Tiny Pages Made of Ashes is Comics Bulletin’s small press review column
We all live our lives these days with halos around our heads – bubbles of tweets and facebook messages, chats, emails and tumbls; we constantly receive likes, favorites, comments — a vast virtual world of virtual communication that hovers around our heads like an electronic mask that points inward. It’s a thrilling world, a world of instant communication and with a strange addictive power and intimacy that both distances us from the so-called real world and brings us closer to those we love.
Hey, I’m no hater of social networks. I’ve tweeted nearly ten thousand times, made many new friends on the social networks, and generally have seen my life improve dramatically though my involvement on Facebook, Twitter and the other services. But this book shook me up. Box Brown’s new mini, New Physics, is an eerie and compelling extrapolation of our world of virtual halos into a 24th century world in which that halo is part of something called the New Physics, a kind of virtual-network-cum-scientology arrangement that “rebalances” peoples’ lives, in which people say they are “trusting in the godhead” while also connecting people to the events and people that surround them.
It’s a world of always-on communications, a cultlike future led by mysterious men named after characters from the Babar series of kid books, in which it’s declared, mantra-like, that “chaos is the natural order” and that one must conform in order to enjoy all the fruits of the New Physics. It’s also the kind of work that drills itself into your bones and will not let go.
This is a thrilling small graphic novel of ideas. Drawn in his customary minimalist style, unadorned by black shading but with an accent of pink that shows the power of the New Physics and the virtual world, Brown creates a tale of deep dread and horror that requires the reader to do much of the work to construct the back-story and find connections to their lives. I was struck by the fact that at first I was intrigued by the world that he creates here, excited by the idea that I could live my whole life in a bubble, enjoying my halo, connecting to my friends. But as I went on, through cult-style talking points and towards the deaths, the world turned darker, scarier, like a small but frightening extension of our world. After all, who among us doesn’t have a virtual halo around our heads all the time?
Though one should never read authorial intent into a work of art, it’s easy to see New Physics as a wake-up call, or at least a call to occasionally pop that halo and imagine a world in which we don’t trust in the godhead to help bring us enlightenment. Like Brown’s Number One from earlier this year, New Physics sits on the border between real and unreal, on the fragile line between reality and artifice, between the place we see with our eyes and the world that really is out there.
– Jason Sacks
Order New Physics from Box Brown from his site.
The Complete TARN
You know, sometimes it’s okay just to laugh. Really, you don’t have to worry about stuff all the time. A matter of fact, why don’t you just take a few moments right now. Go ahead, give yourself permission to giggle.
What’s that you said? Having trouble finding something to laugh at? I find that hard to believe. Have you looked at your feet lately? Those things are hysterical. No? Nothing?
Hmmmm…. I know what will do it. You need to go and get yourself a copy of Sam Spina’s The Complete TARN from Birdcage Bottom Books. If you’re not laughing by the time you’ve finished TARN, then you may want to seek professional help.
Because The Complete TARN is funny.
The Birdcage Bottom folks say this on their website:
TARN is about an all encompassing mega corporation run by a powerful and mysterious leader. See how a butt-hungry alligator, a very Japanese dude, and a crime-fighting pig come together in the sequel to one of the top-grossing movies of ALL TIME. What, you have no idea what I’m talking about? Of course you don’t, bich! Read it to find out.
And that pretty much sums it right up.
In the past, I’ve talked about what I perceive as the humor gap. What was considered funny yesterday is no longer funny to a newer audience, and what passes for humor nowadays is completely lost on old codgers such as myself. It’s like what I wrote when reviewing Michael Kupperman’s Tales Designed to Thrizzle Volume 2 , “Are we the cipher of a new understanding or are we so inured to absurdity that we expect it in everything, from our entertainment to our sandwiches to our political choices?” I don’t know from modern day funny. For me, absurdity has a place, much like salt, best if used only sparingly. But these kids today don’t have the time for the long-form joke. They live in a visual world, and, as such, want their giggles in technicolor.
The Complete TARN somehow bridges the gap. Don’t get me wrong, though, in this collection of intertwined stories of social constructs and personality flaws things are dog-dragging weird and head off the rails quickly; however, there is a careful hand at work behind it. Spina plays a long con with his small jokes and gets big laughs along the way. There’s strength of narration here that puts the abs in absurdity if you will, and this, along with consistency of character (no matter how lunatic that may be), allows for expectations among the unlikelihood modern humor so often posits as a punch line.
This is a good thing. It makes for a better experience all around. It will give you something to laugh with, instead of at. It’s just as funny in the telling as the retelling, if you know what I mean. And it’s definitely funnier than your feet.
Oh, it also comes with a sticker. Who doesn’t like a sticker?
– Daniel Elkin
You can pick up a copy of The Complete TARN from Birdcage Bottom Books here