Tiny Pages Made of Ashes: Small Press Comics Reviews 9/7/2012

A comic review article by: Daniel Elkin, David Fairbanks, Jason Sacks


Tiny Pages Made of Ashes is Comics Bulletin's roundup of small press comics reviews.


The Illustrated Press: Chicago

(Darryl Holliday/Erik Nelson)



According to writer Darryl Holliday's introduction to The Illustrated Press: Chicago, "Comics journalism has the potential to incite new ways of thinking about what non-fiction storytelling can be." That's what this 59-page collection of vignettes purports to be: Comics Journalism. In the book, Holliday and Nelson present illustrated urban stories that ordinarily aren't covered by major news outlets. Here you'll find stories of prison marriages, public chess tables, nuns picketing immigration detention centers, recent graduates understanding of the student debt crisis and more.  Holliday calls it "a cross section of city-life via conversations and stories.

And that's really what this is: quick objective flashes of reporting from all over Chicago accompanied by some pleasant illustrations which help flesh out the moments.  Each little slice is documenting and, taken as a whole, it is a form of reportage. But there lacks a cohesive theme to the collection (other than everything happens in Chicago) and the artwork, while nice, is illustrative only. It does little in the way of enhancing the narrative other than providing a snapshot of the experience.

Because of this I am not sure about the use of the term "comics Journalism" -- to me this seems more "illustrated" journalism. What Joe Sacco does is along the same lines, but at least in his books there are often times when he lets his art tell the story, or his panels work sequentially to express time and action. This does not happen in The Illustrated Press: Chicago.

While I enjoyed what Holliday and Rodriguez have put together in this package -- it's nice, it's informative, it gets its job done -- unless you have a strong interest in the life of Chicago's undeserved populations, I would have a hard time really pushing you to buy this book. Still, there is potential here, and I look forward to seeing what these gentlemen come up with next.

-Daniel Elkin


Watson and Holmes #1

(Karl Bollers/Rick Leonardi)

New Paradigm Studios



Retelling Sherlock Holmes seems to be a thing now, and Bollers and Leonardi are looking to put their take on it out into the world in comic book form, with the twist being that they're supposed to be an "urban re-interpretation" according to their Facebook page.

Bollers' dialogue can get a little clunky at parts, but is never inadequate. However, there were enough variations on "'sup Holmes" in this first issue, though, that I have to wonder if that wasn't the genesis for the comic, at least initially. I'm all for puns, but I generally enjoy them a lot more when I don't see them coming a mile away.

Leonardi's art is pretty decent, with my only real complaint about it being the very, very obvious computer effects of either cell phone screens or signs with proper fonts instead of being handwritten. It's jarring and just kind of lazy.

The story they're telling isn't a bad one, it's just not a particularly good one either. If I find myself getting bored in a mystery, you're doing something wrong.

It's only 99 cents on iVerse, though, so take a look for yourself.

-David Fairbanks



(Gordon Harris)

Collide-a-Scope Comix



In this new new self-published graphic novel, cartoonist Gordon Harris delivers a post-apocalyptic world unlike any other we've seen in comics. For one thing, there are no zombies or vampires or supernatural creatures of any type. And for another, it's an often surreal and always extremely unique take on "the world after the end of the world."

Our main character in this book is named Ray. Ray spends the whole book in the uniform of a hotel bellman, aimlessly wandering around a dreamlike and undefined landscape of destroyed bridges, gorgeous treehouse apartments and the tantalizing potential of space aliens. It's a world determined to be unreal, a world specifically designed to keep readers off balance, confused and lost, where human relationships are as mysterious as the landscape. The world that Harris creates in Pedestrian seems to flow straight from his dreams onto the printed page.

The art and coloring in this book perfectly highlight that dreamlike impression. Harris's art is both clear and vague, oddly unspecific in the way that he depicts people and places and all the defiantly atypical settings of this book. The saturated, muted, earth tone palette of the coloring complements this mood. The art and coloring keep the reader grounded in the world that Harris creates while at the same time giving us a surprisingly unusual view of his world.

I keep coming back to the term "dreamlike" in my description of this book, but it's hard to find a more appropriate word. This thoroughly strange book demands to be accepted on its own terms, as a book that you allow to wash over you. I really enjoyed this thoroughly unique work, but those looking for a specific and clear plot might want to look for a more conventional post-apocalypse story.

-Jason Sacks



Daniel Elkin has been reading and commenting on comics since the mid '70s when he used to wear a great deal of brown corduroy. Currently he lives in Northern California where brown corduroy is slowly becoming fashionable again. Daniel has worked in bars, restaurants, department stores, classrooms and offices. He is a published poet, member of MENSA, committed father, gadfly and bon vivant. He can over-intellectualize just about anything and is known to have long Twitter conversations with himself (@DanielElkin).

P.S. He keeps a blog, Your Chicken Enemy.



David Fairbanks doesn't get many things right the first time. He studied physics in college, loves science, music, comics, poetry, movies, books and education pertaining to all of the above. He will talk your ear off about Grant Morrison and Ben Folds, has an indie bookshelf larger than his Marvel, DC and Vertigo ones combined and if he ever actually grows up, more than anything else, he wants to still be happy as an “adult,” whatever that is.

Mostly self-indulgent ramblings can be found at @bairfanx and untilsomethingbreaks.blogspot.com.



Jason Sacks is Publisher of Comics Bulletin. Follow him at @jasonsacks, email him atjason.sacks@comicsbulletin.com or friend him on Facebook.

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