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A Body Beneath

Michael DeForge. Koyama (Consortium, dist.), $15 (152p) ISBN 978-1-927668-07-8

“Lose #1 is a very bad comic,” DeForge (Ant Comics, Very Casual) writes in the intro, by way of explaining why this collection of his ongoing comics anthology omits the first issue in the series. By issue #2, there’s really not a whole lot to complain about—DeForge has already hit a remarkable stride. Like many of his more avant-garde contemporaries, his art is often near-psychedelic abstractions. But unlike a majority of those peers, DeForge is nearly always grounded by a terrific knack for worldbuilding and storytelling. It’s not enough for his art to simply swirl and swim and float away—it exists in service of his stories, which live in a world where a profound delight is discovered in the deeply grotesque. In “Someone I Know,” the Lynchian horrors of Dan Clowes’s Like a Velvet Glove are taken to their Lovecraftian conclusion. “Canadian Royalty”—the funniest story in a very funny book—explores the downright shocking practices of that country’s monarchy. Not every story is quite as strong as those two, but all bring something fascinating to the proceedings, veering off in directions one never imagined at the outset. This collection is a strong indication of why DeForge is one of the best young cartoonists working. (May)■

Reviewed on 04/18/2014 | Details & Permalink

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Benson’s Cuckoos

Anouk Ricard, trans. from the French by Helge Dascher. Drawn & Quarterly, $19.95 paper (96p) ISBN 978-1-77046-138-3

Originally published in French as Coucous Bouzon, this comic is like a fever dream of workplace anxiety drawn by Richard Scarry for those worn down by the business grind. Richard has just started a new job at a company that makes cuckoo clocks. That’s apropos, since the boss seems at best distracted, at worse insane. He’s been hired to replace a man named George, who disappeared suddenly. As Richard tries to cope with being asked to bring his own computer and prepare presentations without supporting files, he finds himself enveloped in the growing mystery of just what happened to George. It’s silly, with much of the humor coming from what look like children’s toys shooting or propositioning each other. The art is childlike, flat and colorful, but the content is distinctly adult. The characters all have friendly animal heads—dogs, ducks, frogs, elephants—making behavior like co-worker sabotage, kidnapping, watching reality TV in filthy apartments, and such stupid work trends as business retreats and employee calisthenics all the more disturbing. Those who’ve worked office jobs with self-important, rude, or clueless coworkers (and who hasn’t?) will appreciate the satire. (May)

Reviewed on 04/18/2014 | Details & Permalink

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It Never Happened Again

Sam Alden. Uncivilized (Consortium, dist.), $12 (164p) ISBN 978-0-9889014-6-9

Virtually unknown outside select indie comics circles, Alden nevertheless displays a sort of confidence that is rare among young cartoonists. The first of two short stories collected here, “Hawaii 1997,” reveals his deftness for saying a lot with a little. Told through largely wordless panels in a rough, scribbled style that could pass for penciled thumbnails, the story of fleeting young love showcases the artist’s keen ability to utterly break your heart in a single, well-timed word balloon. The storytelling in “Anime” is a fair bit more complex, and the artwork is more refined, though only slightly. The character study of a Japanophile uncomfortable in her own skin and native country relies more heavily on dialogue to draw a full and sympathetic portrait of its protagonist, but Alden still knows when to let the silence take over. The result is two thematically divergent, but devastatingly human portraits from an emerging cartoonist displaying the sort of storytelling and artistic restraint that often only comes after years of toiling away at the drawing board. Alden is a talent to watch. (June)

Reviewed on 04/18/2014 | Details & Permalink

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