Tiny Pages Made of Ashes is Comics Bulletin’s small press review column
(Danny Djeljosevic / CJ Camba / Zak Kinsella / Marissa Louise / AJ Bernardo)
Longtime Comics Bulletin writer-slash-editor-slash-man-estraordinaire Danny Djeljosevic has put out some wonderful comics via our friends at Loser City, including the terrific graphic novel The Ghost Engine (which I plan on reviewing here soon, I promise, Danny!) and this very fun 32-page anthology book. Kids Rule!!! presents three stories, anthology comic style, which made me smile a lot because they were inventive and fun.
The first story, “New Wave Cthulu”, illustrated by CJ Camba, is a clever mashup of 1980s new wave and bad hair, and old wave horror in the form of the multi-tentacled Cthulu. Danny keeps the tone of the story light and a bit mysterious, with the inevitable twist coming perfectly from character and reminding me of the classic metaphorical “deal with the devil” that has been said to launch the career of many a popular singer. In this story, Danny displays a good eye for pacing and for dialogue, as we watch the two protagonists bob and weave around each other verbally, with the inevitable triumph happening organically. The presence of Cthulu reminded me of the wonderful comics of Matt Howarth, in which Cthulu was the drummer in an interdimensional rock band… any story that draws comparisons to Those Annoying Post Brothers is a winner.
“No City Above” features animation-influenced art by Zak Kinsella and Marissa Louise that does a wonderful job of conveying the sense of artificiality and strangeness in an oppressive future city where moods and behavior is coerced by the government. The pastel coloring and loose character designs accentuate the weirdness that Djeljosevic wants to show, and when this story flips to its conclusion, which is full of moral complexity and difficult personal choice, the atmosphere provides a fascinating contrast to the world that has been created. This story feels very contemporary in its view of eternal surveillance and control.
If the first story feels a bit old-fashioned and the second feels contemporary, then it stands to reason that the third should feel futuristic. “No New Movies”, with art by AJ Bernardo, opts for futuristic storytelling and colors, a slashing, fragmented approach that captures slivers of time and space juxtaposed upon each other in ways that stress the strange drama and thrills of the events that occur here. This story begins strangely and explodes into impressionistic violence and film quotes that results in some thrilling 20-panel pages that left me a bit breathless. This is the story that I kept coming back to to gain clues about the events that happen in it. Little is explained, but there’s a sense that Djeljosevic is dropping clues throughout this story and that if you can assemble all the pieces together, you can find a story that is greater than the sum of its considerable parts.
Yeah, our old pal Danny has done good. Kids Rule!!! does rule the comic page, full of thrills and quality storytelling that represent the past, present and future of comics in one terrific package.
– Jason Sacks
Order Kids Rule!!! at Loser City.
Sometimes you encounter works that wonk you hard, as if head smacked by a thick blackjack. You enter a dream space and therein what you have endured through your days flows free unfettered by rules of narrative. Storytelling undulates as ideas build off of ideas and all of your influences dance naked together, at last, as they should. Here comprehension is teased as all the ingredients and flavors make sense, but ultimately the sandwich cannot bear fruit and, though satiated, you remain hungry.
Such is the stuff of Eric Haven’s UR from AdHouse Books. This collection of 6 previously anthologized short comics reads like a quilt of tales told by thick-tongued, rapid-speaking eye-bulging, modern shamans after their meds have worn thin. It is beautiful to behold, but ultimately it unnerves and I cannot avouch for the warmth it provides.
Is this humor? Is this satire? Is this surrealism? Is this a further foothold to my own madness mountain, the one from which I am slowly trying to descend without causing the avalanche bound to destroy the hamlet situated so peacefully in the valley below, the place I call home, the hearth which I have been away from for far too long?
Or is Eric Haven trying to work on a more muscular sublayer, the Jungian archetype of mandalas masquerading as donuts, the origin tale of humanity told in spectroscope by clowns who would just as easily make you sob as they would make you laugh? This is UR after all, the primitive, the original. Haven’s art here is some sort of ursprache, this collection speaks in a language you know but have to work at to truly understand.
Except in your dreams, right? When you start dreaming in Haven’s language you are reflecting back upon yourself, looking yourself in the eye with the blue mask down, as it were. Then you can begin ordering the sandwiches from the menu you only wished you could have tasted before.
But it translates and you’re probably better off for having heard what it is telling you. Stories like “Reptilica,” “Bedman, Dream Lord of the Night Sky,” and especially “Race Murdock” all work in the folds of our reptilian brain where the idea sweat collects and starts to make pools for our synapses to frolic in. Haven’s art is thick-lined and his figures eschew the necessity of shadows. The flatness of his pages adds depth to his non sequitur sequences somehow, defying logic further. But then again, this is ursprache so what doesn’t make sense only makes sense, you know?
In their solicitation for UR, AdHouse Books describes it as “Dark, absurdist, and deadpan, these stories reflect the apocalyptic undercurrent of the modern era.” This may mean more to you than it does to me, though, because I’m an anachronism and like to see my apocalyptic notions as the prevailing current.
Still, what Eric Haven has done in this collection is make fun of doom and make doom fun. What more can you ask of a modern artist struggling to make ends meet in the big city?
He also has made one hell of a sandwich, and who doesn’t like a nice sandwich?
– Daniel Elkin
Find out more about UR by visiting AdHouse Books’s site here