These are some of the comics I brought home from SPX. This post will be updated for the next few weeks or so.
By Noah Van Sciver
While these tiny little blurbs aren't official "reviews" or anything serious, I still feel a little guilty churning out some kind of dipshit personal essay style missive...and yet, I feel like it would be disingenous to ignore the emotional reaction I had upon turning to this page in Blammo 9. It comes towards the end of what one hopes (for the sake of CCS) is an exaggeration of Noah's time spent at that school in Vermont. The emotion I had one was one of astonishment at how far Noah has come in the last 8 years that I've been reading his work followed immediately by the painful reminder that I won't be standing in a comics shop tomorrow morning answering the occasional "what are you reading" question by grabbing an issue of this off the wall. A dense, inexpensive comic that demands an investment of time and attention that it is rewarded ten times over--this is one of the best things he's done, and that's the feeling I've had every time I've read something by him in the last two years. Disquiet, Fante Bukwoski, Blammo 8.5, My Hot Date--they're all great. They're inspiring work, read in the knowledge that he got good the only way I can understand, by just obsessively making and making and making. I've never denied my affection for discipline and machismo, and to see what that kind of attitude can produce....I wish I could disengage from it enough to talk about it more analytically. To argue for its value as an artistic achievement. Not because I think that is what it needs, or because it would help the work sell--nothing like that. But because it would be the small token; it would be the petty coin that one could offer to show that the hard work that has been given has been returned with a hard work in kind.
Cankor: Calamity of Challenge #1
By Matthew Allison
Matthew has been making Cankor drawings and comics for years, I first came across them at Bergen Street Comics, where the aggressively drawn muscular striations and dripping skin, giant figures in landscapes that looks like overly realistic depictions of Herriman landscapes served as a perfect respite from the walls of comics with similarly violent themes. Taking on its own, this issue--which feels like Allison's best drawn comic yet, even if I'm wrong and it's just been a while, it's great, great stuff--is an astonishing comic, opening with a monstrous yet vaguely autobio section that reads like its written by Gilbert Hernandez making fun of Michael Deforge which gives way to a glorious, atonal sequence on some kind of moon, where characters rip open the landscape to reveal distended corpses and send others splintering into oblivion, then a manipulated author photo calling back to the autobio section, a one page guest pin-up that has more work put into it than most artists put into six issues (it's by Buster Moody, he deserves a raise at whatever it is else that he does), and then--and this really comes out of nowhere--a perfect one page homage to John Porcellino in the form of King Cankor Comics. Let me abundantly clear, by repeating myself: this comic book is fucking astonishing.
A short back-and-forth between Muradov and Foster-Domino that employs the former's love of language and the latter's geometric line effectively, resulting in a funny slice of the two cartoonist's shared affection for one another. Eight pages, it's probably all online somewhere, but there's something to be said for having it in cupped hands.
Diary Comics #5
By Dustin Harbin
I was only at TCAF for a few hours this past year and missed this installment of Dustin's Diary Comics series. While it's possible to keep up with Dustin's work on his website (and I imagine many do), i've been out of step with comics since the closing of Bergen Street Comics, making everything here (except for the heartbreaking "Dream" from last December) totally new to me. This collection is the most painful one Dustin has done, and considering the reputation that autobiographical work has for being lonely-worship solipsism, it's strangely courageous to see Dustin--one of the few people in comics that is funny in the sense that he makes you laugh, as opposed to being called funny because he makes you feel like you're safe--commit to the relative mundane topic of habitual exercise, middle-aged ennui and everything else that comes with break-up recovery. Ultimately, the collection works because of its unsentimental commitment to said mundanity, essentially setting the stage with "Dream" and then continuing onward at a specific, intensified pace while Harbin puts in the hours (both at his day to day existence and in front of his sketchpad) making his way out of pain. I think the main reason that people tend to respond so negatively towards the idea of autobio comics about feelings is that they (rightly) think that many of them are performative rehearsals of negative feelings, center-of-attention showcases for self-obsessed children. Dustin's work, as far back as I can remember, has never been guilty of that. Diary Comics 5 may have the most graceful of openings, and the ending may be a closure-free bit of downcast whimsy--but that's to its credit. It's a lovely piece of work.
Space Rope: Mars & Venus
By Casey Bohn
A personally prophetic horror mini-comic from 2011 republished with two additional stories by Oily Comics, Space Rope follows the titular rope from space through three stories. While the violence throughout the comic is offset quite a bit by the retro-esque style dialog and cartooning, there's an extremity to the whole thing that underlines the personal significance that the stories have for Casey, some of which are made explicit in the mini's afterword. A strangely touching mini-comic still firmly in touch with its horror roots.