Here is a look at five more minis I picked up at this year's Fluke show.
Sunday School Lesson by J. Sorese
This is one of the books I actually paid for. The fantastic cover pulled me in and I could not resist. The scan does not do the cover justice. There is a purple sheet glued on top of a grey sheet with the letters cut out to show the grey. Then when you open the cover there is a beautiful orange silk screened image on a translucent yellow page overlying the table of contents. It is really a fantastic looking minicomic. I remember several others at the show talking about it so let this be a lesson to self-publishers, yes, extra time spent on the fancy cover may sell a few extra books. Unfortunately the substance of the book did not live up to the high expectations set by the cover. I'm a Craig Thompson fan and the look of the book and the drawing style made me immediately think of his Bible Doodles book. It is probably not fair to Sorese for me to have expected this book to compare to Thompsons' work but the drawing is so close I can't help it. Unlike Thomspon's book there really are not any stories going on in this. It is essentially a short collection of Bible inspired drawings. Now, in it's defense, the drawings are pretty spectacular. The closest thing to a story is a three page riff on Noah's ark that folds out into a neat storm drawing. As I said the drawings are really fantastic so I'm glad I picked up the book. It's main weakness is that the cover and the drawing are so good that it made me expect and want much more.
Fantasy Adventure Quest by Sean K.
Speaking of Craig Thompson, is it just me or are we (and by we I mean I) seeing more and more comics with a Craig Thompson influence? Maybe it's just me but this book also looks a lot like Thompson. Sean K's drawing is very strong but there is some inconsistency. Some panels have strong pen work. Others have strong brush work. Some just look rushed and haphazard. The story is a light and loose feels like it was made up from panel to panel. The title pretty much explains what the thing is. Swords, dragons, dungeons, punching and fighting... you know, fantasy adventure quest stuff. It's a very fun minicomic and good enough to make me want the next issue.
The Secret of Coldberry County by Allen Spetnagel.
This little mini is more zine than minicomic. It's a short horror story incorporating some photos and some drawings. The story is predictable but sufficiently creepy to merit picking up the zine and passing it on to a friend to creep them out. I want to live in a world where someone I know would make something like this at least once a week and sell it to me for a dollar or trade it too me for a soda.
Living Underwater Volume One by Kathy MacLeod.
I generally think that when a critic uses a know talent to describe or rate someone else's work that it is a cop-out and shortcut to thinking which should be avoided. You know, like when I compared two other books in this review to Craig Thompson's work. Well, consider me a cop-out but I can't help but think that I'm seeing a lot more books like Living Underwater post-Jeffrey Brown. I don't want that to sound like an insult. I love Jeffrey Brown. I just can't help but point out that I'm seeing more books that either may not have existed without Brown or maybe I would not have noticed them without my eyes having been opened to the brand of sketchbook diary for which Brown is famous . But enough about Brown, let's talk about Kathy McLeod. In short, she's good. I like this stuff quite a bit. It's random and inconsistent and messy like sketch diary comics can be but it's also interesting and funny and heartfelt. My favorite bits are when she injects her own analysis and editorial on the diary strips themselves. It's a subtle psycho-analytical twist I see a lot of in Crumb's auto-bio comics.
Living Underwater Volume Two by Kathy MacLeod.
Both of these books look nice and have charming color covers. Forgive me for sounding sexist but there is something about minicomics handcrafted by women that you don't see in many male produced books. I see a lot more collage and even scrapbook techniques not only in the cover designs but in page layout. Maybe it's just me. MacLeod's books have a lot of that feminine charm I have seen in Laure Weinstein, Sara Varon and Aline Kominsky-Crumb's comics. It's the type of thing I can't put my finger on. There is a joyfulness and simplicity that I can only attribute to being void of male aggression and, err, well, show-off-i-ness. (Yes. When you don't know how to say what you want to say use bad grammar and made-up words every time.) This second volume by MacLeod is a giant leap in storytelling from the first. She breaks away from the repetitive diary strip style and lets the page layouts and pacing suit the story. There are some nice longer pieces where if she had told the same story in the first volume she might have crammed them into one page. Here she stretches out as an artist and storyteller. There is a great story about a fashion show which could be expanded on to sustain a nice comic of it's own. I enjoyed both of these books plenty and I would like to see more work from MacLeod in the direction the second volume was heading.
More Fluke books to come folks. That's right. More. In case you have not figured it out yet, Fluke is awesome.
Your best pal ever,