Tiny Pages Made of Ashes 1/24/14: Detained, Frozen, Making TideA comic review article by: Justin Giampaoli, Jason Sacks
Tiny Pages Made of Ashes is Comics Bulletin's small press review column
Making Tide & Other Stories
Eroyn Franklin grabs the potential reader with a kaleidoscopic pop of red on the cover and pulls them right in. Overall, the pieces found in Making Tide are largely about perspective. The lead story focuses on a righteous topic, the contention between documenting experiences (ie: hiding behind a camera) vs. being present and actually living them. This occurs via excerpts of travel time abroad in fishing villages and rocky island structures, with interesting notes about “The American War” (from the POV of the Vietnamese), which reminded me of old southerners prone to call the US Civil War “The War of Northern Aggression.” There’s an assuredness to Franklin’s lines here, something that was perhaps a little absent from previous outings. I can’t quite put my finger on the difference; I’ve enjoyed her previous work, though it felt a touch apprehensive compared to the tight focus and confidence of Making Tide. It’s as if Franklin knew exactly what she wanted to say, and then… just did it. The protagonists of the book happen upon an accident and, ultimately, their experience captures the drifting state she wanted, in order to not be disconnected from the reality she’s presented with. This lead story is the strongest, but they all exhibit what an introspective thinker Franklin is, and how we connect to each other and the world around us, how the nature of memories can unexpectedly be colored good or bad.
- Justin Giampaoli
More Info: www.eroynfranklin.com
A Frozen World
The world that Nick Andors creates in A Frozen World is a dark and terrifying place, a city of grotesqueries and humiliation, of deeply upsetting violence and grim emotional and physical agony set in a futuristic metropolis that seems to amplify the turmoil that his characters feel.
Andors delivers four interlocking stories in this graphic novel, each one as disturbing as the one before. Death is a constant in the bleak city of Irongates, an ever-present force of both relief and fear, freedom from pain and instrument of revenge. In the lead segment, we're introduced to this strange urban landscape as a surreal dark horrific oppressive force, as the death of an anonymous man leads to his being treated like just so much human flotsam to be ignored and looted. There are some wonderfully dark black and white, almost hallucinogenic images here that are so compelling that you can't help but to stare at the same time that you are compelled to look away.
The second story provides an interesting contrast to the first, but it's dark in a very different way, hinging on a man in deep emotional despair about the dreadfully brutal murder of his wife – and the bizarre methods he takes to keep her memory alive. This piece shows that while love survives in Irongates, the city twists that love. When bleakness is a way of life, shocking choices are made.
Familial affection is twisted into shocking shapes in the third and longest section, a deeply upsetting humiliation and devastation of personal dreams and aspirations. This is the piece that demonstrates the terrible darkness of the world that Andors creates while also showcasing the bleak beauty of his art. This was an incredibly difficult tale to read because of the brutal treatment of a child that's at the center of the story.
The final piece is a bit of an epilogue, providing a quiet meditation on the horrors of mortality.
A Frozen World is a unique creation; a dreadful, painful and sincere parable of human-level horrors in an unfeeling and disembodied city filled with terrible horrors and mutilation, drawn in a stark style of deep contrast black and white. It's not for the weak of heart or those who seek redemption in their stories, but for readers who look for challenging material that will shock and stick in their minds, this original-feeling graphic novel will fit the bill.
- Jason Sacks
More info: afrozenworld.com
There’s just one word for Eroyn Franklin’s Detained project: sprawling. Detained unfolds to become a 26-foot long accordion book. Wait. Slow Down. Back Up. Read That Again. Detained is a 26-foot long accordion book.Thematically, it explores the nature of immigrant detention centers in Washington State via two panorama stories, one involving an INS facility and one involving the Northwest Detention Center (NWDC). The whole package is clever, with two diagrammatic fold-out posters, a cover sheet, and an articulated sleeve to house the contents (with an instructive “how-to” comic, no less!), but the piece de resistance is the experimental accordion book itself.
Gabi’s follow-story in the NWDC documents an immigrant detention process that seems indifferent at best, while being hostile and inhumane at worst. It’s a gray area place where your choices are basically a) continue to file appeals and stay detained for years, or b) sign voluntary deportation orders. At times, Franklin’s work is so rich that it plays less like a grand comic book experiment, and more like investigative journalism. It was terrific seeing how she used blue outline traces to show figure movement or the passage of time. There’s some exposition to the work as she flings facts furiously, but it’s necessary to weave together all of the varied stories.
The detention centers, as shown, are basically prisons, where the abuse and hypocrisy systematically run rampant with no legal recourse. Here, officials can make up a legal name for you if they happen not to like yours, fail to background their contract employees (who might be illegal immigrants themselves), delay food to detainees for days, call you a number, prevent you from using your crutches, subject you to invasive medical procedures, provide no translator – but force you to sign legal documents anyway, and pay you $1 per day for a job that’s denied a full-fledged citizen. Detainees are essentially treated worse than criminals. Incarcerated criminals have some rights, you see, because they’re citizens. Detainees are, by definition, not citizens.
Many’s story at the INS building is just as bleak. Here, detainees await deportation at “Seattle’s Ellis Island.” Franklin’s lines shine again, blue-line renderings with architectural aplomb. Here, the environs seem a touch more hospitable, yet the choice on outcomes is more dire and restrictive. You’re essentially detained indefinitely if you can’t be deported to places like Cambodia or Iran, countries where we have no repatriation agreements in place. It’s ironic that the term “permanent resident” becomes a meaningless designation, when you can still be deported. Here, the embassy number listed on documents dials a local sandwich shop, and you have no attorney privilege because the charges are civil and not criminal.
Franklin uses a wall of names in the compound to indicate both where detainees are from, and where they’re going. It’s an endless loop that’s bolstered visually by her chosen format. The accordion style of the book emphasizes the perpetuity of the detainee problem. I’m not entirely certain this subject matter and the litany of factoids work fully as a story per se, vs. a piece of investigative reporting that needs to be exposed, but there’s no denying the brilliance of the construction alone. It’s worth the price of admission just to admire the ambition on display. The color choices are inspired as well, the strong figure work is surrounded by dull blues and grays, emphasizing the drab nature of this politicized existence.
- Justin Giampaoli
More Info: www.eroynfranklin.com