Tiny Pages Made of Ashes: Small Press Comics Reviews 1/25/2012A comic review article by: Danny Djeljosevic, Daniel Elkin, Jason Sacks
Tiny Pages Made of Ashes is Comics Bulletin's roundup of small press comics reviews.
The Death of Elijah Lovejoy
(Noah Van Sciver; 2D Cloud)
Not every historical figure warrants an in-depth biographical comic based on a very specific period of their lives. Some people in history have had notable moments that deserve to be illuminated, but maybe a shorter format is needed. Good thing we have minicomics for that, so people can find out about figures like Elijah Parish Lovejoy, a minister and newspaper publisher who took a lot of heat in the 1830s for being an abolitionist, a controversy that hit a fever pitch when he condemned the public lynching of an escaped slave who killed two men. Which is both insane and deeply worrying -- that people decided to turn their anger towards a guy who called for letting the law do its job. It's not a story I'd have known if it weren't for Noah Van Sciver's The Death of Elijah Lovejoy -- which came out in 2011, but I only just discovered it at a comic shop last month.
After an informative, context-creating two-page text introduction, The Death of Elijah Lovejoy opens in medias res as the angry mob is set to storm Lovejoy's last printing press (they had already destroyed three), and Lovejoy and his comrades are set to defend it. What follows is an action comic -- a surprise to me, even though, as I've found out, he's approached violence before -- but an action comic with huge weight as it becomes a battle for the freedom of speech against an unruly, irrational mob. It's every smart person's nightmare, and it's humanity at its ugliest, brutality expertly illustrated by Van Sciver.
They'll make expensive movies of the huge battles and the decision makers, but it's hard to account for the myriad events leading up to something like The Civil War. By isolating the eponymous death of Elijah Lovejoy in one compact gut-punch of a minicomic, Noah Van Sciver makes a historical footnote feel damn near apocalyptic.
You can buy The Death of Elijah Lovejoy directly from 2D Cloud.
- Danny Djeljosevic
(Jennie Wood, Jeff McComsey; 215 Ink)
Sometimes the best way to woo the girl of your dreams is to become a boy. Especially if you are a girl to begin with. Or maybe you're not a girl. Maybe you're not even human. Still, though, if you're wild about a girl named Saffron, and she just mad about boys, it may be best to approach the relationship from the male perspective. Or maybe not. Sometimes these things get so confusing, right?
There seems to be all sorts of intriguing things going in the 24-page first issue of Flutter from 215 Ink. Writer Jennie Wood seems to be playing in a huge sandbox filled with grains of gender roles, super powers, government cover-ups, teenage angst, family dysfunction, homophobia, gay marriage, race relations and love. While it sounds like there is a lot of sand in this box, Wood has the moxie to pull it all together, each grain falling into place as if through a carefully constructed hourglass (wait... am I mixing metaphors again?).
215 Ink says this about Flutter:
Fifteen year-old Lily has spent her entire life on the run with her father, who is wanted by the FBI for stealing classified research. When they relocate once again, this time to a small town in upstate New York, Lily reaches her breaking point. She wants to know why she never gets sick like others or bruised when she crashes her bike. Depressed, she spends the summer playing with knives and diving off bridges. Recklessly riding her bike around town, she almost runs over Saffron. Instantly smitten with Saffron, Lily puts her death wish on hold and pretends to be someone she's not. While dealing with the consequences of her decision, Lily finds out that she’s the stolen research the FBI is after.
This pretty much sums up the first issue. Like I said, there is a lot going on here and it's wearing boots capable of a great deal of walking. In Flutter, Wood is playing with some real hot-button issues, but she seems to have the sense of when it is best to press them and when it is best to leave them be. The only issue I have with this book is Jeff McComsey art. Not that it's not good, because it IS good, full of interesting angles, panel layouts, dynamism and a profusion of the color purple. My problem with his art is that many of his characters look awfully similar and it was a little confusing trying to figure out who was who in this initial issue. It was an unnecessary distraction in an otherwise really good read.
Still, I found the profusion of themes ripe for exploration in this comic more than compensate for any confusion I initially had. I think that as the story progresses, Flutter is going to be one of those books that we end up talking about a few years down the road for its bravery. Supposedly there's a 110-page graphic novel on the way which will probably build castles out of all the grains of sand Wood is working with. I, for one, look forward to her watching her construct them.
You can read the first issue of Flutter for free at 215 Ink.
- Daniel Elkin
(Alessandro Cremonesi, Valentino Sergi, Adriano Barone, Christian Marra, Jorge Coelho, Alain Poncelet; Passenger Press)
Black Odyssey is a new indie-minded take on Homer's classic poem, told in three parts, each by a different team of international creators. Each volume is composed of a series of double-page spreads similar to classical Greek art, presented in a limited edition and published with text in English, French and Italian. I've read and loved The Iliad since I first read it in high school, and have enjoyed plenty of different interpretations of this famous story since then. But I've never read a version of these stories quite like these really strange takes on the classic epic poem.
For example, book one, focusing on Telemachus's quest for his father, reads like the oddest mix of a porno comic and a war epic you might ever read. There are more naked tits and erect penises in this chapter than you'll find on many erotic websites, and certainly more actual vaginal penetration than I remember from Homer's epic. It's not that I'm bothered by a bit of porn with my comics; I'm bothered more by the fact that I can't make any sense of the story as written in the English captions. This may be a problem with reading the book as a PDF, but dammit I thought it reasonable to want some story with my sex.
Book Two, focusing on Odysseus's journey, contains only one image of a naked woman, with no dicks and no vaginal penetration. It also focuses on the aspects of the Odyssey that we all know best, including a smart, alternate take on the Cyclops, a surprisingly restrained sex scene with the lotus-eaters and a dynamic, if slightly wrong-seeming, take on the Kraken (why do the villagers call "ia! ia! Cthulu Fthagn" to summon the Kraken?)
Then Book Three brings more sex and violence, this time beginning with several scenes of beautiful naked women pissing all over our hero and followed by more scenes of explicit sex. We get scene after scene of naked women, their labias faithfully drawn in loving detail by Alain Poncelet, peeing all over our hero and once again completely taking me away from the story.
I know that the point of Black Odyssey was to create a more avant-garde take on The Odyssey. I admire the creators' dedication to that idea, especially to an Odyssey with far more sex than I read about in Mrs. Manfredi's class. But much as I like seeing naked women having sex with men who have big dicks, I also wanted a lot more story to go with my porn. Homer deserves better.
For more information on Black Odyssey, check out its IndieGoGo page.
- Jason Sacks
Danny Djeljosevic is a comic book creator, award-winning filmmaker (assuming you have absolutely no follow-up questions) and Co-Managing Editor of Comics Bulletin. Follow him on Twitter at @djeljosevic or find him somewhere in San Diego, often wearing a hat. Read his comic with Mike Prezzato, "Sgt. Death and his Metachromatic Men," over at Champion City Comics and check out his other comics at his Tumblr, Sequential Fuckery. His webcomic The Ghost Engine, with artist Eric Zawadzki, updates twice a week.
Daniel Elkin wishes there were more opportunities in his day to day to wear brown corduroy and hang out in lobbies. He has been known to talk animatedly about extended metaphors featuring pigs' heads on sticks over on that Twitter (@DanielElkin). He is Your Chicken Enemy.