Minicomics Round-Up: Kelberman, Baddeley, Reed

Posted by on September 29th, 2010 at 5:08 AM

Rob reviews a smattering of recent minicomics, including The Regular Man #11 & #12, by Dina Kelberman; Aloha and The Island, by Desmond Reed; and Silent-V #2, by Kyle Baddeley.

Silent-V #2, by Kyle Baddeley.  This is another agreeable slice of weirdness from Baddeley, one that coheres a bit better than the first issue.  He’s starting to move past the obvious Jimbo and Ed The Happy Clown influences and is creating a weird world of his own.  It’s one filled with cute creatures performing all sorts of acts of violence, age-old conspiracies perpetrated by scientists and monks, and funny bits of dialogue (a character protesting his “meeting his maker” because he’s an atheist).  A good reference point for this comic is Matthew Thurber’s 1-800-MICE, a comic with a similarly dark and absurd sense of humor that also combines cute and visceral drawings.  Baddeley noticeably took great pains to flesh out the world he is creating with more detailed backgrounds, but isn’t entirely comfortable integrating character and environment just yet.  His characters are strange, but the world they inhabit is even stranger and the reader needs to understand that.  There’s no question that his character design is clever and expressive, engaging the reader’s eye immediately.  I have a sense that this comic will read better once a few more issues come out, because Baddeley is all about creating a particular sort of storytelling flow.

The Regular Man #11 and #12, by Dina Kelberman.  Kelberman’s peculiar comics at their heart are about obsession.  The beautifully fussy cover design for a two-page minicomic is an echo of this, as is the way she relates to art itself.  Any number of her comics deal with an urge not just to retire from art, but to publicly announce that she’s retiring from art.  #11 has that and her obsession with losing a USB cord, pausing from that anxiety only out of sheer exhaustion.  #12 amusingly flips that obsessiveness around as she becomes interested in the fitness activities of a friend as well as other peculiarities.  She’s told “You were less annoying when you only thought about yourself”, a statement that works as a gag, a stinging putdown, and a recalibration of self.  Kelberman’s choppy panel placement, featuring panels on paper as well as obvious scraps of post-it notes, is both a reflection of the heavily improvisational nature of her work as well as her desire to keep the reader off-balance.  That goes along with the non-intuitive use of color, varied lettering styles and minimalist line.  The effect is a comic that has a creator who puts a premium on spontaneity but also thinks long and hard about what kind of effect she hopes to elicit.

The Island and Aloha, by Desmond Reed.  These are simply-drawn, simply-assembled minis that lead up to carefully-structured punchlines.  While the comics feature grisly punchlines and  iconic figures, the real source of their humor comes from interpersonal irritation.  Aloha is about three worms eating lunch together, with one of them being so annoying that the other two conspire to murder him.  Murder is preferable to simply telling him off, because that’s not polite.  Reed doubles back on the social discomfort when the murdered worm comes back in several segments, tormenting the protagonists even further.  Reed’s cartoony style is the key to The Island‘s payoff, as the talking dog and talking cheeseburger that the reader understood to be the story’s protagonists suddenly morph into something very different.  The simplicity of the rendering draws the reader into another situation where a cheerfully and incessantly annoying person draws the ire of the presumptive protagonist.  As in his other comic, Reed uses the classic technique of subverting the protagonists’ apparent triumph in a disturbing manner.

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