Quick Reviews of Two Books you may be interested in.
CRETIN COMIX #1 by Haleigh Buck
Published by Hey Boy! Press
In order for autobiographical comics to be of any value, they must transcend the individual into the universal, tap into the zeitgeist, or play with the collective unconscious. The narrator must either be an exemplar in terms of who we want to be or who we’re glad we’re not. You got to relate, man.
In her 2015 self-published Cretin Comix #1, cartoonist Haleigh Buck digs it. Here, she holds up the cold morning mirror to her unwashed face and the reflection it holds is a simulacrum of ourselves. The harder you stare, the more imperfections you notice -- blackheads on your nose, food stains on your chin -- yet still, as you count all the things that you would love to change, you can’t help but acknowledge your humanness, and, in that process therein, end up kinda loving yourself a little.
Cretin Comix is a confessional as much as it is an anthology of moments. Buck has no compunctions about talking about abusive relationships, drunkenness, depression, anxiety, and poverty. There’s a loneliness and isolation that inhabits much of her stories that pushes back even as it compels. Her work breeds empathy, not sympathy, and, through that connection, embraces us and reassures us that we are all in this together.
Buck oscillates between half-page vignettes and longer multi-page tales of self-aware self-deprecation full of pathos and humor told in word heavy panels punctuated by perfect moments of silence. Her dense cross-hatched backgrounds and tight-lined character rendering accentuate the illumination of her intent. Everything seems slightly damp, moist with flop sweat and saliva. In Buck’s art, even in open spaces there is still a claustrophobic sense of the cages erected by judgement and reflection.
Yet in all that, there’s still an underlying beauty and sweetness and humanity to even her worst moments. The fact that she was able to draw and print Cretin Comix #1 in the three weeks before SPX 2015 speaks to her talent as a cartoonist and an artist.
Cretin Comix #1 is available through the Hey Boy! Press site HERE.
NOW NOWHERE by elevatorteeth
How do you write a review of a book, when all the best words about it have been taken already? If you missed Justin Giampaoli’s amazing review of elevatorteeth’s Now Nowhere, go read that first before you go any further here.
See, among the many challenges I have in assessing my own critical reaction to this book is to bring something new to a table Giampaoli has already strewn with delicious sweetmeats and cucumber gimlets. But that’s my problem, not yours. Your problem now probably has more to do with deciding to keep reading this or not.
Now Nowhere is not narrative as much as it is musings. Geometric shapes and human silhouettes interplay to express thought, beg for an understanding of that which may, ultimately, be unfathomable, all reaching out to connect point A to point B, while holding your hand to lead you through. This is a piece about movement and stasis, conceptualizing meaning, risographed in red and blue overlaying negative space.
There is something profound in its asking. Its conclusions pat, yet transformative. In his review of Now Nowhere, Giampaoli writes, “our reality is always susceptible to enhanced scrutiny and disappointment,” yet elevatorteeth reassures by saying, “I can create my own arrangements”. The question remains, we feel comfortable on the continuum. It’s not so much comics poetry as it is comics philosophy -- simplicity in the act of being complex, absence of form providing structure -- functioning as a diagram to the nexus. Each of its 28 pages are motivational posters hung in the staff lounge of modern consciousness.
Now Nowhere exists in a realm of koans fermented in Western questions of ultimate meaning. It asks us to step up in order to step in, deceptive and clever in its restraint. It is of the eyes as much as it is of the head, while the emotions associated with isolation and confusion (our deepest fears sculpted into world view) are put aside in an attempt at a moment of understanding, awakening, enlightenment.
It is a book that calls for rich re-readings. It rewards through unpacking, and it trailblazes through the flummox of each mistaken moment of reality.
Now Nowhere is available through elevatorteeth’s webstore.