PositivePopMattersHanawalt is a maximalist. Her protagonists—many of whom have animal heads but human bodies—consist of intricate patterns of fur and clothing, offset by comparatively sparse but equally intricate shapes that define their surroundings. Her crosshatching is often meticulous, giving realistic depth and texture to the characters\' exposed heads and limbs and so intensifying the surreal effect. When Hanawalt leaves the interior of shapes unshaded, the pages resemble absurdist coloring books inappropriate for humans of any age ... Hanawalt\'s free-roaming styles are well-suited to her collection ... Hanawalt\'s surreal bodies are also horror-tinged, often vomiting inexplicable clumps of noodles or baby chicks. The most disturbingly powerful sequence is She-Mouse\'s visit to a surreal abortion clinic ... Wanting and contradiction abound[.]
RavePopMattersChong\'s and Webber\'s individual art sometimes occupies separate pages, sometimes separate panels on the same pages, and sometimes separate elements within shared panels. The combination is an interwoven visual conversation ... one of the most fascinating collaborations in the comics form I\'ve seen ... Where the sudden shifts in style (Webber\'s lines are thick, clean, and flowing—essentially the opposite of Chong\'s thin, choppy ones) might feel disruptive in another work, they always gesture to not only the creative process (Chong and Webber seated together working) but the parallel disruptions in Chong\'s actual experiences ... As much as I admire the combined artwork, I suspect most readers will be most engaged by Chong\'s story—not just the struggle and bravery of overcoming hardship, but her skill in shaping events and the extraordinary details of the plot ... Dancing After TEN documents both an extraordinary life story and an extraordinary creative process that crowns it.
RavePopMattersThe Loneliness of the Long-Distance Cartoonist doesn\'t feature Tomine\'s signature understatement. Instead, it\'s a comic in that other sense: he\'s trying (and succeeding) to be funny ... the memoir is a sequence of Tomine\'s worst comics experiences. There\'s something perversely entertaining for a memoir about the career of its successful author to stay so relentlessly focused on failures. It turns...into a kind of anti-memoir, an extended comic strip gag ... But it also quietly undermines that self-deprecation ... Though most of the litany of humiliations might resonate with any reader, some are specifically racist microaggressions ... Happily, even Tomine\'s artificially negative premise buckles under the weight of his happiness.
PositivePopMattersThough Creation opens with daily domestic scenes of mother and newborn, it\'s not that kind of memoir. Nickerson\'s view is more panoramic, taking in all of her home city of Hamilton, Ontario ... Much of her memoir is a self-indictment ... Nickerson is expert at cyclical plotting, allowing certain events and images to repeat in a fractured order that offsets the memoir\'s \'broken\' motif of shattered windows and emotional lives ... What does it mean that the implied author looking down from the reader\'s God-like vantage isn\'t the same blob as the \'photograph\' of her? I\'m not sure, but it\'s that kind of emotional thought experiment that underpins all of Nickerson\'s vague yet-not-vague creation.
RavePopMattersEvery page is wonderfully crammed. There\'s even a revise-as-you-go quality, since some of the hand-written text includes cross-outs and insertions. These are details we would normally register as mistakes, but here they are integral elements not only of the artwork, but of Barry\'s larger vision ... as immersive a document as possible. If you can\'t take a class with Barry, Making Comics is the next best thing ... Readers aren\'t getting graded. What they are getting is an immersion into Barry\'s philosophy of art and -- this is going to sound a bit grandiose but I\'ll say it anyway -- life. Barry teaches us how to be better people by teaching us how to see and think and draw like children again ... Making Comics is a love letter to every child who ever picked up a crayon and started making marks with unselfconscious intensity ... I\'ve read a lot of writing and drawing textbooks, and Barry\'s is the only that has made me choke up with emotion ... No matter your goal, you\'ll benefit from reading this work.
