Rich Kreiner’s Yearlong Best of the Year #8: Ganges #3

Posted by on January 9th, 2010 at 1:00 PM

Image ©2009 Kevin Huizenga


Dreams are probably the second most popular subject for autobiographical comics, however distantly they lag behind the events of waking life. But no one, to my knowledge, has attempted to create comics arising from the hypnagogic netherworld that lies between the sleeping and the wakeful states. Until now.

Or maybe not. It’s hard to say precisely, which is what gives Kevin Huizenga’s Ganges #3 so much of its unique charm.

In a tour through a stage of non-ordinary reality, Huizenga orchestrates a fugue-like manipulation of various materials, including images, thoughts, actions, feelings and, as befits him artistically, the formal building blocks of comics. He makes free use of dream logic while attending to the workaday concerns of his thoughtful protagonist throughout his fluid, varied roles, including bedmate, reader, homeowner, music lover, comics creator and would-be and perhaps-is sleeper. It’s an intentionally disorienting mix of ambiguity and certainty, representation and abstraction, now and other, plausible realism and plausible fantasy. As onlookers we experience enough oddness to know we are at home, lobe-deep, in an altered state, guided by neural firings neither reliably coherent nor unsystematically randomized (even here, the catch-up nomenclature breaks down, blurs).

The principal preoccupation early on is explicit: getting to sleep. It’s a topic actively explored by an imaginative, busied Greg Ganges homunculus and a contrastingly passive, life-sized Ganges stretched out in bed. Theirs is a jumble of scenes, an asymmetrical pas de deux of wide roving accompanied by shifts of scale, locale and intent. There’s a casualness to physics, time, focus, cause-and-effect and other assorted landmarks of the material world. At the same time, cogent speech, mental order and a makeshift sense of narrative progression are respected, as if they represented the failsafe byways of ethereal navigation. It’s a very conscious shuffling of subconscious liberties.

That’s not to say there is no dramatic development. Two-thirds through, the pair of Ganges undergoes a “change” of “mind” to a more reasonable linear state, one of greater substantive cohesion and sensible zaniness, a condition all the better to reflect the conditions of either unusual wakefulness or nifty dreaming.

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