Exploring New Worlds: Minis by Kubby, Lisa McDonnell, and Ansis Purins

Posted by on December 8th, 2010 at 6:29 AM

Rob reviews Clare #1 by Kubby; Zombre #2 by Ansis Purins; and Winter Break 2010: University of Diversity, by Lisa McDonnell.

Clare #1, by Kubby.  This Center for Cartoon Studies graduate has always produced lovely, spontaneous work, usually centering around anthropomorphic animals.  This mini’s titular character is a dog raised at sea who is left in the care of a mapmaker’s school so as to develop his natural skills.  For Kubby, it’s all about the figure.  The spare, scribbly line used here keeps the focus on the sensitive, eccentric lead character as he negotiates his new world on land.  With a six to nine panel grid used on every page, Kubby takes the reader through each page quickly rather than have them linger on any particular image.  That unfortunately makes the end of this issue a bit abrupt, leaving the reader wishing for more.  The theme of this comic revolves around someone who is part of a marginalized subculture feeling even more marginalized because of their particular interest.  Here, Clare is a mapmaker who only excels at drawing imaginary maps, and he slowly realizes that he doesn’t fit in at this school.  As the issue ends, he ponders the possibility of a major life change.  I’ll be curious to see how much substance this series develops, or if it will be more of a fragment, like much of Kubby’s past work.

Zombre #2, by Ansis Purins. This weird little mini has beautiful cartooning and design.  It involves a benevolent zombie character wandering around a national park, his unusual friendship with a young girl, a hippie park ranger who is constantly harried, and a vaguely malevolent hard park ranger.  The stitched face and button eyes of Zombre add to the tension of this comic, one balanced between cute and horrific.  There’s a scene where Zombre meets the girl, whom he understands loves birds because of the image on her shirt.  What’s the best way to attract birds?  Summon a horde of cockroaches, of course, and that’s exactly what happens in a scene that’s skin-crawling at first but then becomes oddly heart-warming.  That’s one of many odd but deliberate tonal shifts to be found in this comic, as Purins goes for the corny humor of the hippie ranger to visceral gross-out humor to vaguely supernatural concepts.  It works because of the clear nature of Purins’ line along with the use of shading techniques like zip-a-tone, adding just the right visual touch without intruding on the linework.

Winter Break 2010: University of Diversity, by Lisa McDonnell.  There’s a compelling earnestness to McDonnell’s scrawled-out, primitive line.  While this story of two college students traveling to Mexico has all sorts of fantastic imagery (like a vision from the Virgin Mary), it also feels deeply autobiographical.  At heart, it’s a story about the way travel can consist of a series of perfect, transformative moments.  McDonnell’s style looks like a mix between Mark Beyer’s thick, angular and uncomfortable lines and Lynda Barry’s slightly grotesque character design.  Tonally, the dream logic and weird images seen here almost feel like something out of a bizarre children’s book.  That’s certainly the case in another one of her recent minis, Hurry Up. This one looks entirely computer-generated and emphasizes color, weird angles and the interface between text and image.  It’s immersive not in the same sense as University of Diversity (where text and image are both variations on a scribble), but one where a number of clean images are blended together into something truly strange, in a story about an angry snail and its tormentor.  Ultimately, McDonnell’s future in comics would be better served in concentrating on her black and white work, as her color work tends to look more disposable at this point.  It also seems that the more personal the subject matter, the better the comic, which is why University of Diversity is clearly her best work to this point.

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