PositivePopMattersDavis likes three-row layouts. That\'s not unusual. It\'s the most common layout in contemporary graphic novels. Davis also likes to accent key moments through panel size. Big moments are literally bigger. How big varies: a full-width row, a full-width double row, a full page, a two-page spread. Size matters. When Johnny exhales from his weed pipe, the cloud fills a full-width panel, dwarfing the surrounding panels only half its size. We know Johnny\'s smoking is a problem, but not because Davis tells us (the page is almost wordless), and not even because she draws it, but because she uses layout as a way of making meaning ... if this is sounding melodramatic, it\'s not. In fact, Davis\'s most interesting narrative move is her eventual rejection of drama and narrative ... Time is revolutionized ... Davis shows us what matters.
PositivePopMattersOn the back-cover blurb, Lisa Hanawalt calls Roberts\' books \'diary comics\', but I disagree...The flow and arc of Rat Time are too artful to be the product of daily happenstance ... The transitions are brief and intuitive, providing just enough structure for the juxtapositions to do the storytelling ... Roberts doesn\'t have to tell her readers that these recollections of dead pets are really about her aging parents and the not-yet-detectable decay of her own body. Stating it would make it too dramatic, too obvious, too much like fiction. The pets are also about the pets ... Some of the most touching moments in Rat Time are full-page, uncaptioned images of pets and humans in quiet contact ... Roberts takes us through a curated set of vignettes, creating a fragmented but still cohesive flow of events that resists the norms of plot while still providing its pleasures. There as many small and touching and gently comical moments in this story.
PositivePopMatters... has the blunt visual power of black and white woodcuts. While D\'Salete stays inside the lines of his rectangular panels and gutters, the energy of his images—the angled perspectives, the chiseled details, the abrupt close-ups, the streaked strokes of his shading—are a match for his equally powerful subject matter ... D\'Salate wisely avoids captioned narration, limiting words to brief dialog and allowing the language of images to communicate the bulk of his story ... Though 426 pages long, Angola Janga can be opened at random, and a viewer will be rewarded by some visual element that D\'Salete has carefully crafted into his artwork. He approaches his history with a similar narrative exuberance, crafting characters and events to fit the massive gaps left by colonial documents.
Zidrou, Illus. by Aimee de Jongh
MixedPop MattersThough the gaze within the story is [de Jongh\'s] own, and the artistic hand outside the story is female too, I still felt a primarily male presence controlling the two-page spread ... While I could question Zidrou\'s grasp of female biology, his understanding of female experience is more concerning ... The age and power differences in Ulysses and his partner\'s professional relationship also echo the relationship between the two authors. If this graphic novel followed the creative process of most two-author comics, the project originated with Zidrou, who penned a complete script before handing it to the 31-year-old Jongh to illustrate. If so, the characters\' questionable charms and implausibilities trace back to Zidrou. He is the luihim, controlling the narrative and its unfortunate notions of gender. So while there\'s much to admire in Blossoms in Autumn, I\'m looking forward to only one of its authors\' future books.
Julie Delporte Trans. by Helge Dascher and Aleshia Jensen
RavePop MattersWhether composing letters or images, all of Delporte\'s lines are evocative, each color carefully chosen. When she depicts herself having sex with a lover in an attempt to become pregnant, her drawn self exists only in blue pencil and he all in orange, their lines almost but never quite touching ... central trauma permeates but does not define Delporte\'s work. The memoir is much more of an attempt to construct something new, even if it is necessarily incomplete and tentative as she wanders between continents and decades of memories ... The ghostly edges of transparent tape seem to hold the scissors-cut images in place. Some words are written on strips of paper, their near-whiteness almost but not quite matching the white of the book\'s actual paper. Several pages are reproductions of her sketchbooks, their bent corners creating a book-within-a-book illusion ... The poignantly open-ended conclusion seems the best closure possible for a memoirist still struggling to make her life work.
PositivePopMattersSturm draws his story in a largely realistic style, with simple black lines filled with a gray-wash of details that give events a real-world solidity. Except for one intentionally glaring inconsistency: all of these humanly proportioned people have dog heads. The choice is a familiar one, but unlike, say, in Art Spiegelman\'s Maus, Sturm\'s characters are visually fuller, with even their dog facial features sometimes drawn with naturalistic contours, making them teeter between real-looking dogs and Snoopy-esque cartoons. The effect is intriguingly odd, especially when characters are grounded in utterly human actions ... Despite its fragmented, episodic structure, Off Season is artfully plotted, but ... I felt betrayed by this ending. Fortunately, four panels can\'t erase the pleasure of the 220-some that precede them. Off Season is an emotionally insightful reflection on the challenges of marriage and parenthood, as paralleled and reflected by the turmoil of contemporary politics.
