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10 September 2008

GOOD MINNESOTAN EPISODE 2

Good Minnesotan Episode 2 featuring Ed Moorman, Gail Kern, Meghan Hogan, Joseph Nixon, Alex Witts, Raighne Hogan, Luke Holden, Nicholas Breutzman, John Holden and P.M.
86 pages. 8.5" x 7 ". $12.   Black and white with Ellie Poo paper cover.

Like Episode 1 before it, Good Minnesotan Episode 2 is an example of how great a fine hand crafted minicomic can be.  This book is a truly beautiful thing to read, look at and hold.  The first issue was really strong and the second improves upon that good start.

I'm always excited to see some work from one of my favorite young cartoonists, Ed Moorman.  The book starts off with a beautifully drawn Moorman piece about Bob Dylan. (Samples above.)  It's a fun little illustrated fake interview where Dylan speaks in song lyrics to answer the interviewer's critiques.  I can tell that Moorman is playing around with it and experimenting with his cartooning chops and page layouts.  There is a Chester Brown kind of thing going on with the panel arrangements and some really nice sight gags that are both funny and true to the whimsical side of Dylan.  I can't speak for how a Dylan fan would feel about it but as a comics fan I like it a lot.

Meghan Hogan delivers a lovely piece that is more of an  illustrated monologue than comics but it's still an enjoyable piece.  The drawings have a lot of emotional weight and Hogan gives the character an honest and believable voice. 

Like the first issue, Good Minnesotan 2 has an inclination toward adventurous art and design.  There are several pieces that are part sketch, part mixed media and part poem.  These things are fantastic to look at but often hard to review other than to say that I really enjoy them.  Joseph Nixon (sampled above) contributes several exciting pages with spontaneous graffiti feel to them.  
Raighne Hogan again contributes some beautiful and ambitious work.  Cloak of the Moon features Raighne Hogan working with Alex Witts in a story that is more traditional in it's execution but still a treat to look at. 

Luke Holden's untitled piece (sampled above) seems to come from a different world than the rest of the book.  Much of the Good Minnesotan work feels like and attempt to fuse  mixed media, painting, poetry and prose into cartooning but Holden's work is much more a study in cartooning itself.   Holden uses a strict system of panels and rigid pacing like Brian Chippendale's Maggots to play around with motion and light.  Like Maggots, if there is a story going on I have failed to notice it but there is a tone and life to it worth reading.  I'm not sure reading is the right word though.  There is something about the short lapse of time between the many panels that challenges my mind.  It makes me study each panel for changes in detail and feels more like a game than a story.  It's almost the opposite of Josh Latta's panel-less Rashy Rabbit #4 which moves so quickly without the panel borders that it seems to read itself.  Holden's panels, again, like Maggots, force you to be invested in each panel, each motion, each transition.  Having read and re-read Maggots and now this,  I still don't know how to wrap my mind around this kind of storytelling.  I know there will be continued discussion on it.   Looking at this piece, and Moorman's piece and this book in general, I am increasingly aware that minicomics/alt comics/underground comic/etc. comics  are officially in a post-Chester Brown post-Fort Thunder world.  I as a cartoonist and writer-abouter-of-comics need to invest more time and thought into these kinds of narrative experiments if not to improve myself to but better understand the work of others.  At this moment, all I can say is that I like it but I just don't yet know why.  Let me also be clear that I'm not assuming that Brown or any of the Fort Thunder gang are influences on Moorman, Holden or any of the Good Minnesotan cast.  I'm just saying that this art must come from a place similar to that art and that it is a place I need to spend more time visiting
My favorite entry in the book is The Ripoff by Nicholas Breutzman and John Holden.  It's probably the most traditional bit of comics in the book and there is nothing especially outstanding about the cartooning or writing.  It's just really good.  Honest characters in a funny situation.  Just good comics.  Good writing, good drawing, good inking, good lettering.  Just good comics.  I like it. 
If you, my file under other reading pal, have not been able to hold an issue of Good Minnesotan in your hands then you really should make the effort.  As I always say, the computer scans can't do the book justice.  It is simply a beautifully crafted minicomic anthology that needs to be held in your hands to be appreciated.  As I said in my review of the first issue, I am excited that a book like this exists and I am encouraged that a regional group of talent this good was able to get together.  I hope to see more and more of this kind of thing.  Good Illinoisan?  Good Oregonian?  Good Virginian?  Chop chop you forty-nine other states.  What are you waiting for?

Your best pal ever,
Shannon Smith

(p.s.  Apologies for not covering every single contributor and piece in the book.  It's a pretty thick book.  I tried to include as many of the contributor's links as I could find in the credits under the cover image.  I encourage my file under other pals to check out the links.  You will find a not of really neat stuff.  I did.)
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