Rich Kreiner: Minis Monday: Revenge! Tragic Relief #8

Posted by on August 2nd, 2010 at 1:00 PM

Revenge! Tragic Relief #8
By Colleen Frakes

Accurate record-keeping is superfluous to an enterprise like this, but I’d wager no other cartoonist has shown up more often on Minis Monday than Colleen Frakes. In fact, I’d modify the title once given to James Brown and call her The Hardest Working Woman in Minicomics if that sort of thing, coming from only one corner of America, didn’t sound provincial. The distribution of minis, so dependent on vagaries and happenstance like personal contact, the postal system and geographical proximity, make such pronouncements unconvincing when originating from the State of Maine.

In fact, this whole notion of “mini” comics is an homage to yesteryear. Even within this column those single sheet, folded over, eight-page cartoon bulletins are few and far between and I’ve been looking. Independent comic-makers have many more options these days and those options lend themselves to grander enterprises with a wider variety of presentations that in turn lend themselves to enhanced inroads into an increased number of commercial venues.

Which is precisely why Revenge! is such an exquisite bit of minicomics soul, a refined essence of the form in spirit and design. It harkens back to the virtues of Olde Timey minis and reminds you just what the best of them promised and could deliver.

Revenge! comes at you unimpeded. Direct. Like its forerunners, it is a single sheet of typing paper made into eight pages of story, only here cropped along its long end, making for a longer rectangular read with a single interior staple.

My copy has a purplish blue cover, which is wholly appropriate given its theme. On front, a jagged set of gaping teeth frame the book’s title. On the back, an even more chilling sight is that of a shark’s fin rising above the book’s lower edge, the very essence, taken in at eye level, of peril and impending elemental violence. It’s perfect as symbol and evocation. What could be more fitting for a dish best served cold than a hungry, cold-blooded killer circling in a field of frosty, unfeeling blue?

Inside, with only eight pages to work with things need to move along smartly. Revenge! opens in major medias res inside a swanky home where a wounded man in fine dress is slumped and bellowing in the foreground. Behind, his buxom, knife-wielding attacker plots her next move. What has happened? How have we gotten to this point? What drives her murderous fury and eventually his? No time for that! Focus!

We read quickly. Emotions run high and things happen fast. The action is headlong and immediate and intimate, so much so that dialogue, fussy visuals and rational thought (Why didn’t they go to their pistols sooner? Hey, focus!) seem like luxury and decadent adornment. Moments and deeds are rendered in stark, expressionistic black and white within panels not much larger than postage stamps. Representation is streamlined in careening cartoon utilitarianism. Gestures and grimaces carry everything you need to know up until the climactic comeuppance wherein the fullness and import of acts and title are driven home. Whew! That’s how you exploit the hell out of the mini format!

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