Thursday, April 22, 2010

What Not to Miss

For now, sadly, circumstances demand that the comic fan not live by pood alone; hence, this occasional accounting of what other truth is out there…

Madness and creativity are each in some measure essential to art, but are notoriously hard to capture with accuracy and sensitivity. Demo Volume 2 is one of the most creative and understanding artistic reflections on madness I’ve seen in any medium (regardless and because of the “supernatural” trappings it’s known for). Mental illness is a disease of the imagination, so imaginativeness in its portrayal and treatment is never a bad idea (and I speak from extensive personal familiarity); writer Brian Wood sketches vignettes of great emotional insight with no exoticism or exploitation -- a woman preoccupied with a falling dream who might be precognitive or perhaps just trapped in a self-fulfilling fugue of perceived helplessness; an obsessive-compulsive who gets through the day with the external captioning of a million affirmative post-it notes prepositioned everywhere -- which re-establish him as the best short story writer and psychological portraitist outside of prose. Artist Becky Cloonan is doing the most astounding work of her career, translating her style to the tone of every setting and situation (feral, bony body-language and intricate dinge for the chilly brownstone Northeast; pop-art simplicity and cheer for the sunny, smoothed-out Pacific coast), and I can’t remember when I’ve seen an indie cartoonist make more fruitful use of Simon & Kirby-ish dynamics of overspilling panel-composition and impactful panoramas, or a mainstream cartoonist key that technique to the service of the story more meaningfully. This book is my imaginary best friend.

The protagonist of Daytripper dies every issue. I should say “the subject” since there are no heroes here, and this is no conventional-comic resurrection cliché. It’s an emotional blockbuster not about the vast scope of the cosmos but the full texture of life. Every moment is a turning point, and Fábio Moon and Gabriel Bá’s intimate epic follows an ordinary man for one day of all life’s seasons on which his story could have -- and through the aleph of the authors’ imagination, does -- come to an end. The Borges allusion is advised; the cultural and psychological fabric of Bá and Moon’s South American homeland is vividly memorialized and instantaneously imparted no matter the background of the reader, and we are placed in the character’s point of view urgently and inescapably. Life is fragile, consequences are complex, but we are robbed not by luck running out but by not following possibility to its conclusion. A quiet crescendo of wise witness and honestly earned tears each issue, Daytripper meets the full force and gentle majesty not of what might have been, but of every road taken to its end.

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