Sometimes you encounter works that wonk you hard, as if head smacked by a thick blackjack. You enter a dream space and therein what you have endured through your days flows free unfettered by rules of narrative. Storytelling undulates as ideas build off of ideas and all of your influences dance naked together, at last, as they should. Here comprehension is teased as all the ingredients and flavors make sense, but ultimately the sandwich cannot bear fruit and, though satiated, you remain hungry.
Such is the stuff of Eric Haven’s UR from AdHouse Books. This collection of 6 previously anthologized short comics reads like a quilt of tales told by thick-tongued, rapid-speaking eye-bulging, modern shamans after their meds have worn thin. It is beautiful to behold, but ultimately it unnerves and I cannot avouch for the warmth it provides.
Is this humor? Is this satire? Is this surrealism? Is this a further foothold to my own madness mountain, the one from which I am slowly trying to descend without causing the avalanche bound to destroy the hamlet situated so peacefully in the valley below, the place I call home, the hearth which I have been away from for far too long?
Or is Eric Haven trying to work on a more muscular sublayer, the Jungian archetype of mandalas masquerading as donuts, the origin tale of humanity told in spectroscope by clowns who would just as easily make you sob as they would make you laugh? This is UR after all, the primitive, the original. Haven’s art here is some sort of ursprache, this collection speaks in a language you know but have to work at to truly understand.
Except in your dreams, right? When you start dreaming in Haven’s language you are reflecting back upon yourself, looking yourself in the eye with the blue mask down, as it were. Then you can begin ordering the sandwiches from the menu you only wished you could have tasted before.
But it translates and you’re probably better off for having heard what it is telling you. Stories like “Reptilica,” “Bedman, Dream Lord of the Night Sky,” and especially “Race Murdock” all work in the folds of our reptilian brain where the idea sweat collects and starts to make pools for our synapses to frolic in. Haven’s art is thick-lined and his figures eschew the necessity of shadows. The flatness of his pages adds depth to his non sequitur sequences somehow, defying logic further. But then again, this is ursprache so what doesn’t make sense only makes sense, you know?
In their solicitation for UR, AdHouse Books describes it as “Dark, absurdist, and deadpan, these stories reflect the apocalyptic undercurrent of the modern era.” This may mean more to you than it does to me, though, because I’m an anachronism and like to see my apocalyptic notions as the prevailing current.
Still, what Eric Haven has done in this collection is make fun of doom and make doom fun. What more can you ask of a modern artist struggling to make ends meet in the big city?
He also has made one hell of a sandwich, and who doesn’t like a nice sandwich?
Find out more about UR by visiting AdHouse Books’s site here