Works In Progress: Nurse Nurse 6 and Troop 142 4

Posted by on August 7th, 2010 at 5:05 AM

Rob reviews Troop 142 #4 by Mike Dawson; Nurse Nurse #6 by Katie Skelly.

A few minicomics series have reached a point where it no longer makes much sense to comment on the particular happenings in the narrative.  Instead, I’ll focus in on other aspects of each issue.

Troop 142 #4, by Mike Dawson.  Dawson’s story about Boy Scouts and scoutmasters on a particular trip in the mid-90s reached a particular set of tension and trigger points in this issue.  Self-consciously awkward scoutmaster Alan and meathead scoutmaster Bill get into a debate over the Scouts’ policy of not allowing atheists.  Simmering tensions between the boys results in a particular prank going too far.  That results in an alpha male scout’s humiliation at the hands of a scoutmaster, which in turn earns him more razzing from his now-emboldened peers.  One could see the plot’s gears turning perhaps a bit too obviously in this issue, as that humiliation in turn led to him ratting on his friends, which led to the possible dissolution of the camp itself.

Once again, the most interesting aspect of the issue was the sexually charged relationship between two young scouts, a relationship that was finally consummated at the end of the issue.  Given the homophobia of most teenage boys, it’ll be interesting to see how this plays out.  Hopefully, Dawson won’t be so anxious to move the plot in a particular direction in the series’ last three issues that it obscures the simple (and frequently painfully awkward) pleasures of seeing the real ways in which teenage boys interact.

Nurse Nurse #6, by Katie Skelly.  The patterns of black and white seen when one closes one’s eyes under the influence of LSD are a sort of intensely-stimulated phosphene.  That’s the light pattern that can be induced by putting pressure on one’s eye when it’s closed.  The way that pattern is hardwired into our optic nerves makes seeing a duplication of that pattern in the real world such a powerful experience.  Skelly’s Nurse Nurse series is psychedelic science fiction, where her use of black & white patterns in her art creates that reaction at the same time she’s telling a story.

In particular, Skelly ramps up this effect in her wordless panels, like the way she alternates between white-on-black and black-on-white snow flurry patterns.  She keeps the patterns simple so as to not distract the eye too much, but the overall effect is slightly disorienting, keeping the reader as off balance as it does her heroine, Gemma.  When Skelly wants us to pay attention to the action of the panel, her use of black almost entirely drops off the page, leaving the reader with her clear, simple line.  As she’s grown more and more confident in her line as the series has progressed, it’s become clearer just what kind of story she wants to tell.  This series has a few more issues to go before it’s published by Sparkplug Comic Books, so I won’t bother talking about the story, but this is the sort of “fusion” comic that Frank Santoro talks about that has fused elements not usually seen in alt-comics.

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