Digital Ash 6/17/2013: Cirque de SEALsA comic review article by: Logan Beaver, Daniel Elkin, Nick Hanover, Danny Djeljosevic
Digital Ash is Comics Bulletin's roundup of non-paper comics -- webcomics, online shorts, digital-first releases. Sequential art made of ones and zeroes. Some of it you can read for free, others you gotta to buy.
Elsewhere on Comics Bulletin:
- Singles Going Steady reviewed the week's latest drug-fueled floppies.
- Tiny Pages Made of Ashes reviews small-press and self-published comics.
What Were You Raised by Wolves?
Hell is an American city. When we lived in Chicago, my girlfriend would come home with a new story almost every day, about whatever new angry psycho she met on the train. We've been stared at by a man muttering epithets at us for over 15 minutes without pause because we dared hold each others' hands on the same bus he was riding. I'd been threatened by two different meth-addicted bodybuilders within the same four month period. My girlfriend was a student teacher at a school where 1/3 of the kids were homeless, and I was unemployed for that entire year. It seemed like we were all flailing, trying to be a success, or just an adult, or just to survive.
The main character of Vera Brosgol's (Anya's Ghost) wordless comic "What Were You Raised By Wolves?" is taken from her home as a child, but that period of adjustment (or her failure to adjust, rather) is, while certainly felt, kinda glossed over in order to get to her attempt to find her place in the world of humans. She moves to a city. She gets (and fails to keep) numerous jobs because who she is doesn't allow her to stand for the mountains of horrible, Batman-inspiring shit that people must live with on a regular basis. She gives up and moves out of the city.
Eventually, the nameless protagonist finds a place she can call home. When I first read this, it was prefaced with numerous posts about how sad the story is, but I didn't get it. She found what she was looking for, right? It was hard, and it sucked, but she made it. Maybe I'm over thinking it. Maybe I'm still completely missing the point, but maybe why the ending seems so sad is because it seems like the character is giving up on a task that everyone reading the comic is faced with. In the world of the story, she finally finds the place where she can be happy, but in the world of humans, we can't just return to our idyllic childhood if we can't find peace.
- Logan Beaver
Read "What Were You Raised By Wolves?" at Vera Brosgol's website.
The Grove Nymph
I've had the monomyth on my mind lately. I've been catching glimpses of the hero's journey story structure seemingly in everything I read and watch (and occasionally eat -- but that's another thing altogether). It's weird and a little unsettling. Perhaps the universe is trying to goad me into embarking on some sort of personal transformation, or maybe it's preparing me for what is to become of my son as he gets older. I don't know. I'm not sure how I feel about signs and portents anyway. Regardless, the world seems beset by quests of late.
Jecaro's The Grove Nymph #1 fits right into this set of circumstances. The story revolves around a grove nymph named Mira who has been lounging around a freshwater spring with her sister, Mari, for 100 years. For some unexplained reason, she suddenly finds herself possessed with some get-up-and-go, a desire for the new, an urge for change, a call to adventure. She leaves the comfort of her home and hearth and ventures into the unknown. Stomp, stomp, stomp -- lockstep through the stages of the hero's journey.
The Grove Nymph's creator, Jecaro, has little need for subtlety in his storytelling as he starts marching us through the myth. Mira eats a single pomegranate seed, saves a Pom Sprite named Papapom from a Root Goblin, meets Mama Socotra, agrees to help Mama Socotra save her kidnapped daughters, is given two arrows, and, with Papapom as her guide, embarks further into the woods. This is a three issue series, supposedly, and we are a third into our story.
There's an innocence and an enthusiasm to Jecaro's writing. It's almost as if he has only just heard about the monomyth structure and is anxious to get his ideas into the formula as quickly as he can. The pacing is almost frenetic, but, given the familiarity of the story, the reader is right there with him.
Still, there's the hint that there may be something else going on. There are clues of some sort of thematic heft that over-leap the basic structure of the all-too-familiar journey/quest, and this is why I am drawn to this book. Our first hint that there is more to this story is Mama Socotra's quiet regret for having had her life changed by eating the pomegranate seeds (harking back, of course, to the story of Persephone and Hades -- and the thickness of the emotional content of that). Then Mira receives two arrows without a bow, which, as far a metaphors go, is ripe for all kinds of unpacking. Finally, of even greater weight, the monster Mira may have to fight has a free swinging penis (and eyeballs on his knees). If this is the case... well, then, there you go...
