Tiny Pages Made of Ashes 11/15/2013: Brutality and FascismA comic review article by: Daniel Elkin, Jason Sacks
Tiny Pages Made of Ashes is Comics Bulletin's small press review column
Saint Cole Part One
(Noah Van Sciver)
If comic books came with a scent, Noah Van Sciver's latest release through Kilgore Books, St. Cloud Part One, would smell like a wet Saint Bernard who has been vomiting up the leftovers from your newborn's Diaper Genie. It's that kind of story, a Van Sciver story, head tilts and all.
This is the story of an average fella, aptly named Joe, who has been building his life towards some sort of stability – he's bucking for a promotion at the restaurant where he works, and he's got a newborn son with his live-in girlfriend. It apparently only takes him one week to subsequently dismantle it completely through his own character flaws. Or maybe it's intentional. It's a Van Sciver story, head tilts and all.
Alcohol, infidelity, drug abuse, isolation, good intentions, bad results, missed opportunities, mildew, blowjobs, fantasy, reality, cum in a cup, vomit in the shower, and retards in the rain. It's a Van Sciver story, head tilts and all.
Van Sciver's art continues to impress. In Saint Cole he knows when to keep things open and when to get them inky. The fluidity of his lines add to the tone he's working on. That smell that I mentioned at the start of this review? It emanates as much from Van Sciver's cartooning as it does from the story he is telling.
Reading Saint Cole is sort of like being a heavy smoker and running a marathon. Just when you think you have passed that point where it can't get any worse... it does. With head tilts.
This is just about the most brutal thing Van Sciver has created so far. It seems to come from a place of hopelessness and despair – as if Van Sciver is not only incapable of bringing joy to the world, he revels in enveloping himself in the thickness of defeat.
And yet I find myself drawn to Saint Cole.
At some point I have to ask myself to what end is this kind of abuse? What pleasure do I take from this schadenfreude? What greater truth about human nature does this bleakness engender? What kind of man am I that I find myself drawn again and again to Van Sciver's work?
Perhaps the answer to this final question is the point of his art. Instead of pointing the finger at others, perhaps it is time I start pointing it at myself.
Van Sciver has been running Saint Cole on his website, The Expositor, along with Joseph Remnant's Cartoon Clouds, for a few months now, but Kilgore Books has recently published the first 40 pages as a floppy (and they've only printed up 250 so get yours now). You can pick up your copy here.
- Daniel Elkin
Strong Eye Contact
Narrative is fundamentally a fascist idea that is disconnected from the way that most people perceive the world. Stories are a manner of finding connections in our lives, of drawing patterns, of making sense of our experiences, of discovering how characters move around in the world. But though we impose our own storylines on our inner worlds, we also know that our existences are nothing but a collection of events, a series of moments that we make our way through and in which we try, often in vain, to find explanations, apply reason, become clearer about discovering deep meaning and connections and find sense in every little thing that we experience.
Christopher Adams's Strong Eye Contact is a creation that defies the standards of narrative and forces the reader to engage deeply in the work as a way of discovering connections in what he or she reads. Drawn in a deliberately simplistic style with gaudy marker lines, children's crayons and obscuring square patterns, this book nominally tells the sad sack story of a confused, balding aspiring comedian who meets a series of small failures in his life – locking his keys in his car, accidentally causing his dog to be hit by a car, cooking imperfect waffles with his new waffle machine, and much more.
We want to empathize with this unnamed man who's never named and whose life seems like a series of small, frustrating torments. After all, Adams shows readers the pain in this man's eyes when a police officer confronts him, gun raised; and we can feel sorry for him when we observe him passed out drunk on a basketball court. But at the same time, Adams's childlike rendering style and sometimes abstract images purposely distance the reader from empathy and from the need to track an overarching story in these 100 pages.
In the end Strong Eye Contact is not a narrative as much as it is a powerfully unique series of images on a related idea. Adams forces his readers to confront not just the nominal tale he tells, but also the way that we perceive the narrative that he presents, the technique by which our eyes move around the page and attempt to make sense of the ordinary chaos and weirdness of everyday life. Narrative is fascist and Adams is an anarchist throwing bombs. ¡Viva la Revolución!
Order Strong Eye Contact from 2D Cloud.
- Jason Sacks