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03 December 2008

Blurred Vision 4

Blurred Vision 4
An anthology of "New Narrative Art" featuring a host of creators listed here.
Published by Blurred Books.
Magazine sized anthology. 229 black and white pages with color cover.
On sale here for $15.95.

This is a very nice looking big thick magazine sized anthology. And by magazine, I mean the nice thick perfect bound journal type magazines the usually look really great but cost more than I can afford. It even smells good. I could not find the editor's name but the book is obviously constructed and published with a real commitment to quality. It is graced with a lovely cover by Karl Stevens. (Posted above.) I'm not an art critic but I like Stevens a lot. I caught a link to some of his art a while back (sorry but I could not find it to link here) and his technique is traditional in a warm and accessible way but his subject matter and emotional weight seem very of the moment and honest. As to the comics, or "Narrative Art", collected book I think "of the moment" and "honest" also apply to the better submissions but the word pretentious comes to mind to sum up the lesser works. This is not always bad. I personally enjoy pretension. I expect an artist assert themselves and be ambitious and showy. I obviously value honesty over pretension but I think the later can be an essential part of reaching the audience and making the case to be heard. The danger in the anthology format is that pretentious artists do not have the room (or basic number of pages) necessary to deliver on claims of their pretenses.
Speaking of pretentiousness; having worked in book retail for seven years I developed a real love for pretentious author bios on book covers. The more obnoxious and absurd the better. Blurred Vision 4 is formatted with a one page bio for each contributor. Now as a fan of pretentious bios, I gotta say, this thing is packed with dump truck fulls of pretentiousness. If it takes longer to read the bio than the comic then the author is surely qualified for some sort of act-of-pretension-of-the-year award. These bios list some pretty amazing qualifications for indie comics creators.  According to the bios this book contains at least three teachers, two professors and four MFAs.
Some of the pieces live up to or exceed their creator's bios.  Pollution by Woojung Ahn is a beautifully drawn but morbid adult bedtime story.  
I really like Antoinette by Koren Shadmi.  The drawing is a pretty straight forward indie style with really nice inks and tones but the story is a really interesting Woody Allen meets David Lynch kind of thing.  Shadmi's dialog is strong.  I would gladly buy a book of his stuff.  
Kevin Mutch's Captain Adam 2 is a fun experiment in "narrative collage" using altered comic art.  It's some dynamic stuff that looks great in this large magazine format.  Good coffee table book style eye candy.  
Speaking of eye candy, I like Quintin Gonzalez's piece Anxious Eye.  Thematically it feels a lot like Gary Panter but the look of it is more drugged out computer generated tattoo art.  
Tobias Tak's Gaboon's Daymare would be a strong piece in most any anthology.  It has more of an underground comix feel than most of the other contributions with art that is can be both gritty and beautiful.  
Matt Madden contributes a piece called The Others.  At first, I thought he was guilty of the last minute anthology cop out of submitting random sketchbook pages but as I read it I realized that the images did work well together to create a really neat narrative study of the sketchbook experience.  In lesser hands it would have been a half assed diary comic but Madden is able to cut to the essence of the thing and make it alive.
I used the term coffee table book earlier and I think it's a good description of what is appealing about this book.  Like a coffee table book or a big thick magazine it has a lot of quality stuff that you would enjoy looking at over and over in less busy moments and a lot of filler that you would just flip past.  I hate to get into telling people how to spend their money and it is a pricey book but I think it lives up to it's cover price.  If it ware lying on my coffee table (I don't use one) I think I would re-visit it often enough to merit the investment.  

Your best pal ever,
Shannon Smith

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