I’m glad that there’s a tradition of short story anthologies in comics. In comics you can accomplish a lot in a few simple pages; it’s a medium well suited to the format. The last few years have been great for short story collections, and this year also looks good – we’ve got Carolyn Nowak’s first collection Girl Town coming out later this year, and recently Chicago-based cartoonist Raziel Puma released Yellow Light #1 from Low Key Label. Puma is a cartoonist I follow on Instagram, but doesn’t have any other published work I’m aware of. Yellow Light is an oversized full color 28-page anthology of short stories reminiscent of the one-person alt comics anthologies of the past (think Acme Novelty Library or Eightball).
The anthology starts out with a letters page and two smart black and white comics – one on the nature of police brutality and the other on oral sex. These quick, smart comics set up the tone of Yellow Light, which is darkly funny, and somewhat melancholy, and the work more or less follows those lines.
Puma’s work shines best when he’s working with a limited color palette. His comic “The Phone Call” features a man making a phone call to a woman who it seems like he likes. He’s trying to psych himself up to have a good conversation, but says all the wrong things and makes a complete ass of himself. “The Phone Call” is the kind of cringe humor that doesn’t work well for me, but it’s really well executed. Of all the comics in the collection, the standout piece in the book is “Picos de Europa,” where a young woman deals with her father’s death, and the death of a regular customer at the grocery store she works at in starkly different ways. It’s subtle and beautiful, one of the best comics short stories I’ve read in awhile.
Puma’s fully colored comics are a different animal. While the front and back covers look great, his first full color comic “I Want to Kill Myself” looks starkly different. In “I Want to Kill Myself” his colors are scratchy and mottled, and the linework is less polished than the other selections in the book. The same is true for “I’m Not a Good Person,” his other full color comic in the book. Both of these comics look a little older, perhaps, and “I’m Not a Good Person” lacks forward momentum; that specific comic feels like an excerpt of a longer story and doesn’t have a whole lot going on.
The production values are also a little mixed. The book has a nice paperweight and it’s oversized. The colors on the cover look clean and attractive. It’s nice to leaf through. But the printing could stand to be improved – some of the comics are really clean, while others have a lossy quality, as though the printer was working off of a compressed file.
Yellow Light #1 is bogged down by production issues and a few pieces that don’t pass muster. But with that said, for a first book, I think Yellow Light #1 has a lot going for it.There are some genuinely good comics here. I’d happily read more of Puma’s work in other anthologies or a Yellow Light #2, provided he irons out some of the kinks that are present in this first issue. Let’s see where he goes from here.
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