(Ned Wenlock, Ant Sang, Damon Keen, Christian Pearce, Jonathan King, Ralphi, Nani Mahal, Czepta, Matt Emery, Karl Wills, Mark Holland, Roger Langridge, Tim Gibson, Mukpuddy; 3 Bad Monkeys)
New Zealand comic book creators are making their presence known and everyone should celebrate that fact. The folks at 3 Bad Monkeys are, and their crowd-funded anthology Factionshows us why. Their mission statement seems to be pretty straightforward: "We want to show off the beautiful work that is being produced in New Zealand to a wider audience, as well as helping to inspire a new generation of kiwi comic artists and writers."
This anthology features the work of fourteen New Zealand comics creators, some of which are mind-blowingly original and all have whet my appetite for more. Of the fourteen, three artists featured in Faction 1 are of particular note.
First is Damon Keen's One Giant Leap. This nine page story of an astronaut in trouble is told in nearly 70 wordless panels that grip the reader tightly in its unfolding. Keen is a master of expression and pacing. His layout functions smoothly, utilizing perspective and closure with a deft hand, relying on the audience to provide the emotional content, tapping in to our own sense of panic, pleasure, and pathos. This short piece is comics storytelling revved high, and I would love to see Keen try his hand at a full book as I have a feeling it would be truly something to behold.
The next standout story is Do You Want To Talk About It? by Matt and Sam Emery. This four pager starts off one way and ends in a completely different place. It is in this shift that it resonates so powerfully and is what makes it so great. The Emerys create what appears to be a robot apocalypse story, but then bring it back to our world, and, in the last panel, show us it is really about all of us. It is a profoundly touching human moment encapsulated in the most unexpected place.
Finally, there is my absolute favorite piece in Faction, Bookish by Jonathan King. This eight page detective story is like nothing I've read before, though it has many echoes of tales familiar. With a staccato-like rhythm, King's Tintin-esque panels unfold a narrative that speaks to the power of books, the rituals of reading, and the stories of our lives. There is a kind of untarnished flatness to both King's art and writing that works perfectly here. It is one of the better short comics I've read in some time.
While not all the pieces in Faction are at this high level, the opportunity to see some great new comic book creators should not be missed. Especially since the folks at 3 Bad Monkeys are giving it away for free.