PositiveThe Comics JournalPick up a copy of Birds of Maine to indulge in DeForge’s much-celebrated cartooning. Each page is composed of six panels, and each of these installments arrives with its own impeccable color palette. Flick through the pages quickly and it’s like hurtling through a rainbow or an acid trip. Study them more closely and you’ll recognize the playful Modernism of Miró (who himself took plenty of inspiration from music). It’s also hard to ignore the influence that folk art has had on these pages, especially in some of its representations of figures and the deployment of patterns ... Thankfully, DeForge isn’t above giving us a joke about poo, leaning into the sort of melancholy-oriented humor that is abundant on Instagram, and providing deadpan jokes. There are also wordless pages where he draws attention to the colors and the shapes of the world he has constructed. A cartography of a possible future, if you will. It is not only in the words that DeForge’s utopianism is present, it is as important that we see differently as much as we think differently. The two are in fact inseparable ... If I have one gripe about this book, it’s that the work’s original context as a daily is hard to shake. It’s a big volume, and going through it page by page (as I had to do to review it) made little sense, given how thin the narrative through-line is ... A reader could happily open it at random on different days and pick up pearls of wisdom and humor. At 464 pages there’s certainly enough comics here to keep you occupied in the bathroom / at the coffee table for quite some time ... isn’t pretentious enough to try and provide a Big Lesson; it instead relies on its kindness and humanity (albeit in a non-human form) to get its point across.
Yoshiharu Tsuge, Trans. by Ryan Holmberg
PositiveSolradTsuge’s people are expressive, and each of the characters seems to fulfill an unrevealed quota of stereotypes. The page layouts are rational, there’s only a handful of splash pages and half page panels, and they’re used to great effect. The pacing is sublime; The Man Without Talent has a meditative rhythm ... Tsuge‘s environments are rendered with a little more realism than the people. He uses halftone to shade and crosshatching very irregularly. The parallel lines that he employs, at various degrees of separation, to add weight to the diegesis, produces an organic and dusty look, reinforcing the sense that this is a story about people close to the earth. It’s worth adding here that it’s regularly, if very darkly, funny.