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Katz, Keren – The Backstage of a Dishwashing Webshow

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The Backstage of a Dishwashing Webshow

A friend of mine recently asked about the best way to get into comics, that she had a lot of trouble with the flow of panels, how you’re meant to read along, how long you’re “supposed” to look at the art, etc. All questions that hadn’t really occurred to me, as I’ve been reading comics for about as long as I’ve been reading. Still, to anybody reading this who has similar concerns, or feels at all like you’re still a beginner in the world of comics? This one is for the advanced class. Keren does work with images, pacing and script that are all graduate level stuff, and the description on the back of the book was mini kus-esque (I mean that in the best possible way, of course), so not much help there either for the beginner. I couldn’t hope to accurately describe this story or encompass the “gist” of it for you; it’s truly one of those graphic novels that you have to see for yourself. Things start off with a prologue involving a stage where all of the operas that are yet to be performed are all arranged. The actors go back and forth among the operas, picking up the appropriate props from barrels placed around the stage, while avoiding the temptation of being drawn into another story. What could be described as a frenzy of images follows, but Keren is one of those people who slow me down while I’m reading, making me take time with the images constantly. From there the real story starts, if there is such a thing. It deals with two roommates at a school where “everybody reverts to who they were before.” One of the roommates, as you might have guessed from the title, has a dishwashing webshow. With a side game involving loose grapes that are placed around campus and eaten by her fans. There’s also a gentleman caller, sort of. And that’s as far as I’m going to even try to go with this. I’m not even going to guess the feelings you’re going to get from this story, as mine were all over the place. Still, give this a shot and it’ll be easy to see why she’s winning all sorts of awards lately. She’s one of those people who you could unironically call the future of comics, but it’s a future that’s already arrived. $21.95

Katz, Keren – The Academic Hour

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The Academic Hour

Longtime readers of this website know that I occasionally have nothing to say about a book. Or at least nothing coherent and/or remotely insightful, but I usually bluster through it by offering a series of impressions or apologies about my deficiencies. And… here we are again! This is a remarkable book, all angles and ideas, thoughts about impossibilities and how to get over them (if they can be overcome), and a doomed love affair that never seems all that passionate. Most of the images look they were finished by an act of will; Keren could have just kept going with some of them until they filled the page, or spilled through the pages onto the rest of the book, or drawn onto and even into you if you sat still long enough. I rarely flip back through a book immediately after finishing it, but I did that here, taking time to ignore some of the captions just to see if I could get where she was going with the images alone. In most cases I could! Or at least I could get to where I thought she was trying to go, imperfect though my thoughts might be. It makes quite an impression, there’s no denying that. Subjects in here include a trapped horse and how to get him down, polishing bones with your moustache, whether or not the planned buried railroad cars exist, telling stories to get the person to fall in love with you, a young lover wondering when and if her teacher was watching her, and the watching witch. This book reminded me, above all else, of the feeling people sometimes gets that everything and nothing are both just a little bit off to the side, out of reach but not impossibly so. It’s all right there, if you tilt your head just right, angle your arms just so that they can slip through that veil and grab a bit of what’s on the other side. If you angle too far you’ll slide right through and never return, and if you don’t angle them enough you’ll never see a thing. Get yourself and your mind into exactly the right position, take a deep breath and dive right in. $19.95

Various Artists – Future Shock #0

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Future Shock #0

Before I get into any of the content, I just want to point out that this is one of the most beautifully colored books that I’ve ever seen. Granted, a lot of small press anthologies are in black and white, but every story in this collection is colored beautifully, up to and including the collages by Josh Burggraf. So hey, what about the content? This is a collection of science fiction stories on a variety of different themes. Some (but by no means all) of my favorites included Vincent Giard’s tale on perspective in movement and meaning, Jason Murphy’s conceptual struggle, Lala Albert’s piece on mutations caused by a certain type of water and what people do with said mutations, a lengthy wordless piece by Alex Degen about virtual reality and the consequences of dreaming, William Cardini’s depiction of the death of a planet and the aftermath, Pat Aulisio playing around in a post-apocalyptic wasteland with mad dogs and killer lizards, Aleks Sennwald and Pete Toms showing the lingering effect of ads on the environment (even long after humanity is gone), and Anuj Shreshta’s story on the increasing ease of blocking out all bad thoughts and opinions and the consequences of those actions. Aside from being just damned pretty, this is also one of the more thoughtful science fiction comics I’ve read in ages. The last two stories I mentioned alone had several comments and images in each of them that made me stop and think or examine an assumption I’d had from a different angle, which is always welcome. No anthology is ever going to be perfect for everybody, but if you can’t find several stories in here to love then maybe the fault is on your end. $18

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