CCS Anthologies: Future

Posted by on October 13th, 2010 at 5:42 AM

Rob reviews the Emily Wieja-edited anthology Future, which includes contributions from Jason Overby, Jen Tong and Jose-Luis Olivares.

Future is the fifth volume of the Four Square series of anthologies from the I Know Joe Kimpel collective from the Center For Cartoon Studies.  It’s about 6×6″ square and always elegantly assembled.  Each issue has four artists working around the same theme; this issue’s theme is “future”, of course.  Future certainly has an eclectic group of artists that mostly complemented each other well.  The artist whose work didn’t fit in was Jen Tong’s “Virtual Date”, a thin-lined story about the ways in which appearance and reality can be at odds with each other.  An insecure lemonheaded character turns out to be the one with a problem when it turns out that the dream boy is really a robot (something he admits when they meet in person).  It’s not an especially remarkable revelation, nor is it told in a way that was engaging.  This story was a great disappointment considering that I’ve seen some of Tong’s other work and much of it is quite striking, with her color sense a particular attraction.

Jason Overby’s entry is told in his usual oblique, dense style.  To a degree, his stories are not meant to be read or even looked as much as they’re there to be parsed.  Keeping to a strict four-panel grid, his story is about time, space and the ways in which mental images flash in and out of coalescence.  Despite the static nature of each panel, the story is about the ways in which its narrators feels that he must keep moving, must keep seeking sensation or else he faces oblivion.  As such, Overby conveys the nervous energy of the protagonist even as the reader only sees glimpses and shapes.  Overby wisely chose not to overwhelm the visual field in this story, preferring to let his simple figures convey meaning.

Wieja’s “Mirror” employs her trademark, dramatic use of stark black figures.  A silent comic, it’s a fitting companion to Overby’s piece about predation and image.  An eagle sees itself eating a worm (after an extreme close-up of a blood-covered talon), frozen by multiple reflections of itself.  It shares the oblique nature of Overby’s comics, told in a more more compact and direct fashion.

The best story in the issue belonged to Jose-Luis Olivares, who has become one of the most interesting talents to emerge from CCS.  His wordless story was as constructed as much as it was drawn, reminiscent of Leslie Stein’s construction-paper comic Yeah, It Is as well as Souther Salazar’s work.  Olivares has always had the unique talent of bringing life to blobby characters, infusing them with personality and having them interact with their environments in interesting ways.  This story is indeed a futuristic one, as a dreamer who only desires the beauty of nature and interpersonal connection is forced to live in a world whose inhabitants do not look at each other, upon pain of total obliteration.

Olivares creates a world that one can get lost in, focusing on the visceral nature of each image as something that was drawn or constructed by hand.  Seeing big ben-day dots, white-out used to depict snow and obvious cut-outs serves to draw the reader into his world rather than force them out of it.  Emphasizing the sheer artificiality of his technique while telling a story about meditation and flowers blooming creates a certain kind of magical interaction with the page.  In what is really a sweet and at times even sentimental story, its more sugary aspects are entirely appropriate considering the way that Olivares crafted each page (and hence, his entire world). I’d love to see this story reprinted in a larger format to help the pages breathe a bit more, though I suppose the claustrophobic nature of some of the panels was entirely intentional.  Wieja was wise to leave this story for last, as well as placing it directly after her own.  It’s another wordless story, one that also depicts the struggle for survival and meaning in a harsh world.  Future is yet another well-conceived, well-executed anthology from CCS alums and their associates.

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2 Responses to “CCS Anthologies: Future

  1. joseluis6000 says:

    Thank you for the thoughtful review. I’ve posted the complete comic of “First Flower” on my blog in full color and with an alternate ending, which you can read here: http://joseluisolivares.com/blog/?p=705

  2. […] Here is Rob Clough’s take on it over at The Comics Journal: “Future certainly has an eclectic group of artists that mostly complemented each other well…Future is yet another well-conceived, well-executed anthology from CCS alums and their associates.” […]