Sequential State – the comics criticism archive of Alex Hoffman

Review: Tales from the Hyperverse by William Cardini

Retrofit Comics sent out their final set of comics from their Spring 2017 collection this November, which included the hardcover Trumptrump from Warren Craghead and William Cardini’s latest,  Tales from the Hyperverse. Tales from the Hyperverse is a personal collection in Cardini’s strange, psychedelic sci-fi/fantasy universe. I previously reviewed his comic Vortex in 2015, and compared it to Dragon Ball Z; the MIIZZZARD, the protagonist of Vortex is a super-powered champion fighting onward and upward to the next great battle.

There’s a significant difference between Cardini’s old work to the new – Tales from the Hyperverse feels more like a nature documentary. In many of the Tales, Cardini’s characters are not long for this world. They’re grist for the mill, the countless bodies required to propel the machinations of witch or brood or industry. It’s an exploration of an ecology, a sci-fi food chain, where the strange and fantastic either kill or be killed, where the top of the heap harvests poison glands, sebaceous oil, and nose horns for arcane purposes. If you read the traditional hero’s journey of Vortex immediately preceding Tales from the Hyperverse, the change in storytelling is even more stark and recognizable. 

You might call the MIIZZZARD a bit player in Tales from the Hyperverse.  He was the hero of Vortex, a champion of justice (sorta). But more importantly, this incarnation of the MIIZZZARD is wholly indifferent, a cosmic being just as likely to be the apex predator as he is to fight one. We even see him join forces with an enemy in order to regain his physical body when it eaten due to his carelessness.  This changes the structure of the Hyperverse and that has a significant impact on the tenor of the conceptual framework of Cardini’s comics. That impact reverberates through Cardini’s previous comics, changing them and making them slightly less benighted, slightly more sinister.

Cardini’s colors are fantastic here, bold jewel tones on jewel tones, and the effect is just as mind-bending as his previous black and white pattern-making; there are some clear outliers (I’ve sampled a page to show the difference) where the colors are much more muted and dark, but by and large the colors and their contrast make the collection vivid. Cardini also uses a variety of nontraditional panel layouts and a dense, warbling line which emphasize the strangeness and otherworldliness of the comics and the inhabitants of his science fantasy universe.

These short comics, strung together in this 32-page personal anthology, are likely Cardini’s strongest work yet. Bizarrely impersonal and naturalistic in their warped way, Tales from the Hyperverse is a dog eat dog kind of comic, and a fine cap to the Retrofit 2017 season.

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