Friday, June 27, 2014

Review: THE AMATEURS

Review: THE AMATEURS is a violent, amazing debut graphic novel
Violent dreams unnerve the dreamer. They discombobulate as much as give pause. Does the dreamer secretly harbor a savage side? Does the repression of murderous tendencies which are inherent in our gizmo, a repression foisted upon us by the needs of societal stability, find an outlet in our subconscious and, when it does, cause us to stare horrified at our own riotous reflection there in the morning mirror?
We are beasts, after all.
The Amateurs
And yet, as with all of the discomforting aspects of our brutishness, we manifest our Cartesian Dualism through an exploration, the creative act, stamping universal truths on the forehead of the ape, smug in our control, distancing ourselves from ourselves through judiciousness.
Once we cage our chaos in form, the art therein becomes a gift for other apes to ponder as they secretly shudder at the self-portrait it casts back.
Such is the stuff of Conor Stechschulte's debut graphic novel, The Amateurs, a book that explores the nature of self as defined by action, as much as it reveals the simian beneath.
Ostensibly, The Amateurs is about two butchers who have forgotten how to do their job. It is encased in a framing device hinting at witchcraft and burgeoning female sexuality, and is sub-plotted by a brief commentary on the repression inherent in the roles we are expected to place in our day-to-day. It is surreal, it is engaging, and it is violent.
It is also art.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Review: Nick Berozzi's PERSIMMON CUP

Review: Nick Berozzi's PERSIMMON CUP


Jason Sacks: 4 stars
Persimmon Cup opens with a character looking the reader straight in the eye, with openhearted look on his face. He's green-skinned, with a square head and an abstract sort of body and he beckons "Come on!" while holding something in his left hand that looks suspiciously like an artist's brush.
It's a moment that welcomes readers to the book, that asks us to trust creator Nick Bertozzi and come along for the adventure that he's about to provide us. On the next page, we see a shy woman emerge from the corner of a cave. She looks apprehensive, and as the next few pages move ahead, we see why she's worried. She's going to miss the place that she's coming from and there are frightening creatures ahead of her.
As she (and we) soon see, those dangerous creatures are real. After his kind welcome, Bertozzi has brought readers into a world for which we have no basis in reality, in which we must trust Bertozzi to follow his own internal rules and deliver a story that will pay off, make sense and have powerful character arcs.
I love books that show me a place that I could never have imagined. I love meeting characters who are complex and intriguing and thoroughly unique.  And I love watching those characters solve their strange problems in ways that fascinate and spark an odd sense of recognition in me.

Friday, June 20, 2014

New (old) Fiction: CLEANING THE BASEMENT


So, last week, the fine folks at LOSER CITY had the unmitigated temerity to consent to publish on of my old stories made new through spit and polish.

It's called CLEANING THE BASEMENT 
and you can read it by clicking HERE.

The story is about an old man who has to clean his basement. 
I think it may be a metaphor. 
I think I was in kind of a dark place when I wrote it a few years ago. 
I think you might like it.


Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Review -- Jesse Jacobs' SAFARI HONEYMOON

