I was seriously considering saving this one for Bastille Day, as by some strange coincidence, I’ve round up with 75-percent French speakers here (and for all I know, the fourth, a midwesterner may also be proficient in the language). Aside from that, it’s a pretty diverse array of titles this time out, including a entropic bike ride, a punk rock bildungsroman, camera-carrying chroniclers of seedy underbellies and a neutered gubernatorial candidate. Enjoy!
Susceptible, by Genevieve Castree. Drawn & Quarterly
“As I get older, I meet other children who have a missing father who lives in British Columbia. It’s like a mythical kingdom where dads go to disappear.” Genevieve Castree’s got a knack for knocking you flat on your ass every so often, channeling the sort of profundity that comes with the innocence of youth. It’s the story of a young woman grappling to define what shaped her -- a hard mystery to unravel, really, in a youth shaped by the influences of adult children too hung up on their own neuroses to help a young mind from developing its own.
There’s an intimacy, too, to Castree’s art -- flat with distinctively handwritten dialog, owing a lot, it seems to fellow Québécois cartoonist Julie Doucet and the zine culture from which she sprang. But for all the reality, the artist isn’t afraid to dive into the metaphorical, when it comes time to drive a point home, particularly in those moments that chronicle her initially hesitant, but her initially hesitant embrace of drug culture and punk rock -- less tools of rebellion than means of escape.
But there’s something of a happy ending in here in the knowledge that if we can’t erase the damage done, as least some of us will be lucky enough to outgrow it.
Bicycle, by Ugo Gattoni. No Brow Press
The decision between hanging it on the wall or filing on the bookshelf is generally put to rest rather quickly by the binding. No Brow Press hasn’t made things easy here with Bicycle, printed as a leporello foldout couched inside a book jacket. The foldout is “nearly two meters in length,” which, through the miracle of two-sided printing, puts at around four meters of highly detailed chaos, a bicycle race through vaguely distopian cartoon streets apparently inspired by the 2012 London Olympics.
There’s plenty here to keep you busy for a few days, until you finally come to a decision on how precisely to present the thing, filled with some rather blue shenanigans, Escher-esque physics and, I suspect, inside jokes that I will never be able to unravel. I’m also not entirely sure who won the race, but judging from the state of the cityscape, the contestants and spectators clearly have more important things to worry about.
Barrel of Monkeys, by Florent Rupert and Jerome Mulot. Rebus Books
There’s a Dash Shaw quote on the rear that perfectly sums up the feeling here. The cartoonist, hardly proficient in French, describes the experience of reading the book without and without comprehension of the dialogue. The images, while oft graphic, don’t really give one an idea precisely how twisted its contents are -- nor, more importantly, do they reveal just how funny the book’s sketchy drawings and phenakistoscope storytelling can be.
Nowhere is that juxtaposition better pronounced than in the narration of a trip to the zoo by the two cameramen leads. And while I’d long ago assumed I was finished feeling bad for laughing, having such sensibilities dulled by the likes of Johnny Ryan and Ivan Brunetti, Ruppert and Mulot have, for better or worse, reawakened some of those doubts. But hey, we were all bound to find out what terrible people we are sooner or latter right? At least we’ve got the occasion to laugh about it.
Ablatio Penis, by Will Dinski. 2D Cloud
I admit, I picked this one off the shelf at Forbidden Planet due to the intrigue of an unmarked, brightly-colored comic. A fan of past Dinski minis, I didn’t bother going so far as attempting to figure out what the thing is called -- something the cartoonist doesn’t exactly broadcast even inside the book. Sitting down to write this, having just finished the thing, I’ve gone back and forth on whether or not to reveal the name here -- no some much due to the raciness of severed genitals as the fact that there was an extra level of enjoyment in reading with such casual ignorance.
I apologize for spoiling some of the surprise. It’s a necessary evil. I want you to pick up this book, and having a name to awkwardly mutter to the proprietary of your local comic bookery should help in that pursuit. Ablatio Penis is a rare look at the American political system that never comes across an attempt at a teaching moment. There are truths to be found in here about the flaws of our electoral system -- underhanded acts and making the public personal, but the book never preaches against them with any particular, just delivers matter of factly the sort of fallout that has become as much a part of the system as the laws drawn up to define it.