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Checklist 3

Here are some quick little reviews of comics knocking around DOMINO HQ:

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Spiders Visit by Sarah Ferrick

This was one of my favorite comics I’ve come across lately. It’s hard to tell if this is the author’s first comic—but it feels that way. That is to say, while the artist has certainly done a lot of work exploring their own world of images prior to making this book, the way this strong imagery is translated into a comic is, at the risk of sounding hyperbolic, thrilling. A least thrilling for an artist like me. There is a strong, strong sense of storytelling here, but removed from all the accepted ideas of what comics ‘needs’ to have to constitute good storytelling. Grids are not considered, nor are word balloons. That’s good—because Ferrick is more interested in more important things: a inventive sense of drawing that, while scraggly, is very downbeat. Unlike a lot of shaky line artists, Ferrick’s aesthetic is not one of manic assault but instead more matter-of-fact. Her characters are solid units of drawings and her rooms are expressive without being filled with throw away gestures. But it’s Ferrick’s compositions that strike me the most, particularly when she gives us a large drawing of Lumpy (one of the two characters here in this one-act play like narrative) sitting and talking to Spider. Lumpy is a ragged piece of drawing at the center of an almost bare room—I get the comfort of a children’s book from this image, but also the deeper satisfaction of looking at a fully articulated style of personal drawing—and, what’s more, Ferrick shows us Lumpy and Spider talking, deftly moving the story along without any strain or showiness. The story itself is quite moving—one friend visits another one, and one suggests that the others home is bare and uninviting. What Ferrick does that so few other art comic creators seem interested in is develop these characters through sparse dialogue and reactions and opinions subtle but rich with feeling and intelligence. These characters don’t ask you to like them or impress you. They act out something hard to define—my reactions to their story was all over the place, and that’s what true comics-as-poetry ought to be. I’m less interested in fractured sentences written within a panel than I am in difficult emotions and intentions being achieved so well.

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The Golem of Gabirol by Olga Volozova

This is Volozova’s follow up to her book The Airy Tales. As much as I like that book, I greatly prefer this one. Sparkplug founder Dylan Williams once told me that he thought of the work of Trevor Alixopulos and Chris Cilla as being the modern equivalent to the greatness of prime-era New Yorker art. It might be a stretch but I could see some of that quality being what attracted Dylan to Volozova’s art, especially this project. Volozova’s drawings are not hip, they are not showy—and at times within this comic they are very thin, barely there and grounded only by lots of ink wash. But in that imagined spirit of what-The-New-Yorker-could-be-today if it still followed through on the spirit of Steinberg and Thurber, Volozova applies the approach of a painter to the medium of pen & ink and wash. It’s hard to imagine the reception of a rich work like this one in an average comic store, when a complicated approach like this often needs to be paired with ‘weird’ content. Volozova has presented us with a folk tale drawn with the visual rush of Fort Thunder but without the counter-culture trappings. And the fact that this is a black and white stapled comic instead of a paperback (like her last project) means that the majority of people who encounter it will be comic-book people. It’s up to the reader to do the work to embrace this richly deserving work—there is no hook other than that it’s a strong work of art. The comics world likes to think of it as a place that embraces such things, but here this book sits, waiting for the reception it deserves.

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Dionysian Spirit by Leslie Weibler

Like Volozova and Ferrick, Weibler gives us a rich world of imagery that elicits a range of emotions and thoughts. I bring it up not just because this is a strong work and deserves people’s attention, but because the seriousness of its purpose is notable for the same qualities being absent in so much of the work I see being placed on ‘best of’ lists this year. What is admirable about a young artist like Weibler is that there is no attempt to drag the reader in by dressing the work up in the clothes of trendy drawing styles so that this complicated book of thinking-on-paper goes down any easier. Weibler’s comics are nothing but her art, her unique style and presentation. It’s interesting to think of Weibler, Ferrick and Volozova putting these strong books out in a field that seems more interested in well-executed but basically limited work by artists like Alex Schubert. I spend a lot of time reading virtually every sentence that comes out of ‘major’ online comic writers, and their blind spot to work like this is probably a question of personal taste, but is still pretty depressing. Art is what we all care about, right? Here is a work of art that doesn’t impose any limitations on itself—the artists working mind and heart is what we are confronted with.

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Metamorpho #7

I’m not sure if Ramona Fradon drew this issue or not. Maybe it is Joe Orlando? Either way, I love the goofiness of this comic and the cartoony drawing. That checker border bar on the top of the comic is beautiful too. I would give this comic to a kid—a funny looking character in a bright rubbery world. I love Fradon’s interview in Alter Ego, where she basically says how horrible it was working in comics. I bet it was! But I’m glad she gave us this sane, well made comic for children. A hard fought creation!

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