Minis: Salad Days and The Natural World #3

Posted by on May 31st, 2010 at 5:47 AM

Rob reviews the first volume of SALAD DAYS, by Minty Lewis and the third issue of THE NATURAL WORLD, by Damien Jay.

SALAD DAYS, by Minty Lewis.  Lewis’ PS COMICS collection from Secret Acres was a fine testament to her witty, awkward depictions of anthropomorphic dogs and fruit.  Lewis has a fine ear for the comedy of workplace humiliation and stultifying boredom.  This new mini featured the first two chapters of a different turn, as the ever aggrieved Apple quits his job (thinking his newly-fired boss will join him in a new start-up IT company), only to find out that he’s been double-cross.  Unemployed, desperately lonely and totally adrift, Apple tries to find some way to fill his days.

There’s a hilarious scene where he tries to volunteer for NPR and says, “This is Apple.  I need help.”, instead of saying “I’d like to help”.  While on the phone, he tosses out a beat-up armchair that his cat had torn to shreds, kicking it down the stairs as some sort of gesture of activity in his life.  After seeing a documentary about a highly-sensitive gorilla at a local zoo, Apple decides to volunteer at the zoo in order to meet the gorilla.  Alas, volunteers only get to chop up the gorilla’s salad, but the end of this issue leads Apple to what might be an unlikely love interest.

Lewis uses a clear-line approach for her comics, which works especially well for her “Fruit Pals” characters in giving them a bold, iconic look.  This allows her a great deal of clarity to her storytelling, even as the reader swallows the notion of anthropomorphic fruit.  Where Lewis has grown the most as an artist is her depiction of her characters in space and in relation to each other, especially in terms of gesture.  This visual restraint allows her to use subtle marks (especially in the dots and dashes that form mouths and eyes) to speak emotional volumes.

THE NATURAL WORLD #3, by Damien Jay.  I can’t think of a better cartoonist than Jay who has yet to have his work picked up by a publisher.  His line is loose and lively, his character design clever (with a touch of the grotesque) and his wit is fanciful and touches on the absurd.  This is a fantasy series that’s as much about the grime of the medieval era as it is about its superstitions (and possibly magic).  There’s a wonderfully grimy, visceral quality to Jay’s cartooning that provides an amusing contrast to the more surreal or fanciful aspects of his story.

This issue picks up on some plot threads from the first issue while tying them in with the events of the second issue.  The overbearing, arrogant village official named Roger who bullied his idiot brother and fooled around with a woman was suddenly put in an amusingly tough spot when his workers found what may have been a witch near a supposedly evil hedge that they were charged with clearing away.  When they noted that she resembled the woman he had been fooling around with, he suddenly knew that he was in an impossible position.  Jay draws this sequence out to maximally awkward effect, as even the parents of the girl he fooled around with were perfectly willing to subject her to punishment if she had indeed turned to witchery.

This comic is all about the line between appearance and reality, a line that Jay exaggerates (sometimes supernaturally) for comic effect.  The scene where Roger’s brother encounters a rubbery tree-creature who starts to mess around with him was a great example of this quality.  The trouble that Roger got in as a result of his own duplicity also pointed out the ways in which hypocrisy creates a dual, false reality of its own, and Jay folding that into witchery was an especially apt metaphor.  Hopefully, some wise publisher will pick this series up shortly, especially if Jay can pick up the pace a bit in its production.

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