New Anthologies from CCS: Dark Corners

Posted by on December 5th, 2009 at 9:36 AM

Rob continues his series on anthologies from the Center for Cartoon Studies with a look at DARK CORNERS.

DarkCorners

DARK CORNERS is the latest in the 4-Square anthology series from CCS folks, with each issue focusing on a single concept. (Previous issues included “no!” and “sorry” as key words.) With incidental art by the great horror master Steve Bissette, this issue centered around the title idea of encountering dark forces in out of the way places. For a reader new to the work of the artists therein, this must have been a frustrating and confusing comic to read at times since several of the stories were part of larger storylines. It’s a tribute to the artists that the stories had some degree of compactness to them, even if having read their other work would have changed the way they understood the stories. The story that perhaps suffered the most was Mario Van Buren’s “Jenny–The Marsh” part 2. While the reader understood that a girl was being haunted by a corpse in a nearby field, we don’t know how the corpse got there or how she got involved. All we know is that she torched the body and a suspicious nearby neighbor was about to rat her out. Van Buren’s line veered from simplistic to naturalistic, depending on whether he’s depicting the characters or dramatic events in the background.

nothing

My favorite story here was the self-contained “Imaginary Friend”, by Caitlin Plovnick. Plovnick’s line was far simpler than her peers in this issue. She focused instead on characterization and body language, though there were points where her depiction of objects in space felt crude. That didn’t matter all that much, because the story was so compelling and her figures told it well. This was a story of an outcast teenager with an imaginary friend who is beautiful & glamorous, yet accompanied her on assorted adventures as her constant companion. When confronted about all of the ways she’s different and not meeting the expectations of school, she finally decided to grow up and face reality. The problem was that her imaginary friend wound up having ambitions of her own…whether her real friend wanted them or not. There were a few chilling, yet simply rendered images in this story: the girl’s tormentors being exploded into leaves and the girl fading away at the end as the imaginary friend popped into the real world by grabbing her backpack.

sammy

The remaining two stories were both connected to larger storylines that I’ve been following closely. Jef Lok’s “Sam and Dan” story has turned into quite the epic, spilling through several anthologies and its own titular minicomic. The story here picked up immediately after the end of the “Sam and Dan” mini, as two highwaymen come across the bizarre animal duo and meet an unpleasant fate. Lok mixes a sense of apocalyptic dread with a sort of weird rural lawlessness, with the figures rendered as anthropomorphic dogs, cats, pigs, etc. Denis St. John’s “I’m Worried About Sammy” is a fairly self-contained prequel to his Amelia series, which typically combined moments of visceral nastiness and outrageous humor. The scene where young Sammy (who is later transformed into a sort of Nosferatu) pulled out his teeth with a pair of pliers and then kicked his father in the head, had me both squirming and laughing. While I would have preferred four stories that were entirely self-contained, there’s still a high level of storytelling skill and imagination to be found in DARK CORNERS.

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3 Responses to “New Anthologies from CCS: Dark Corners”

  1. eric p says:

    I picked this up from the collective when they had a tour stop at Brooklyn’s Desert Island. I loved the the book save for the Sam and Dan piece, but knowing now that it’s part of a larger collection of stories makes a bit more sense.

    my favorite pieces were The Swamp, of which part 1 didn’t answer any of the questions you have regarding part 2 and Imaginary Friend.

  2. Rob Clough says:

    I would definitely seek out Sam ‘n Dan; it’s one of my favorite minis of the year.