Finding A Voice: Two Comics By L.Nichols

Posted by on July 12th, 2010 at 5:55 AM

Rob reviews two minicomics from L.Nichols: JUMBLY JUNKERY #9 and RADIO GHOSTS Volume 1.

This and other images copyright 2010 by L.Nichols

L.Nichols is a young artist who’s aggressively pushing the boundaries of her talent and style.  While she still does a number of standard, quotidian autobio strips, Nichols has started to expand her range into fiction, abstract comics and comics-as-poetry as well.  Her line ranges from naturalistic to scratchy to blotchy to cartoony to grotesque, trying out tricks like gray-scaling, zip-a-tone and even a clear-line style.  The first volume of RADIO GHOSTS sees her working in full color in a manner clearly designed to get across madness as well as tell a story.  She’s leaving no stone unturned as a developing cartoonist, slowly but surely finding her voice as she becomes more comfortable working in a number of different styles.

JUMBLY JUNKERY #9 is the most impressive issue of this grab-bag collection to date.  Her self-caricature (a ragdoll with button eyes) remains one of the more clever such visual representatives in comics, though I think her best comics tend to be non-autobiographical.  Take “Empire”, for example.  It’s one of Nichols’ variations on a distopian fairy tale, one where a civilization fades while no one pays attention.  It’s told in a highly-stylized manner, invoking cave drawings and other primitive but highly expressive mark-making.  In just one page, Nichols gives the reader a powerful set of images; it’s less a story than a brief illustration of decay.

“Tele-Misconceptions”, a story about her childhood, is marked by the kind of blotchy art a child would make.  A former engineering student, Nichols makes great use of equations and diagrams in her comics, for both comic and dramatic purposes.  A diagram is a quick, abstracted way to describe a set of relationships in time and/or space, and their relationship to comics is quite clear.  “SNR” is an exercise in comics-as-poetry, merging the rhythms of spoken-word poetry with the rhythms of comics.  Here, Nichols uses negative space as a storytelling device, equating it with the sort of total sensory deprivation that she craves.  Nichols doesn’t seem entirely comfortable yet using these techniques, but it seems like that’s the point of her work in JUMBLY JUNKERY: breaking out of her comfort zone.

RADIO GHOSTS draws the reader when a ship sails in, only to have its crew quickly hustled along so as to avoid the poisonous gases that form when the sun goes down.  That immediately piques one’s curiosity, especially when presented with the vivid and at times deliberately garish color scheme that Nichols lays out here.  The color gives the entire strip a hyper-intense, almost nightmarish quality.  After that jarring introduction, the premise of the story is revealed: the visitors are a team looking to do research into a particular malady treated at what turns out to be a clinic.

The clinic treats “Virtual Sickness”, an affliction wherein one’s consciousness becomes entirely digital and leaves the body behind.  The problem is that those afflicted go insane and flood communication networks with noise.  This first volume sets up the essential conflict of the series: can the afflicted only be brought back to their bodies through pain because they’re so disconnected, or can prior connections inspire them?  Nichols paints a grim picture of sadistic scientists working for what they consider to be the common good and isn’t all that subtle about it, but I’m curious to see how she explores the inherent dangers of abuse in scientific research, along with the ways in which the mind and body interact.

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2 Responses to “Finding A Voice: Two Comics By L.Nichols”

  1. […] Rob Clough reviews Jumbly Junkery 9 and Radio Ghosts: Vol. 1 over at TCJ Go check it out! I think it’s a pretty darn good review. […]

  2. […] Rob Clough reviews Jumbly Junkery 9 and Radio Ghosts: Vol. 1 over at TCJ. Go check it out! I think it’s a pretty darn good review. […]