Minicomics: Ford, Frederick-Frost, Freibert

Posted by on January 29th, 2011 at 5:09 AM

Rob reviews Only Skin #6, by Sean Ford; Mr. Cellar’s Attic, by Noel Freibert; and Courtship of Ms. Smith, by Alexis Frederick-Frost.

Only Skin #6, by Sean Ford. Ford’s series will be collected by Secret Acres in 2012 and as there’s only one more issue to go, I won’t get too much into plot details.  Working in a big (9×12″) format, Ford has taken advantage of the room afforded to him with big, sweeping reveals–both narrative and emotional.  This series has mixed a number of genre tropes: conspiracy theory, horror plots, the mysterious & malevolent woods, a potential murder mystery with disappearing people, and the vaguely creepy disaffected teenager.  Thrown into that familiar stew has been a huge dollop of the seemingly inexplicable and absurd, as a Pac-Man style ghost is floating around, revealing himself to the younger brother of the series’ protagonist, Cassie and dispensing all sorts of weird anecdotes.  This issue serves to tighten up the narrative in unusual and unexpected ways while opening up new questions.  Ford is certainly not settling for pat answers or cliches in his series, and I especially like the way he takes advantage of his particular style of mark-making.  His figures are a bit on the blank side in terms of expressiveness, but he makes that work by juxtaposing them against his wild backgrounds.  His charcoal-drawn forests look like scrawls on a page, and yet they also look true to life in their own way–a world where reality does turn upside down a little and the burnt-out trees do resemble charred sticks.  The final image, of fiery licks cascading across the page as they chase a stag, is an especially haunting one.

Courtship of Ms. Smith, by Alexis Frederick-Frost.  I’m used to historical drama and sweeping brushstrokes from Frederick-Frost.  This mini is a bit different, demonstrating a looser style and a wickedly morbid sense of humor.  Part Jane Austen comedy of manners and part authentic depiction of arachnid mating patterns, this comic expertly combines the intricate plot and character work endemic to an Austen story, centering around a young anthropomorphic spider’s attempts to find a husband.  Of course, she keeps eating potential suitors, especially those who commit the faux pas of approaching her instead of letting her approach them after luring her in with music.  With proxies standing in for potential lovers, unexpected reversals and an ending that busts out of 19th century morality, Frederick-Frost keeps the reader off-balance (and laughing) with the verisimilitude of his depiction of spider behavior while using a variety of compositional tricks to keep the reader’s eye engaged.

Mr. Cellar’s Attic, by Noel Freibert. Freibert’s a member of the intriguing Closed Caption Comics collective out of Baltimore, a style and genre-mixing bunch.  This comic is horror in the vein of Poe, Lovecraft and EC Comics and succeeds because of its sheer visceral qualities.  Working big (9×13″), the silkscreen processing of this comic’s cardstock cover make it weird  and uncomfortable to the touch.  There’s something uncomfortably lurid about this comic, and I’m not talking about the story.  The pastels bleed together to create a sort of sickly effect, the sort of feeling one would get encountering a creature in the Lovecraft universe.  The way Freibert sets up the story as one where the reader must wonder what is in the attic, creating great tension, are straight out of Poe.  However, the first-person narrative captions detailing a descent into madness are straight out of Lovecraft.  The gleefully gruesome drawings are a bit out of EC, combined with a more primitivist, Mat Brinkman style.  Freibert quickly gets to his point in just nine pages, an economy of style that allows this comic’s impact to linger.

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