Ignatz Update 2: Niger #3

Posted by on February 21st, 2011 at 9:35 AM

In the second part of a series, Rob takes a look at the most recent issues published from the joint Fantagraphics-Coconino Press Ignatz Series.  Here, he examines Niger #3, by Leila Marzocchi.

It’s hard to decide which Ignatz book is the best-looking purely from an aesthetic standpoint, but Leila Marzocchi’s Niger has to be in consideration.  It’s another series that’s dominated by two tones (in this case, rust red and a chalky blue) that’s remarkable to behold simply in terms of its mark-making.  There’s a lushness to this series, in the way Marzocchi uses a scratchy technique that makes her figures and backgrounds look as though they were less drawn than constructed with dense webs of color.  Her figures are fabulously exaggerated, all curves and bulbous noses.  Everyone is larger than life, creating a sort of mysterious and slightly dark fairy tale atmosphere for this story.

There’s a touch of darkness to be found in what is otherwise a whimsical woodland story.  The mysterious, tiny central character, Dolly, is a sort of female gastropod of sorts.  Raised and protected by a number of different birds (all with a different set of idiosyncrasies), Dolly proves to be far deadlier than one would expect by her tiny size.  Who and what she is is still the primary mystery in a series that is about the way mysteries upset the balance in an otherwise stolid ecosystem.  This issue introduced another mystery, that of an ancient stone that “hatched” two wings.  The ecosystem, which includes a talking tree and the flying Hand of Fatima (literally, a flying, flapping hand that lays down decrees) was set a-twitter about this development as Marzocchi introduced the first elements that resembled plot points in an otherwise pleasant ramble of a series.  Most of Niger has been an exercise in world-building surrounding its very cute but not entirely innocent main character.

Working big suits Marzocchi’s style perfectly.  The only white space to be found in this comic is in its word balloons.  Each panel tends to be a close-up of a figure or figures, and working any smaller would destroy the comic’s impact.  It’s really a visual feast thanks to the sheer density of her line and backgrounds, even as her narrative techniques are quite conventional.  It’s an easy comic to follow and probably the friendliest to non-comics readers in the Ignatz line.  While its ideas are original, its familiar feel creates a certain immediate comfort level for the reader as they delve into a strange and beautiful world.  It’s as though Niger is a favorite old fairy tale whose memory is just out of reach.  I am quite curious to see if she actually ratchets up the stakes in this series or if she will continue to unravel its mysteries more slowly and with fewer overt conflicts.

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