Minis From Silber Media

Posted by on February 27th, 2010 at 8:06 AM

Rob reviews a number of minis from Brian John Mitchell’s Silber Media, including JUST A MAN #2 & 3 (art by Andrew White), MARKED #1 (art by Jeremy Johnson), WORMS #5 (art by Kimberlee Traub) and ULTIMATE LOST KISSES #11 (art by Dave Sim).

Brian John Mitchell’s minicomics are odd little things, measuring about 2×2″.  Each page contains a single panel, and they are paced such that the reader is encouraged to tear through them.  Each title is a variation on a genre concept, told in roughly the same narrative voice from comic to comic.  That voice is a first-person narrator with an odd flatness of affect.  No matter how weird or horrible things may get, the voice retains that same unshakable level of calm.  How well each particular comic worked depended on the artist.

For example, MARKED #1, with art by Jeremy Johnson, is the weakest comic in the batch.  It’s a story about a guy hunting a couple of killers possessed by demons, with the twist that he was holding back his own demon.  Johnson’s art walked the line between simple and unclear, resulting in a number of pages that were simply incoherent.  On the other hand, Kimberlee Traub’s art in WORMS #5 ( a sci-fi/horror comic about a girl trying to escape from a deadly lab with her new-found, worm-given powers) is simple and stylish.  The story also has a manic quality to it that propels the reader through the hero’s attempt to escape.  The story also has a creepy quality, as the worms inside of her become beloved figures in her life in a way that is not explained.

Mitchell’s western series, JUST A MAN #2 and #3, pick up after the first issue’s massacre of a man’s family.  He guesses who the killers were, coldly murders them all, and then leaves town.  The first issue was impressive in its cold bleakness, but the series took a series of wacky left turns as it proceeded.  The man goes to another town, winds up taking a job retrieving a young woman from a brothel, and finds his supposedly dead wife is working there–and starts shooting at him.  We learn that the man was a Clint Eastwood-style killer who hung up his guns, but fell quite easily into his old habits when he had to.  The artist, Andrew White, frequently employs a close-up style to emphasize the hero’s point of view.  For example, when he’s in a bar, the reader only sees a bottle and glass in a panel.  It’s an odd comic that reflects the slightly skewed perspective of Mitchell as a writer.

The most unusual of all these comics was ULTIMATE LOST KISSES #11, which was drawn by Dave Sim.  Yes, that Dave Sim, of CEREBUS fame.  The story involved a woman who found out that the son she gave up for adoption was now grown up–but in prison.  Sim used the one-page, one-panel approach to repeat variations on the same static image as though this were a flip book.  Meanwhile, Mitchell’s flat narration beats on in every panel, relating the feelings of the character, but only in the most restrained manner.  The most striking image that Sim repeats is that of her son, with a shaved head and angular profile, calmly relating why he committed murder.  It’s a comic that doesn’t seek to pass judgments on its characters: it simply relates disturbing events and asks the reader to accept them, as is.  Removing the genre tropes from his storytelling made this the most direct and powerful of Mitchell’s comics.  The Silber media comics do come across sometimes more as novelty items than real attempts at expression, so it was interesting to see Mitchell work with Sim to create a comic that was genuinely chilling.

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