February 25, 2015

Books in Bites: Three Comics Worth Your Attention

I've been bogged down by both the obligations of teaching as well as this tendon issue in my elbow, so I haven't been writing reviews of late (that, and I've been questioning why I'm even doing it). I do want to take a few moments, though, to point to a few books that I wanted to give some positive press to.

Honey #1
(Celine Loup)

Honey #1 was not what I expected it to be at all, and it's so much the better for that. It's an anthropomorphic bee story, sort of, in which the honey bees all look like cover models for Vogue in the 1920's and one or two of them suffer from existential ennui. Like I said, it was not what I expected (although, to be honest, I'm not really sure what my expectations were).

Celine Loup does some amazing things with her art in this book, most notably with her use of color to accentuate mood and add dynamism to her pages. In terms of storytelling, just when I thought the book might be teetering on ham-fisted melodrama, Loup throws another curve into her narrative which kept me eagerly turning pages a'plenty.

After reading Honey #1, I will never look at butterflies in the same way again. Also, Loup has exponentially added to my fear of wasps. Thanks for that.

You can purchase a copy of Honey #1 here.

Herman the Hot Dog #2
(Haleigh Buck, Hey Boy! Comics)

When the cover of your book sports both a nervous looking hot dog wearing sneakers and knee socks and it's emblazoned with a “Mature Audiences ONLY!” admonition, you're already playing the hype game at a top-shelf level. The problem with this kind of hype, though, is it usually masks something unworthy of that kind of sonorousness. NOT SO with Herman the Hot Dog #2.

Right out of the gate, Buck spares no decorum or sensibilities with a story called “Jeers of a Clown” that starts off as a story about trying to increase a television station's ratings but then veers off into places that I just can't even talk about – it's offensive, it's wrong on so many levels – but it's tear-inducing funny. It's not often that I find myself sitting alone in my house with a book in my hands and laughing so loudly that I scare my dog. I mean, I seriously let loose a thundering guffaw. When was the last time you let loose one of those?

Buck finishes up Herman the Hot Dog #2 with a couple of seriously wonked shorts in which Herman the Hot Dog … well... it's just some seriously, wonderfully fucked up shit that you just got to see for yourself.

This kind of humor may not be to everyone's taste (wait, I think I just made a pun), but it worked in my head something good. It's hot dog humor taken to the next level.

Too Dark To See
(Julia Gfrörer, Thuban Press)

I'm a big fan of Julia Gfrörer's work. Her book, Black is the Color, is still one of the best comics that I've reviewed. Gfrörer's line work and storytelling are consistently first rate in terms of their ability to attract and disgust simultaneously. With little effort, she brings you into these vivid worlds redolent with a dark sexuality and the fragrance of relationships souring, and just when you think you are comfortable with where she has brought you, she kicks you in the head with some anachronistic or out-of-left-field moment that leaves you unsure of your footing in the real world.

Her 2011 mini-comic Too Dark To See is a perfect example of Gfrörer's talents. Here is all you need to know about this artist in one small book. It is a Gfrörer book insomuch as everything is on the verge of collapse, and yet out of this miasma of despair, something completely alien to your expectation occurs to twist the ending into something else. Not necessarily happy, but not horrific either. Gfrörer ends Too Dark To See in an entirely different place than where you ever could have expected to go when it first began.

And it doesn't ring false or unnatural. It just makes its own sort of illogically logical sense within the world of the book. It's voyeuristic as much as it is participatory. And that's what Gfrörer does best. She forces you to be inactively engaged and then highly-charged emotionally cold. I know that doesn't make any sense, but it's the best I can do when dropped in the liminal space she creates.

Too Dark To See is another book that you really need to read for yourself to understand even slightly what I am talking about.

You can pick up a copy here.

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