This and That From CCS

Posted by on October 16th, 2010 at 6:04 AM

Rob reviews A Vanishing Act, by Paul Swartz; Oak & Linden #2, by Pat Barrett; and WW, by Aaron Cockle.

A Vanishing Act, by Paul Swartz.  This was just a 12-page sampler for a longer, 32-page issue, but I was highly impressed by its every aspect.  From his Skip Williamson-inspired exaggerated character design to his bold and vivid use of color to his intricate use of details in invoking the Vaudeville era of New York City, A Vanishing Act left me wanting much more.  It’s the story of a wholly disagreeable, ugly young man with a single talent: vocal mimicry.  He can’t gain much traction as an entertainer because he’s so odd-looking and dispeptic, until one day he actually transforms into the person whose voice he was imitating onstage.  Swartz is equally facile in crafting funny drawings as well as witty narration, as a gag involving Herbert Hoover and Calvin Coolidge attests.  Swartz potentially has a great future ahead of him as a humorist.

WW, by Aaron Cockle.  This is a typically mind-bending story from Cockle, whose specialty is in crafting mysteries with no answers and conspiracies that don’t unravel.  This is the first part of a larger story wherein a Cockle stand-in is instructed by his “organization” to go on a field mission to help secure its future survival in the face of an “imminent global conflagration”.  The key to Cockle’s success is how utterly deadpan and even quotidian his stories are, as his characters try to make sense of their world from moment to moment.  Cockle doesn’t quite have the chops to pull off some of the images he explored here, like nude 6-breasted field assassins, a teleportation device and the dire consequences of a machine that folds in space and time.  This is a story that I’d like to see redrawn in the future.

Oak & Linden #2, by Pat Barrett.  This is a stylish mini, from the gold on red cover to the cream-colored paper to Barrett’s thick and distinctive line.  This is a collection of short stories, ranging from diary comics to bits that bleed into genre.  It opens with a story filled with scribbled clouds, stick-figure gods and their supposed worshipers.  Barrett cleverly mimics primitive cave art, providing a grisly punchline.  In another story, using a thick line to delineate his characters but a lighter, looser line in drawing facial figures, he lampoons a Captain Kirk-style blowhard who crashes on an alien planet, only to find a way to systematically exploit it.  “It Happened At A Hanging” is a Roger Langridge-inspired bit of black-and-white surrealism.  “The Trouble With Diary Comics” is as meta as it gets in detailing the ways in which people knowing you do a diary strip interferes with one’s ability to create a decent one.  Barrett’s got great chops, and I’ll be curious to see how he chooses to build on his abilities as he attempts more ambitious work.

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