Tiny Pages Made of Ashes is Comics Bulletin's roundup of small press comics reviews.
Holli Hoxxx Volume 1
(Austin Tinius, Adam Tinius, Stefano Cardoselli; Bogus Books)
Rating: 5/5 stars
Ok, I'm not going to beat around the bush on this one, and I'm not going to try to sound either clever or hip. A matter of fact, I'm not going to hold in my emotions at all. Dammit, I'm giving myself permission to gush:
I LOVE HOLLI HOXXX VOLUME 1!
If this book was a sandwich, it would already be in my belly and I would be dreaming of eating it again.
The last time a Tinius hooked up with a Cardoselli, they brought us the ball-slapping mindfuckery of Dr. Muscles. This time, in Holli Hoxxx Volume 1, they tone down the ball-slapping and amp up the mind-fuckery, and, by doing so, unleash a thing of beauty, genius, art, love, joy, and wonderment.
If this comic was a pillow, I would never get out of bed.
In the world of Holli Hoxxx Volume 1, it's the year 2051 and gravity has ceased to exist. This, or course, complicates pretty much everything, unless floating off into the cold reaches of space and suffocating/freezing to death is your thing (and if it is, I really don't think we can date). Since 2021, the Tycho Corporation has cornered the market on gravity boots, literally anchoring their market share to the ground. But a new company is on the move. The Newton Company has created giant pyramid shaped "Newtons" which emit a gravity field which will seriously cut into Tycho's profit share. At the start of this book, The Newton Company is set to shortly switch on their machines and bring the floating island of Manhattan back down to where it once was.
As if this was not complicated (AND WONDERFUL) enough, while setting up the "Newtons" a couple of workers uncover what they think is the dead body of an amazingly beautiful woman. This woman is Holli Hox, the former spokesmodel (and artificial construct) for the Tycho corporation, who has been missing for decades.
The plot pinballs expertly between Holli's search for answers as to where she has been and how she ended up there, the industrial intrigue going on at Tycho and The Newton Company, the lives of a couple of The Newton Company's working stiffs and the comings and goings of the Lunaticks (a beautifully imagined group of street thugs who have taken over Manhattan). The whole book is one big endless unfolding, sprinkled with amazing character development, plot twists and mystery. Nothing is simple in Holli Hoxxx Volume 1. The Tinius boys have complete control of their story and absolute trust in their readers to follow what they are doing.
And if the story telling wasn't enough to grab you by the short hairs and command your attention (and it is, trust me) there is Stefano Cardoselli's art. This book is the perfect vehicle to let Cardoselli shine, allowing him full rein to to pack his panels with all sorts of grand gestures and subtle moments. His color palette runs the full spectrum and his hand vacillates from loose to tight at the exact moment of perfection. This is an artist on top of his game.
Did I happen to mention that I LOVE THIS COMIC? Because I do.
If Holli Hoxxx Volume 1 was my bank account I would be buying the Eiffel Tower right now just to spit on the Parisians with impunity (not that I have anything against the French).
Do yourself a favor. Get this book, fall in love, and be sure to thank me.
Holli Hoxx Volume 1 is available for purchase from Bogus Books.
Rating: 4.5 stars
I'm a real sucker for books like this one.
I'm a sucker for books that seem completely saturated in black, with deep, intense shadows that seem to imply darkness, or complexity, or intensity, or a certain sort of comic-booky depth that not only seems to swim in deep, intense, lovely pools of ink, but also which is plain beautiful on its own. And The Astronomer has darkness in spades; darkness filled with violence and strangeness, punctuated by the distant light of stars that brighten the evening but illuminate nothing.
And I'm a sucker for books that are filled with mystery but seem to explain nothing. I love comics that are mysterious and seemingly complex; that force the reader to not just understand exactly what's going on in the story but what it all means, in a deep sort of level of comprehension. I love it when the reader is forced to parse through all kinds of symbols and totems, abstract concepts and hard realities in order to really begin to have a grasp on what is happening in the story — even while the deeper meanings are intensely, doggedly, out of reach.
And not least I'm a sucker for interesting art. I don't need Rags Morales style slickness to make a story flow well for me. Morales is great working with Grant Morrison on Action Comics but this is The Astronomer, a fiercely independent sort of small press comic that is channeled from Matt Rebholz's m
ind right onto the comics page. Matt Rebholz's art is lovely in its intense ugliness, in his eye for complex details and, yes, in his deep passion for blacks so black that you feel you can disappear in them as completely as Rebholz's lead character disappears into them.
There's a real plotline in this wonderfully illustrated story, something about an astronomer and massive destruction and viaducts and beings who seem deeply influenced by ancient South American tribes. And I suppose if I had the patience and the interest in figuring out the plotline, I could parse it out on some level.
But in some ways, parsing out the story would remove the magic of this comic that resonates with me so deeply. If I took the time to figure out what really was going on in this story, would it lose some of its interest for me? I think I'll be happiest if, unlike an astronomer, I watch the story but don't necessarily try to track its arc.
For more information on this book, visit Matt Rebholz's Etsy shop.
Grey Area: While the City Sleeps
(Tim Bird; Avery Press)
At 28 pages, Tim Bird's Grey Area: While The City Sleeps feels like a much longer piece of work than it actually is. A trio of short pieces about London at night-time, the issue saunters along at a collection of angles, with nothing left unturned. Bird writes and draws the issue, which has an almost hypnotic sense of pace in all three of the stories. It's a simple enough piece of work, telling vague, undefined stories which work more as autobiographical thoughts than any kind of intricate narrative; but Bird has an assured sense of tone and style here, and his artwork works perfectly within the stories he tells.
The most striking thing is the way in which Bird establishes night as an inclusive theme throughout the three stories. Despite being in black and white, Bird doesn't use heavy inks to make each page a shadowy, indistinguishable mass of darkness — rather, he expresses the idea of the night-time in each panel. The second of the three stories is most successful in this regard, following somebody walking round London at night, seeing a series of unconnected images which somehow sum up the twilight community.
The third story tells the closest thing to a story here, but the art is a little looser than in the previous works — whilst it has the strongest narrative and writing, the artwork is weaker and the character models slightly off-kilter. However, Bird still manages to work in some memorable images into each of the three stories, and ultimately comes up with a solid piece of work which forms a neat collection of ideas and panels. Grey Area isn't a revolutionary comic with outstanding story — it's a dreamlike, quiet comic which lets readers follow at their own pace, quietly enjoying the scenery.
For more on Grey Area, visit the publisher, Avery Hill.