Desolation and Escape: One Thousand Lies & Only Skin

Posted by on December 23rd, 2009 at 5:12 AM

Rob reviews two comics from former and current students of the Center for Cartoon Studies: ONE THOUSAND LIES, by Laura Terry and ONLY SKIN #4, by Sean Ford.

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ONE THOUSAND LIES, by Laura Terry.  I think this comic can aptly be described as a fairy tale, or perhaps as a cycle of fairy tales.  Terry creates a sort of breezy charm in this story of a vagabond visiting his high-powered lawyer godmother.  She’s the sort that literally has clients beating down her door, demanding she aid them immediately.  The young vagabond, Arnold, exudes charm in all directions, even managing to lure his godmother away for a lunch when she had no time to do so.  In exchange, he provided her with three outrageous stories of his adventures.

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For the lawyer, Arnold represented a form of escape.  He lived the life that she secretly yearned for but wouldn’t allow herself to experience because of obligation.  So when he told her of a town where half of it packs itself away and moves twice a year, or of a town planned to align itself with the heavens only to result in tragedy and madness, or of his labyrinthian attempts at finding the right guy for love in a small town, it gave her the sort of thrill she rarely experienced on a day-to-day basis.

He also gave her a gift: a toy soldier that added to her ever-expanding set, representing both her fantasies and her position of responsibility.  There’s a sweetness to this story that is well-matched with both its romantic and magical realist qualities.  Terry is a solid storyteller.  Every page and panel is well-composed, her character design is lively & clever (I especially love how squatly the godmother is drawn) and she seems quite comfortable in her ability to render any story element.  I would have preferred a bit more fluidity in the way she rendered character interaction, as some scenes felt a bit stiff in that regard.  It’s clear that interpersonal relationships will be the thrust of her stories, and it’s difficult to make those relationships come alive on the page when the figures don’t seem to be fully interacting with each other in space.  That’s the sort of thing that will get hammered out with more experience, but this was a very promising early effort.onlyskin41[1]

ONLY SKIN #4, by Sean Ford.  I actually don’t want to comment too much on the specifics of this issue, given that Secret Acres will be collecting the whole thing when it’s done.  What I will note is that this was a payoff issue where Ford working big (it’s 8.5 x 11″) became important once again after a couple of issues of mostly tight-in panels focusing on characters.  ONLY SKIN is a mystery with David Lynchian overtones.  The book rests on the way various character arcs intertwine, with some characters acting as straight men and others as quirk magnets.  There’s something killing people in a forest near a truck stop town, and a woman came back to try to find her missing father.  Meanwhile, her younger brother is haunted by the cartoony image of a ghost.

This issue mixes the absurd with the chilling, as the ghost (who may or may not be the boy’s father) insists that the boy try to kill him, while another character is faced with the specter of a leveled forest.  The first double-page spread of a forest whose trees had been razed in an unnatural fashion was made all the more ominous by Ford’s use of smeared blacks in creating a stormcloud.  In a comic where atmosphere meets absurdity, Ford cranked up both to a thrilling degree in this issue.

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