The Index #6: The Crowd
It’s back, The Index is back! Sorry, that probably seemed unprofessional. I apologize to those of you who still somehow see me as a professional. Before I get to the contents of this comic, I have to point out that there was another #6 of this series, but Caitlin says at the start of this issue that we’re meant to disregard it entirely. Checking through my past reviews I see that I never reviewed it; checking through her store I can see that the older issue is still for sale and that it’s described as having to do with our two heroes asking Virginia Woolf for advice on their situation. This sounds fascinating to me, but apparently Caitlin disagreed. Why? What scandalous materials are discussed in this issue? I have no idea, but if you’re curious you’d better order a copy before she notices that they’re still for sale. Oh, and she also has a collected edition of the first five issues available there, if you’re interested, which you should be. Does that mean that I can finally talk about this comic? It does! In this issue John eats a sandwich while Susan calls several of the greatest minds in history to help them with the problem of the burning library. Maybe that’s why Caitlin ditched the last issue: she preferred the conversation of several of them (Virginia Woolf included) rather than just Woolf on her own. Anyway, they decide to watch how they handle the crisis without interfering, which inevitably leads to them interfering to try to get things kicked off. Does this help the greatest minds in history solve the problem? Or have they made a terrible mistake? Tune in next time to… no, you probably will have to tune in next time, as there are still problems to be solved. But since Caitlin has solved whatever narrative bugaboo was holding her back with this second sixth issue, and since she’s already one of the most prolific artists I know, I have a feeling we’ll be seeing an issue seven before too long. If you haven’t listened to me yet to buy her comics, well, shame on you, but now that there’s a collected edition of the first five issues you really have no excuse at all. Buy it, catch up, live better!
The Index #5: The Scrolls
Don’t mind the weird discoloration in the upper corner; that happened on my end somehow and not from Caitlin. This one ended up in a random corner of my apartment, so I apologize for the lateness of the review. But since this series is amazing I thought a review was still a good idea, and it’s not like a bunch of the reviews on this website are all that topical anyway. Caitlin does an amazing job with the recap in this issue, as she somehow sums up the madness of the past four issues on a single page of text. Yes, you should still read the other issues, but the recap can get you by if you haven’t. This time around John has gone off to look for food and/or an exit, while Susan has realized that they’re in a psychological landscape and that she can eat whenever she wants. As she’s eating she chats further with Diogenes, discusses what exactly he is and learns that the many scrolls in the library are all books that she’s already read. And, as nobody remembers books word for word, they’re only the most important bits of those books, or the parts that she studied and underlined in school. Meanwhile John is freaking out and looking for help from the scrolls, but the only help there is in the form of literature. There’s still obviously more of this story to come, but it doesn’t look like it’s gone on past this book according to her website (unless her website hasn’t been updated in awhile). Maybe she’s putting it together into the first volume of a graphic novel? Here’s hoping, as this needs to be seen by book lovers everywhere.
The Index #4: Diogenes
Did the comics community as a whole ever get a ruling on the merits of putting a book out in mini comics form vs. putting it all out at once in a graphic novel? Maybe it’s not a problem that can ever be definitively solved. This series, for example, is a series of philosophical discussions that I’m thinking would flow beautifully as a graphic novel. However, Caitlin hasn’t done a lot of comics before this, so maybe this series will get her the recognition/acclaim/$$$ necessary to get a graphic novel together, while if she had just released this all at once as a graphic novel that wouldn’t have given people several issues to get to love this series. There is no answer! Which is a fine way to attempt to start to review this comic. Segue! Caitlin puts a recap at the start of this one, which is absolutely necessary for anybody who picks this up starting with the fourth issue. John and Susan start off in the burning Library of Alexandria with Otlet taking over the index cards. The two of them instantly start feeling useless, but they deal with it in different ways. Susan wants to go for a walk, John wants to take back control of the situation. We learn about Diogenes and it’s not like anything I said here about the guy would constitute a spoiler, but it’s still better to read all about him and his ways yourself. It’s another madcap adventure into the efficacy of constantly categorizing everything, in this case literally as the library burns down around them. This is one of the smarter series you’re going to see, and if you don’t understand it, yes, that is a personal failing on your part. Nah, kidding, she manages to keep it accessible to everyone. Well, everyone who has a natural sense of curiosity and a desire to understand everything. If that’s you, you’re in luck!
