Minis Monday: End of Eros, Polite Fiction and Sam n’ Dan

Posted by on March 8th, 2010 at 1:00 PM

You know the beginning-of-the-workweek drill: more comics gathered from last year’s Maine Comics Arts Festival. No joke.

End of Eros and Polite Fiction

José–Luis Olivares

I may be dead wrong but the comics of José-Luis Olivares suggest a background of fine-arts training. There’s a healthy regard for the role of unimpeded creative expression along with a practical familiarity with recognizable aesthetic movements and their theories.

His End of Eros, for instance, posits a moment when human contact, sexual and otherwise, leads to bodily fusions undreamed of in Picasso’s wooziest bouts. This is comics brut in black and white, in pen, ink, watercolor, Zip-a-tone and grease pencil (crayon?). Resultant carnal conglomerations usher in global upheaval leading to not just the end of Eros but of relationships, civil bonds, the social contract and language, overthrown by a chaotic new cosmic order manifesting itself from the earth out. It’s convulsive, confounding, droll and heedless.

Polite Fiction, on the other hand, offers a tidier quartet of segments in varied, if reigned-in visual styles. “Buh” is a trio of strips in which a primitive man grapples, intuitively, with profound mysteries. “Creation Myth” offers a different angle on the Adam and Eve tale writ large in full-page panels and spreads. “Woof Boy” and “Munster” both deal with misfits and outcasts though the former’s more developed complications contrast with the latter’s allegorical predicament. In all, Olivares seems to regard and handle simple, recognizable material in a complicated way in order to suggest that the readily apprehended is not really so simple at all, but resonant and profound.

Sam n’ Dan

Jeff Lok

Jeff Lok’s Sam n’ Dan has enough of a Fuzz and Pluck vibe to remind how much goes into the construction of the comic misadventures of Ted Stearn’s characters. Lok’s Sam and Dan, a bear and cat respectively, are done as line drawings as are most objects that dot their world. Visual grain is provided by uniform diagonals and uniform cross-hatching with the occasional drenching black. The comic’s physical size, that of a magazine, accentuates the yawning acreage of page and panel, actually working against its material. In contrast, the painted color of the cover provides the texture and graphic curiosity that suggests how to make the most of such wide horizons and rough figuration.

Story-wise, there are interesting concepts and moments of intrigue. Will murder out? How much free will is there to Sam and Dan’s existence? But these are undermined by practical demands and diffident execution. Narrative excitement and character empathy prove difficult to generate, all of which tends to underscore that filling up an oversized comic carries particular challenges.

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