split into three acts, and Anderson has contributed three
of the most narratively driven comics in the anthology, and the series shows a
couple at home, one of whom is extremely active, while the other is not. Colored
with pastel greens, blues, browns and purples, Anderson seems to be exploring
the tension in the relationship between the active and passive, despite
assurances that everything is going to be OK. In a separate and differently
illustrated piece (but potentially the same protagonists) we see the all to
standard and hurtful “On some level he has to want to get better.” As if saying
this is both sage wisdom and the truth, when in fact it is neither. Poisonous
talk falls out of focus as the main character rests.
Surrounding these four pieces are art comics by some of the
scene’s most talented cartoonists. MJ Robinson’s deconstructed comics
especially shine here; Robinson captures the innate ability of plants to grow
and change without knowing how, and they seem to be making a point about how this
theme echoes into human growth; I found this piece especially fascinating. Andrew White, a cartoonist whose work I have
previously reviewed, has three entries into the anthology, some more experimental
than others. In an intuitive piece about social interaction, White shows a
protagonists’ square head get filled up with talk by other people represented as scribbled lines, taxing the
character and finally causing something of a crisis by the final page. Laurel Lynn Leake’s contributions are unique
in their poetic approach – of all of the comics in Inaction Comics, these have
a meter of text that is echoed in the images of Leake’s comics.
There’s something very difficult about discussing the
concept of inaction in a comic book – the creation of comics is a very active
pursuit in general, so it takes a special type of structure to get at this
basic concept. Not all of the comics hit the same mark; the difficulty is (and this is sometimes the case with art
comics, and especially here) that some of the comics are fairly opaque and
require a lot more of the reader – the juxtaposition between the idea of
fighting against action/celebrating inaction but requiring extremely careful, active reading of the
audience is worth noting here.
Ultimately I think Inaction Comics no. 1 is an interesting
project and a strong conceptual piece of art. I’m not certain if I should say
it is successful; success is an odd word to use in to describe an anthology
that is clearly less interested in these sorts of performance measures.
Notably, Inaction Comics no. 1 ties very different comics (both in look,
structure, and feel) together in an overarching narrative in a way that feels
unique. The anthology’s merits lie within these differences.
You can find a collaborative comic between Anderson and Andrew White, one of the anthology’s contributors, at this Gumroad link.