All these seem to push enough on the edges of the envelope to make me excited by what could, perhaps, be something special. Jecaro may be using the monomyth to tell a tale, personal and emotionally charged.
That innocence and enthusiasm that encapsulates Jecaro's writing is also evident in his artwork. While there's certainly this Michael Avon Oeming vibe to his characters, there is a youthful sensibility to his line work and his use of colors. A vibrancy springs from Jecaro's panels as if he were illustrating a children's book, as if the intent is to make everyone smile.
But this isn't a children's book. I'm convinced that there is something more going on here. I'm just not exactly sure what that is. And it is this uncertainty, especially in the midst of something so familiar, that is exciting and it makes me want to read more.
- Daniel Elkin
(Chris Lewis, Bruno Oliveira, Cabral; Epigamics)
There's a long history in warfare of truly heinous acts being committed in the hopes that it will ultimately save lives. Dresden, Hiroshima, Nagasaki -- these come to mind for most immediately. But in our current era of technological hegemony, innocent lives and constitutional freedoms are dually sacrificed in the name of some kind of questionable safety through the terrifying implementation of all-seeing drones. Chris Lewis and Bruno Oliveria's web based comic Drones explores not just the horror of living under drone "protection" but also of the inherent surreality of that. To wit: we now exist in a society where our government has decided the best way to protect its citizenry from terrorists who hate our freedom is with weapons and intelligence that function by sacrificing significant portions of that freedom.
It's an alluring premise and one with almost infinite potential for action comics that Lewis and Oliveira mostly deliver on. Oliveira's style in particular is a perfect match for this story, reminiscent of the boldly abstract aesthetic Mike Huddleston brought to Butcher Baker mixed with the highly expressive character work of Deadpool MAX-era Kyle Baker. Though he could still stand to work some on maintaining consistency in his characters' faces, Drones nonetheless signals Oliveira as a major talent and one to keep an eye on, with Cabral's phenomenal color work serving to embolden and boost that already considerable talent.
Lewis' scripting, by contrast, isn't quite on the same level of Oliveira's art talents. Drones is basically a satire, where an al-Qaeda stand-in clashes with a counter insurgency that operates out of Las Vegas and has built an entire casino around providing tourists an entertaining "Cirque de SEALs" experience. As interesting as the concept is, Lewis seems a little too proud of his own ideas and he can't help but pad them out with twist after twist after twist, rather than letting the story breathe and do its thing. This is perhaps best seen through the lack of development we get with the story's ostensible leads, Mike "Stinger" Watson and Lani "Angel Eyes" Parvati, who we learn next to nothing about and whose defining characteristics are that they're drone pilots and they're sleeping together, despite that being a major military no-no. We don't learn much about how two drone pilots are so capable of taking out well-trained terrorists assassins or why all these terrorists know so much about drone pilots in the first place, but maybe that's forthcoming.
But even with those criticisms in mind, Drones is a notable work, one that shows that comics are a medium uniquely suited to high concept actioneering and big budget satire where the only limitation is maybe the allotted page count. Lewis and Oliveira are a team with a bright future, and Drones is a series that deserves attention, particularly if you want to see how webcomics have just as much variety on offer as their print counterparts.
- Nick Hanover
This One Scary-Go Round Page
I don't read Scary Go Round, so I don't know what's going on here --
-- but I don't think context is really necessary.
- Logan Beaver
I Don't Even Know What to Call This Comic by Pete Toms But Jesus Christ
Gonna make this a quick extra thing since we covered one of his comics last time: I discovered Pete Toms when he did "Virginia" with Sam Humphries in 2012 and since then he's become one of my favorite dudes putting out comics on the web. I think you can pretty much shoot up my list of favorite comickers just by making weird, funny stuff with a distinct style.
He just did a five-pager for the second issue of the comic anthology Jeans -- which I've never heard of before but now I'm really interested in -- that's partially a history of the Carvel ice cream cake character Cookiepuss (they're most famous for Fudgie the Whale) and partially Videodrome-esque VHS horror and it made me laugh a lot.
- Danny Djeljosevic