PositivePopMattersIf these future worlds sound dystopic, the effect is more utopic—at least in contrast to the contemporary norms they critique. While lampooning sex, Schrauwen also mocks the related gender roles of traditional science fiction tropes ... Moving beyond genre, Schrauwen delves even deeper into the comics form, using each story to interrogate some norm readers otherwise take for granted ... Schrauwen literally draws attention to the basic building blocks of comics, science fiction, and our cultural sexual norms. While it\'s rare for a creator to address even one of these underlying structures of form, genre, or gender, Schrauwen and his team of parallel selves tackle all three for insightfully entertaining results.
RavePop MattersKeiler Roberts lives in a deadpan universe ruled by a bipolar God. Her graphic memoir, Chlorine Gardens, is a fractured chronicle of self-deprecatingly hilarious yet harrowingly moving vignettes from the edge of her private yet oh-so-familiar abyss ... he effects are subtle, but subtle is as good as it gets in Roberts\' universe. She posits a bipolar God to explain how \'inconsistently great and terrible his creations are\', and then counters that volatility with her own deadpan consistency—though with just enough hint of a Mona Lisa smile to betray the love and joy found just beneath the starkly drawn surface of all things.
PositivePopMatters...a startling body of work that further deepens Doucet\'s place in the comics cannon ... Doucet\'s creative id, whether awake or asleep, knows few boundaries—or rather seeks out boundaries to challenge ... Doucet\'s visual style is comical. These are cartoons in the exaggerated sense, impossible anatomy that evokes the human proportions it warps. The heads of Doucet figures are roughly 1/5th their height, so roughly double the size of human heads. They pose and move in clunky, almost Peanuts-esque shapes. The artistic choice often reduces the level of discomfort in each scene ... To be clear, the \'Complete\' in the collection\'s title refers only to Dirty Plotte and similar work she produced at roughly the same time ... Wandering back through the \'90s again, it\'s often unclear why certain material was included in Dirty Plotte and other material wasn\'t.
PositivePopMattersFinck infuses her storytelling with so much genre-bending invention, it\'s not clear whether Passing as Human is a graphic memoir at all ... Lynda Barry paved this path almost two decades ago when she playfully coined the term \'autobiofictionalography\' to describe her own almost-memoirs. Also, like Barry, Finck longs to \'draw the way I did as a kid,\' which is perhaps why her style is so aggressively rough, with figures defined by only the barest, black lines, faces and anatomy evoked more than fully sketched. Even when she draws shadows, either as characters or as actual darkness, she highlights the haphazard patterns of her penwork. Even in her black and white world, nothing is simply and solidly black. The artwork is a comic in the cartoonish sense of simplified and exaggerated illustrations warping and arranging autobiographical material freely. But where Barry\'s equally dominant words seem factual, Finck\'s divisions are less clear. Yes, the visual content is inevitably warping, is inevitably from a point of view in both a literal and psychological sense. But the fantastical elements aren\'t limited to the visuals ... I can\'t say whether Liana or Leola Finck finds that ever-lost something-or-other through the fictional sketches of their mostly-true memoir. But I can say it\'s a pleasure to be invited on the journey.
RavePopMattersI rarely laugh out loud at comics, but Dhaliwal approaches her fantastical premise at unexpected angles, revealing humor in the collapse of some old assumptions—and the continuation of others ... While the notion of a genetic disorder that causes all female births is less far-fetched than many post-apocalyptic premises, a village peopled entirely by reliably caring friends and family is ... in the female future there is no crime, just the occasional foible. Dhaliwal isn\'t pretending this is a realistic portrayal of humanity—or even one half of humanity. Woman World is just a humane comedy ... I also admire the comic as a comic. Dhaliwal\'s cartooning is effectively sparse, capturing ten women with just a few, instantly defining pen strokes ... I recommend you not miss it.