The Comics of Independence

*And good times were had by all. This was going to be an exciting double review post also featuring Crickets #1 but then the dog ate my blogging time. Short version: a decent enough introductory chapter to an ongoing horror-flavored serial, with some really excellent panel-to-panel cartooning. More tomorrow. I also really need to get some stuff up on 99 Ways to Tell a Story this weekend…

Earth Minds Are Weak #5

I reviewed the first four of these books, all minicomics by Justin J. Fox of Cliff Face Comics, back when I was writing reviews semi-regularly at Comic Book Galaxy; those issues formed a complete story, and of it I noted “…the execution makes one largely hopeful for the author’s future [rather] than necessarily satisfied with the work at present.” This new ‘issue,’ which is actually a trio of small, thematically-connected booklets tucked away in a red envelope, marks just the clear step forward that one might have hoped to see following the conclusion of that initial serial.

Fox’s progression as a cartoonist is evident from the first and longest of the package’s component parts, I Love You!, a 16-page b&w book, simple folded ’n stapled white paper. A simple bit of narrative play, the story concerns two characters, a male and a female, both of them drawn in an attractive, curvy stick-figure style. The male speaks for the first half of the book, as the female remains (largely) unresponsive, and then the lady takes over after you cross the staples, with the fellow now silent. As one might surmise from the title, the topic is love - more exactly, it’s about the failure of love to connect when we most desire it to. The male is creepily boisterous in his initial declarations of ardor: “I love your puke! Your puke tastes like inside you!” increasing in intensity to “Each drop of my blood is a red tear of love celebration!” All is for naught, and only after the line is crossed does the female begin to feel sweet for him, and by then it’s way too late for the feeling to be mutual anymore.

Simple stuff, but well-done - upon comparison to the oft adorned, sometimes visually cramped Woodringesque symbolic drive of prior issues, the focus on simplicity here is encouraging, with character action nicely expressive, like vivid signatures, and the dialogue lettering quite a bit of fun. And even better is the next item in the package, Good-Bye, a full-color 8-page production on sturdy stock. This one is a dream comic (as Fox himself mentions - plenty of art samples at the same link, by the way), wordless, but clearly connected to the prior piece by virtue of its focus on love gone away. It’s much more somber, drafted in a style more similar to Fox’s prior works, though the use of color neatly sidesteps the muddy quality that the b&w of issues #1-4 sometimes sported. And it’s good use of color, popping nicely, with some interesting use of texture (including half-legible words plastered all over the walls).

The last book included is also the lightest, the 8-page b&w Lincoln isn’t the Awesome, a direct page-by-page response to the initial issue of Carl is the Awesome, a humor comic by fellow Cliff Face artist Marcos Pérez. While most of the humor of Carl revolves around the extreme confidence of its titular dinosaur/beaver protagonist, the laffs here rise from the intense depression of Lincoln, a porcupine creature (and neighbor of Carl) with a twirly barbershop quartet mustache. I guess its maximum appeal is limited to those who’ve read both books, though there’s a few chortles to be extracted from Lincoln’s super-sad dialogue (“My body turns hugs into pain…”), and even the looser art found here shows good progress. And even this ties into the overarching concern, that of dejection and misplaced feelings. Really, Lincoln can be seen as the ‘end’ of this little procession, just as the Valentine-red envelope itself is like the beginning.

Fox is already working on issue #6, another full-color production and a ‘magic’ comic (“designed to affect life itself”); I’ll be looking forward to it. In the meantime, you can spend your two bucks to get this little bag of books, and poke around on all of the blogs and sites linked above - Fox is also a well-spoken critic, as I mentioned in my Galaxy review, and his critique of Black Hole ("I'm afraid, and a little bit ashamed, of a medium that has produced so few great works that this is held in such esteem.") in particular is worth reading.