Appearances and Disappearances: Three

Posted by on October 2nd, 2010 at 5:47 AM

Rob reviews the first issue of the anthology series Three, edited by Robert Kirby.  This issue features stories by Kirby, Joey Alison Sayers and Eric Orner.

Three is a new anthology series with a focus on queer cartoonists.  There’s a certain sense of quietude and restraint in each of the three stories, both in terms of the subject matter and visual approach.  Each story is just long enough to complete a particular theme, with the overall package clocking in at 32 pages.  The format is reminiscent of Greg Means’ Papercutter anthology, only with a less elegant sense of design.  The slick paper didn’t flatter any of the stories, especially the two that were mostly single-toned.  That said, in a time when the alt-comics world is thick with anthologies, Three stands out with a unique and coherent point of view.

Eric Orner’s “Weekends Abroad” is the longest and best of the three stories.  It’s a slice-of-life story about a man working in Israel on a series of 3-month work assignments that added up to nearly two years.  Orner’s point of view is that of a man used to being on the outside whose self-identification with with such a status sometimes preventing him from mentally unpacking.  While the story follows Orner’s attempts at companionship (first a random hook-up that fizzles out and then a meeting at a club that goes awry), it’s really about the way he comes to terms with living in Israel and what it has to offer.  The flat, single-tone green mutes the story’s emotional content and creates the sort of in-between, twilight atmosphere that Orner’s character lives in all along.  Orner uses a single thematic hook (a particular piece of graffiti) to guide his character and lead him into connecting with his new surroundings.  The first-person narrative used here reveals just enough about the protagonist without overwhelming the story or environment.  It’s also refreshing to read a story about someone’s time spent in Israel that doesn’t have any kind of political slant to it, yet it’s entirely rooted in a specific time and place, as Israel’s cultural and architectural quirks are key factors in Orner’s growing affection for the country.

Joey Alison Sayers’ “Number One” is an eight page story in the manner of his Just So You Know series about her journey as a transgendered person.  This story is about personal space and barriers and the ways in which they can be irrational.  Sayers and her friends were doing some sort of landscaping job but she had to use the bathroom of their client.  Upon exiting, Sayers was confronted by the client, who inexplicably asked her if she flushed!  Sayers implies that the client may have been weirded out by her status as a transgendered person, or perhaps is just a germaphobe who couldn’t stand to have “the help” despoiling the facilities.  Sayers is one of the top gag artists working today, and seeing her work jokes into anecdotes has been interesting–especially since the transition has been a successful one.

Kirby’s comic is told with a simple light blue wash, perhaps unconsciously adding a sense of boyhood to the depiction of a young man chafing against his role as lover and caretaker for an older man who tends to ignore him.  “Freedom Flight” concerns his decision on one day to simply run away and disappear, and how that thought slowly fizzles out.  Unlike the characters in the first two stories, the protagonist here is entirely uncertain of his own identity, which leads to his final “disappearance”.  Even though this story is connected to some of Kirby’s other work, its status as a standalone story provided a fitting capper that connected the first two stories as a counterpoint to their themes.  Kirby clearly put a lot of thought into the creators he chose for this issue and modulated his own work to suit their participation, which is a tricky thing to do for an editor.

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