The Latest Batch From Silber Media

Posted by on November 3rd, 2010 at 5:09 AM

Rob reviews the latest batch of matchbook-sized minis from Brian John Mitchell and various collaborators.

Looking at the newest set of minicomics from Raleigh, NC’s own Brian John Mitchell and friends, it’s become clear that the most successful of these odd little 2×2″ (and occasional 3×3″) micro-minis tend to have the simplest rendering styles.  Take Worms #6, for instance.  Kimberlee Traub’s thick but simple line verges on the abstract at times, adding a certain weird energy to this sci-fi/military conspiracy story.  On the tiny pages where each page contains a single panel, Traub eschews any pretense of traditional narrative flow for a series of striking singular images.  On the other hand, the Johnny Hoang-drawn Mecha #1 is done in a realistic style with narrative captions written in a difficult-to-read script.  Based on an album, Mecha also reminds me a bit of the old Marvel Killraven series, with Martians taking over the planet and forcing children to fight in arenas.  Even in a 3×3″ format, the small size of the pages does no favors to Hoang’s art, which itself is serviceable but otherwise unremarkable.

As always, these Mitchell-written comics dip into genre concerns like crime (Cops & Crooks #1), gritty westerns (Just A Man #4), or sociopathic killers (XO #6).  Mitchell is careful to have each of these comics tell a complete story in a single issue, even if they’re part of a larger storyline.  Mitchell packs 40-50 pages in each issue; even at a panel a page, Mitchell’s dominant narrative style still makes each individual comic a surprisingly meaty read.  That narrative deliberately cultivates a flatness of affect that turns each genre slightly on its head.  In XO, for example, the matter-of-factness of the murdering protagonist is so disconcerting that one almost forgets why he’s taking a long road trip to Miami.  The simplicity of the rendering here also worked to the comic’s advantage. Cops and Crooks was a flip-book mini, with one side featuring a first-person narrative from a criminal on a vendetta against the police because his father was killed by a cop, and the other side featuring a cop whose father was killed by a criminal.  The heavy rendering of Eric Shonborn’s “Crooks” portion looked like it was inspired by Jim Lee-era X-Men comics, which didn’t translate well at all.  The latest issue of Just A Man felt repetitive, lacking the sheer audacity of the two most recent issues.

The most intriguing mini in this bunch was Silber Mini-Comics Sampler #1.  Rather than include sample pages from each of his series, Silber instead wrote new 8-page stories that focused more on character, theme and set-up than on plot.  Anyone curious about what these minis are all about would be wise to pick up this comic, which includes a short from the Lost Kisses series, a hilarious stick-figure series about one man’s thoughts on life.  The drier the humor and blander the situation, the more interesting Mitchell’s comics tend to be. Mitchell seems fascinated with genre comics, but the micro-mini format seems a poor fit for a number of them.  In the Sampler, at least, one can get a quick sense of what Mitchell does best, along with an understanding of Mitchell’s unusual voice as a writer.

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