Wednesday, January 27, 2010

space filler

We're busy Shazhmmming a thing, but until that's ready you can take a look at this other stuff I've done. My reviews of Then Unwritten Volume 1 and Jason Starr's Vertigo Crime book The Chill are in today's edition of the Boston Herald. One's really good, the other's kinda good, but only one has a lady freezing dudes with her business. That is an observation, not an endorsement.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

MOME vol. 17

MOME #17
Various artists/authors
Fantagraphics 2010

Garrett Martin:
How have we never done a MOME before? Better question: how have I never read a MOME before? If tony pedigrees were moral posturing, Fantagraphics’s quarterly anthology would be David Stern. I guess it doesn’t help that reviews for previous volumes tend to diverge wildly, or that my budget for escapism is greater than what I am willing to spend on comics that don’t insult my intelligence. Blogger snark’s made me wary of MOME, and I kind of regret that. Not that Volume 17 is fantastic, but my biggest problem is starting in the middle or at the end of the most interesting stories, and obviously that wouldn’t be an issue if I was a regular reader. The value’s reduced with a solitary MOME. Have you read one of these things before?

Hillary Brown: I haven't, but I, like you, find myself impelled toward escapist tripe more than comics that will improve my brain. Which is dumb! There's much to like here. I sort of assumed MOME would be more like Raw, in terms of pushing the envelope and extreme artiness and so on, but it's much more readable than that. Nuts to me for assuming, I suppose. I could have been enjoying these things for years. Not that it's all fantastic, as you point out. It would be nice if the continuing series took a page from the non-art comics world and provided a brief summary of what happened previously in the story, for example. Paul Hornschemeier's piece is great, but it's clearly part of something much bigger, which I guess means I should go back and find earlier issues (all of them, apparently). Anthologies are always uneven, but this contains fewer stinkers than most, clearly a testament to Fantagraphics's editorial eye. I have to say I wasn't a big fan of Derek van Gieson's story, which was either over my head or just too messily drawn, and while I loved T. Edward Bak's drawings and thought his documentary subject matter was interesting, he seems to have a tendency toward confusing panel layout. What did you see as highlights?

GM: Pretty sure Hornschemeier's total thing will soon be available in its self-contained totalness thanks to a kindly book publishing concern or another. It makes sense to lead off with that guy, even if it's the last of a whatever-part series; visually and thematically it's the most accessible thing here, easily sidling alongside Tomine and Clowes in the young-ish white person ennui rotunda. Although for some reason I get less of a fusty privileged New Yorker vibe from ol' Horny, which is a dumb thing to say, as I am a privileged New Yorker subscriber and long-time fan of fust. Still, I want to know who the guy with the beard is, meaning I want to read the first umpteenth parts, meaning Hornschemeier and MOME did its jobs.

I also want to read the first part of Ted Stearn's Fuzz and Pluck story, which visually has that skewed classicism commonly found in early underground comics, like EC Segar characters gone to seed. Thankfully Stearn doesn't try to be transgressive just for the hell of it. I might be disappointed with part one, though, as I mostly want to learn more about this put-upon fishermen couple.

I also love how Olivier Schrauwen's "Congo Chromo" looks like a 19th-century editorial cartoon, even if the wordless story is a little too opaque.

Van Gieson made absolutely no impression upon me. I don't even remember reading it. I'm pretty certain I've never seen this page before, even though I've read through the book twice now.

The biggest disappointment comes from Tom Kaczynski and your buddy Dash Shaw. "Resolution", their slice of '80's cyberpunk / computer paranoia nostalgia, is an ugly, unoriginal bore. Did you like it?

HB: Welll... not really. I think he's done some very strong things lately, and this still has some interesting ideas, and I'm inclined to give him the benefit of the doubt, but everyone has to fail sometimes, even Dash Shaw. It's just a mess, right? It's hard to understand, and the art's not so great, and, yeah, it's not my least favorite piece in the book, but it's definitely the biggest gap between expectations and reality.

I, too, liked the Ted Stearn piece, which is cute and weird, and Schrauwen's thing grew on me. There's something about the visually simplified stuff, with no words, that ended up making me see it positively. Maybe it's the color?

Is Van Gieson's the underwater dragon fish thing?

GM: Van Gieson's strip is that one-pager between Bak and Kurt Wolfgang's "Nothing Eve." The dragon fish is called "Zzzzz" and is by Sara Edward-Corbett. It reminds me of the beginning of Ganges #2 by Kevin Huizenga, that long extended bit about an evolution-based computer game that had to be a reference to Spore even though that hadn't been released yet. Like Huizenga's thing, I love the intricate design of "Zzzzz" but the story is far too abstract. Speaking of which - how have we not Shazhmmed a Huizenga yet?

Do you think MOME might be too much of a random grab-bag? Rick Froberg's various page-length doodles did nothing for me; I could see them making sense as buffers between longer pieces, but I don't think that's the point, based on their distribution throughout the book. It's like listening to a comp where every fourth track is a twenty-second song by the same band.

HB: Oh, yeah, I just looked back at Van Gieson's and I can see why we missed it. Edward-Corbett's dragon thing is pretty but, yeah, I don't really understand what's going on in it. Pick a Huizenga, and we'll do one. I don't think I've read anything by him. And let me add, almost parenthetically, that I also liked Kurt Wolfgang's piece. With regard to your last question, I dunno... I mean, I do think it's a grab-bag, and it might be a bit all over the place, and I didn't love Froberg's one-pagers, but I like that MOME makes room for pieces that are neither narrative nor multi-page. Maybe that's because it makes it a little more like an art magazine. I'm not really sure that explains it for me adequately, but I'm going to stick up in favor of twenty-second pieces interspersed with a mix CD.

GM: I'm sure it wouldn't bother me if I liked Froberg's stuff. At least they're brief and easily skipped over.

So, overall, did MOME #17 satisfy you?

HB: They are indeed, and yeah, I'd say I was pretty satisfied with this as a compilation. Maybe not quite as happy as I would have been with another book of comparable length that retailed for $15 (it's a pretty good deal), but much more so than with many another collection of stuff by random people. I'd keep checking it out.