Tuesday, June 25, 2002

From the Reading Pile XI
I don't know if I trust Media Diet's search tools, so who knows whether the entry numbers associated with the standing headlines and content categories I made up mean anything. Regardless, here's another batch of zine and comics reviews. Lucky seven this time!

Discontent #12 (early 2002)
Katherine Innis recently turned 30, echoing some of the angst that I experienced when I turned 29 and recounting how she continues to hold onto the patterns of her youth. She considers -- as I did not too long ago -- her habits and rituals, and admits that she has started checking people's ring fingers -- which I also do now. Good to know I'm not alone in the zinemaking world! She also lusts after real estate. I think I'm in love. Rob shares some favorite footnotes out of context, name drops Philip Larkin, and shares an affinity for Vladimir Nabokov and Hunter S. Thompson. There are winter drink recipes, photos from a concrete playground, reviews of the unauthorized biographies of Star Wars star Ewan McGregor (which reveal his penchant for profanity and his bloodline, which includes the actor who played Wedge Antilles in the original Star Wars), and a found-text rider contract. Discontent is slim but shines brightly. Can't ask for much more four times a year. Katherine Innis, P.O. Box 24, Brattleboro, VT 05302.

Ben Jones handed this 56-page self-published comic to me at the Picnic and said, "My whole life has been aiming to this," or something to that effect. Reading back to front, right to left, this comic, which sports a comic featuring the Popples, is supposedly not a "stoned comic." "Could I do this?" Ben asks before drawing a wild-style icon. "Does this pen work?" It works. The book contains one- to six-page strips, as well as Sharpie-drawn sketchbook pages that feature most of Ben's popcult icons: DJ's, ponies, musicians, Gumby, Tux Dog (a welcome newcomer!), breakdancing, an angry Alfe, Bart Simpson, cloud and balloon lettering, and several new road-tripping pals I hope to see again. While I'm not sure whether this is the magnum opus Ben was going for, I'm impressed -- several of these short pieces have promise as longer parts, and I hope Ben tries the longer form again soon. Paper Radio.

Hickee #3
Another brilliant anthology from Graham Annable and friends. There are the usual hits and misses, but the hits hit hard, so the misses don't really matter. Graham contributes several installations of "Movie Night," one with Joe White (who depicts animals in a delightful Greg Cook style), offering more detailed and mature work when compared to his usual Sam Henderson-esque fare. Nathan Stapley's "Human Monkey" made me laugh out loud. Vamberto Maduro's angular linear designs were consistently pleasing. David Bogan shared a Tim Burton-infused morality tale. Joe White's "The Bear" made for a nice piece of homosexual apologetica. And Paul Brown's "Baby Money" made me laugh out loud again, while his "Blind Date" made me smirk. Room for improvement in this already impressive project? David Soren's "Mr. Chuckles Takes a Bath," while clever, felt overly animated in its cartoonishness and served up more near-gay apologetica. Bill Buzardi's "Tick" reminded me of Jeff Nicholson's Ultra Klutz but was overly sketchy and oblique. And Vicken Maulian, even if he is Razmig's younger brother, didn't really belong -- yet. On the whole, solid, and well worth $5 for 60 pages. Kudos again to Graham. Graham Annable.

A 34-page field guide to computer and computer-generated icons relating to thought, storage, art, self, presence, and personality. The icons appear to be primarily Mac-based and -influenced, and the descriptive text is written in an overly academic, pomo, art-critic style, touching on the images' composition, coloring, and connotation. The icons are held up as fine art and described appropriately, and the overall effect is oddly affectionate. "The Trial" and "Family Portrait" are wonderful, and the entire Self sequence, which comprises seven images, is ecstatically existential. "Not Home" and "Conference" are among the most emotive. "Are you the signifier? Are you the signified? Does it matter?" A brilliant bit of technological transparency and truth telling. $2 to Ben Balas.

If God Were to Whisper
A screenprinted cover adorns this Ben Jones-gifted collection of almost poems. The writing hinges on religion, meaning, confusion, love, faith, and hip hop. The "Managerial Fun Facts, to Live by..." page is important, as is the last page, handwritten as a freestyle rhyme. But otherwise? More miss than hit. I'd rather see the handwritten brainstorming pages, as uneven as they may be. Paper Radio.

Return to Normal
James Sturm's dark look at the reactions to 911 draws heavily on Byron Barton's children's book Airport. These six black-and-white images (covering 12 pages) carry the calamity of the day, as well as the civil rights concerns of Arab Americans and the people targeted because of the tragedies. The piece on p. 7 is particularly moving. This slim edition shows that James has moved far beyond Cereal Killings, as good as it was. It also shows that James should produce widely available work more frequently and that a 911-related book can be tasteful and telling. This mini beats the bank compared to the other 911 books that have come out, even Alternative Press'. Not sure how to get this one, but try Drawn & Quarterly.

Typewriter #5
Talk about fucking shit up instead of following function! This edition of David Youngblood's anthology is freaking brilliant. With a tuck and fold binding strip, the comic accordions out to pages roughly half of 11-by-17, with some pices running up to eight of these pages. And, oh, the pieces! Graham Annable's "Madora" carries the call of lost love. Chris Wright's "Burning Corpse," "Tide," and "Asposded" installations are an excellent Lewis Trondheim-inspired look at lost love and life. Michael Bonfiglio's "Shake Bones Group" reminds me of Greg Cook by way of Dame Darcy. Jonathan T. Russell's trying to be Jessica Abel too hard. Ron Rege, Jr., does his unparalleled cute brut thing. Youngblood's "Baby Grumpus" doesn't deserve eight pages, even if he did edit the thing. And Carrie Golus and Patrick Welch (who had a great comics journalism piece in the May 16 edition of New City) offer 23 Abel-meets-Jeff Zenick views of the Uptown Theatre, which don't quite deserve six pages despite their worthy look at lost history. Despite the occasional editorial largesse, Typewriter remains an innovatively constructed and creatively compiled anthology. Someone ask Youngblood to edit the next SPX anthology! David Youngblood, Typewriter.

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