The Index #3: The Library
You’ve already read the first two issues of this series, right? Because otherwise I don’t see what you could get out of this one. That’s true for most series that tell a continuing story (not so much for series where each issue is a bunch of unrelated gag strips), and people should already know such facts by now, but this is America, where it’s best not to take intellectual competence for granted. Sorry, you caught me right after I learned that the ratings for this fourth season of “Community” are apparently the best ever, even though the show is a sad shadow of its former self after they fired Dan Harmon. Oh hi comic book! I didn’t see you there in the middle of this word cloud I’m spewing up. This issue deals with the fallout from the previous two issues, as Susan tries desperately to find something to replace the index cards in her life and John tries to come to terms with a new index card. From here we get a history the Library of Alexandria from way back in the day and how it really wasn’t all that great (relatively speaking) when it got burned down. I’ve mentioned how much I loved Caitlin’s art and writing before, but I should also mention her lettering. The words jumble and clash with each other, never to the point where it’s illegible, and it has a very subtle way of adding to the tension of a scene. Unless it’s just her handwriting and I’m reading too much into it, but it serves to make the whole comic more complete. If my description of the story is boring you silly then I’m doing it wrong, but give this series a shot. Your brain will thank you for it later (warning: please consult a doctor if you’re having regular conversations with your brain). $3.50
The Index #2
Which do you prefer: organizing all of your thoughts and trying to make some sense of them or merely writing all of your thoughts down and leaving them alone? Is there a greater truth to uncover by going over all of them, or is the act of writing them all down the greater truth that you were shooting for? If I’ve lost you already then you probably shouldn’t bother with this comic, but for those of you who enjoy the act of thinking, you should latch onto Caitlin’s work and absorb her wisdom. Or lack of wisdom, as who can say for sure? It’s the journey, right? After all, we all know where it ends. Crikey, do her comics ever get me into an existential frame of mind. I’ll have to watch something with a lot of explosions in it after this to get back to being a good American. Anyway, this comic starts off with John writing everything down on Susan’s blank index cards and having a grand old time of it. Susan eventually comes home and catches him, but instead of freaking out and having a dull shouting match, she does something that completely messes with his head: she puts his name on one of the index cards. It’s a simple act, and you wouldn’t think that it would cause such trouble, but Caitlin does a fantastic job of telling the tale of why it would be such a mind fuck. To sum it up: there’s a thoroughly engaging story, art that tells that story while leaving you plenty of little bits to mull over, and a closing line that would be damned difficult to top. I’m looking forward to seeing what else she comes up with over the years, as she seems to be entirely too good at this stuff to be so new at it. The potential for serious improvement out of her comics after she’s already at this level boggles the mind. $3.50
The Index #1
Caitlin manages to nail down the essential problem with so many of the angsty comics in the world in the first few pages: the authors of said comics have invariably had pretty damned good lives, which is itself the cause of all the angst. Lack of adversity can be a creativity killer for sure. This one starts off (after a damned funny but unrelated intro that you can discover for yourselves) with Susan (our heroine) arranging blank index cards on a shelf. Each blank card represented the sum total of the achievements in the lifetime of a single human, and she uses them to bask in her own insignificance. This worked for Susan just fine until her boyfriend John moves in, and he doesn’t like that constant reminder of the insignificance of his own life one bit. Things get a little tense from there, but why should I spoil all that for you? Caitlin does an impressive job with the art on this one, and I’m always up for a story that points out the inherent insignificance of our lives when put into any kind of context. And yes, it does end on a bit of a cliffhanger, which makes that “prelude” thing on the cover a retroactively welcome sight. She has all kinds of other comics up at her website, if maybe you need more convincing, or if maybe you just like reading free comics online. As for me, I like the cut of her jib and I’m damned curious to see where she goes from here. No price, so the random price wheel today lands on… $3.25! Damn, that is random.