Minis Monday: Unreachable Beasts #1

Posted by on October 4th, 2010 at 1:00 PM



Unreachable Beasts #1
By Nick Patten
B&W; 24 pp.

Unreachable Beasts is a cleverly realized, charmingly crafted, unapologetically off-kilter and continually surprising comic.

But the odd descriptor I can’t get out of my mind is that of it being “classical.” Yes, there’s a notion of “timelessness” to it. There’s fantasy and space travel to the fore and a Russian folk tale at the aft, all rendered in a clear, readily accessible style. But more to the point is that there’s a well-formed fitness, an aptness, in composition and execution. First is its sense of proportion, the match of ambition and breadth to scale and structure in its parts and as a whole. Second is a unity of artistic purpose, a pronounced, if intuitively nuanced, coherence in its regard of world and existence. Finally there is a concerted, refined expressiveness to these stories; there’s a subtlety, even understatement, in presentation even as narration and intention remain clear. It pleases as a quick read and withstands atomizing scrutiny, all the while keeping its allure and mysteries intact.

It starts immediately: The cover is a wrap-around (and around) featuring a monster that will appear inside. (What are those, bags under his eyes?) He stretches out his arms, reaching beyond the left edge while, to his rear from the right — on the same plane, along the very same lines — two hands try to grab him. On the back cover we can see the extension of those outstretched arms of his from the front. They are fully extended, tangled and looped, across the whole of the back so that they become — ah ha! — the very same limbs trying to grab him there on the front. So there’s your “unreachable” beast alright, but the notion is an absurdity, an impossibility conceivable and viable only though the intrinsic physical properties of the comic, a graphic loophole exploited by imagination.

There’s no let-up: On the first page, a single image is divided into four unequal, asymmetrical panels. In the long, vertical panel to the left, a mustachioed spaceman (old!) in a nostalgically fashioned bubble-helmet speaks through three tiered panels on the right. He is coaxing his “friends,” star-shaped creatures at his feet, to climb up the exterior of his suit. Stars on the ground! Alive! In space! And they do make the journey! So is that them, then, dotting the sky above him, having crawled up him and then ascended into the heavens? What curiosities are these? In comic form!



Three longer stories juggle the kind of good intentions that the road to hell is paved with, the palpable presence of danger weighed against justice and just desserts, misunderstanding and rude enlightenment, all rendered in appealing drawings that do not skimp on character, texture, ingenuity or visual enticements.

But always the surprising and unpredicted … That beast from the cover (still with the bags under his eyes) shows up as a title character in the three-page “One Day Mr. Fish Meets a Demon.” By title alone, where would you think this story is heading? Nine times out of 10 you’d be right, but here you’re wrong, delightfully so.

Except what’s with that concluding question mark following the episode’s labeled “END”? And what’s Mr. Fish doing on the back interior cover? And how does that refer to the front interior? So there’s yet another dimension to the notion of what’s “classic,” in that you are kept involved, remain in the hunt, with something new for you every time you take a look.


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2 Responses to “Minis Monday: Unreachable Beasts #1”

  1. […] Rich Kreiner, that paragon of class and taste, reviews Nick’s mini Unreachable Beasts #1 here: […]

  2. […] I really like the cover of Nick Patten’s Unreachable Beasts: Rich Kreiner, who has read the insides as well, likes the whole thing, according to his review of it at The Comics Journal. […]