Minis Monday: Inbound #1–3

Posted by on April 19th, 2010 at 1:00 PM

Inbound 1-3
Boston Comics Roundtable

While the rest of the civilized world is celebrating Minis Monday, here in New England it’s also Patriot’s Day: all the record-breaking rain and spring warmth has put plants two weeks ahead of schedule and the Red Sox’s first pitch at Fenway is slated, weather permitting, for 11:05 A.M. Eastern Daylight Savings Time in order to avoid conflicts with the Marathon. What better moment to check in with that cadre of Beantown loyalists, the Boston Comics Roundtable?

The BCR was founded in 2006 by Dave Kender in the hopes of gathering area folks interested in making comics. A mission statement of sorts runs: “We meet, we talk, we publish, and most importantly, we encourage one another in the pursuit of creating more and better comics.”

The Roundtable’s flagship publication is the broadly based anthology Inbound (Another title, Outbound, is devoted to science fiction and the fantastic, its second volume due late this month). The first three issues of Inbound suggest the talent pool in eastern Massachusetts is deep and broad if not entirely familiar. The books feature work from some 25 cartoonists and collaborative teams with very few afforded repeat appearances. Scale runs from snippets to complete short stories to excerpts previewing longer works. The gamut of visual styles found in any single issue is striking as is the range of narrative techniques throughout the series. Content is no less expansive, extending in tone and genre from child-friendly amusements to disconcerting horror; even with issue #3, nominally devoted to love, romantic relationships and whoopee both thwarted and managed, a number of perspectives on and approaches to the subject are reflected. Equally evident is the range in levels of — shall we say — experience and maturity.

As communal showcase, Inbound is constructed to fulfill dual functions. Certainly it honors the implicit covenant extended to any theoretical reader. But, as noted, the title also exists to nurture local talent and to get same into print as both reward and opportunity to advance craft. Accordingly, varying degrees of proficiency between features are to be expected. Then there’s just the nature of anthologies, whereby inherent diversity virtually guarantees the best pieces will make others appear less best.

But I like daring displayed in such high relief. I like that the majority of pieces are rich with nifty bits, their own promise and the occasion to wonder about artistic choice and intent. If there’s a generic criticism to be made (since nobody asked), perhaps it would be the undue concern for a cultivated visual style or preeminent thematic point before the conventional niceties of smoothed storytelling. And maybe there’s a drift toward sentimentality where emotion would better serve.

But there are also very few abject clinkers in the bunch and they are effectively overshadowed by worthies. Take only Inbound’s second issue. You’ll find “Too Many Robots!,” a pleasingly riotous kid’s romp by Ron LeBrasseur; also Kevin Kilgore’s visualization of Justin Cliburn’s “The Walk” through war torn Baghdad, a tour which shows the influence and versatility of Joe Sacco’s blend of distortion and verisimilitude for journalism’s sake; and Cathy “Geraniums and Bacon” Leamy’s well-fashioned tale of a curious, uncomfortable situation resolved to everyone’s advantage and advancement. Add in another of the uniformly fine covers (this by Braden D. Lamb) and you’ll be feeling the labor federation’s equivalent of a group hug.

Next time: Inbound #4 as part of the Yearlong Best of the Year, so you know it’ll be worth the wait.

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