SAFARI HONEYMOON is the New Evolution

Elkin:4 stars
Sacks:4.5 stars
Elkin: There is something inherently evolutionary about the human urge to travel. It puts us in touch with new ideas and vistas which, as a result, allow us to return to our homes with a fresh perspective regarding our normal day-to-day. It's that “didn't know you were thirsty until your well ran dry” kind of thing.
You know how it is – you take what you have for granted. Time breeds blindness. How long is it before you stop noticing the hole in the wall where that picture once hung? Comfort brings complacency. Without something new to look at we reflect ourselves back to ourselves in an Inception-style delusion of change.
And clicking pages on Google Maps doesn't count. You need full engagement, the one, two, three, four, five senses working overtime. Especially smell. True travel does not exist without the smell of new places – an olfactory adventure in itself.
Without travel, cultures stagnate, people ossify, and nobody ever questions the trammels of custom. Yet also inherent in travel is the fear of the unknown. By stepping out of your comfort zone you open yourself up to the horrors of misunderstanding and perturbation. You trade assuredly for possibility, which either makes all the difference or breaks you apart.
The mid-twentieth century Italian writer and translator Cesare Pavese once wrote,“Traveling is a brutality. It forces you to trust strangers and to lose sight of all that familiar comfort of home and friends. You are constantly off balance. Nothing is yours except the essential things: air, sleep, dreams, sea, the sky - all things tending towards the eternal or what we imagine of it.” Jesse Jacobs' new graphic novel, Safari Honeymoon, from Koyama Press upends Pavese's idea to a certain extent. In Safari Honeymoon even the things we hope to see as eternal have become almost unrecognizable, beyond perhaps what we can understand. Part jungle adventure, part “psychedelic sojourn”, part biblical allegory, part gender study, part contemporary commentary, Safari Honeymoon is much more than the sum of its parts; it becomes its own thing by being unlike almost anything else.
As these sorts of things tend to engulf with the weight of their intent, there are strata to Jacobs' narrative, theme, and metaphor. His vision and cartooning make the layers visible through the veneer, and, with seeming abandon, allow a reader of Safari Honeymoon to make what he or she wants of it. The rungs of the ladder are there, it is up to you to decide just how high you want to climb. You take from it what you are willing to work for. It is an active reader who experiences the most from this safari. The passive observer will get lost quickly and succumb to the numerous and various parasites that abound in this jungle. It's helpful to have a guide, but even a guide can show us only so much.
It's a question of how much you are willing to give up to see where you are. “Everything at some point is reduced to its most primitive state.”
Sacks: "Predetermined patterns of thinking are inadequate. Your thoughts are nothing more than meaningless clouds passing across and endlessly blue sky."
One of the strange creatures in Safari Honeymoon says that cryptic statement directly to the reader in a full-page illustration. And while that comment may be psychedelic and existential, it also comes close to sounding like a manifesto, for being the spear-point in an argument to escape your mental boundaries and allow the world that Jesse Jacobs creates to wash over you.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Review -- Jason Walz's HOMESICK

HOMESICK
  • Comic Writer Jason Walz
  • Publisher Tinto Press
Shake up a bottle of champagne and pop its cork in the middle of a crowded party. As the bubbly spurts out and cascades, covering the room, know that each person touched by even the slightest drop of it will eventually die. A matter of fact, everyone invited to the party will, at some point, die. So too, those who were left off the invitation list. Even those whom the party host has never met, they too shall die in the not too distant future.
Homesick
This is not a cause and effect relationship. It just is.
Everyone you ever met. That woman who caught your eye in a downtown bar half a lifetime ago whose image haunts you whenever you taste the black licorice zing of Ouzo. The guy who outran you in the 7th grade track meet and stole the accolades you were sure you deserved. Tomorrow's great epic poet who is bound to be misquoted on the internet leading to a fifteen second scandal nobody will remember ten seconds after that.. Today's master comic book letterer who captures a gamut of nuance in the way she forms the letter P.
Your grandmother. Your grandchild. You. Me. All of us. Gone.
What was that, Walt Whitman? Oh, yea. “Come lovely and soothing death, Undulate round the world, serenely arriving, arriving, In the day, in the night, to all, to each, Sooner or later, Delicate death.
When we experience the loss of those we love, sometimes it sends us careening through emotions like a gyroscope on a roller-coaster in a theme-park during an earthquake. Sometimes it causes us to wail vociferously at the blood moon night and suck deeply from a bottle of 12 year old Irish whiskey stolen from Costco. Sometimes it causes us to get very quiet, push others away, and not bother to shave for a few weeks. Sometimes there is just a letting go, an exhale of all the responsibilities and burdens and worries which then necessitates an inhale of the rhythms intrinsic to a celebration of life. Elegy or Eulogy – Dirge or Requiem. Regardless of your reaction to death, all reactions are interactions with the self and are finally, fully, an act of creation. What death brings to us, we bring to life. The cycle continues. The energy is refocused.
Homesick
Which brings me to Jason Walz's Homesick, a 2014 Eisner Award nominee for Best Graphic Album, published by Tinto Press. In this, Walz has taken a deeply personal story of loss and a rumination on love and has created art, pushing the idea of the graphic memoir further – he viscerally conveys a subjective perception through his linework and choices, and, in the act of controlling his medium, he unlocks the gates of that emotional sensibility and allows all of us entry.
And, from what I've heard, this is his DEBUT graphic novel.