Tuesday, December 29, 2020

#IReadsYou Review: NOW #8


[This review was originally posted on Patreon.]

CARTOONISTS: Theo Ellsworth; Sami Alwani; E.S. Glenn; Veronika Muchitsch; Henry McCausland; Zuzu; Noah Van Sciver; Walt Holcombe; Maggie Umber; Tara Booth
DESIGN: Jacob Covey
EDITOR: Eric Reynolds
COVER: Al Columbia
BACKCOVER: Nick Thorburn
ISBN: 978-1-68396-276-2; paperback (March 2020)
128pp, Color, $12.99 U.S.

NOW: The New Comics Anthology is an alternative-comics anthology series launched in 2017 and edited by Eric ReynoldsNOW is published by alt-comix and art comics publisher, Fantagraphics Books.  Over its four-plus decades of existence, Fantagraphics has published what is probably the most diverse collection of comic book anthologies in the history of North American comic books.  That line-up includes such titles as Anything Goes, Critters, Mome, Pictopia, and Zero Zero, to name a few.

NOW: The New Comics Anthology #8 is a recent strong entry in this anthology series.  I wish that everyone could read the introduction to NOW #1, written by Eric Reynolds, even those who have not read that debut issue.  In the intro, Reynolds states that he wants to showcase “...as broad a range of quality comic art as possible...”

Does NOW #8 do that?  Let's take a look at each of NOW #8's cartoonists' contributions:

THE LOWDOWN:  The illustration that acts as NOW #8's cover art is entitled “Isle of Enchantment,” and it is produced by Al Columbia.  It is a beautiful piece – mixing the elements of nature illustration and vintage cartoons.  It is a striking and arresting image, and I can't stop looking at it.

“Psychic Bug Spy” by Theo Ellsworth:
I like the art for this one-page story that opens NOW #8, and speaking of story, “Psychic Bug Spy” does nothing for me.

“The Misfortunes of Virtue” by Sami Alwani:
I totally and completely love this story because it is a sheer delight to read.  So the story follows an alternative cartoonist and art comics creator, “Saehmeh the Dog.” Yes, Saehmeh Aehlawahni is an anthropomorphic dog, and he is also something like a lovable blend of snob and crank.  For years, he struggles as a cartoonist, mainly because most art comics publishers won't take the work of a dog seriously – no matter much they like that dog's work.

Ultimately, this 16-page story plays out, as a theme, this quote that opens the story, “When you desire control, you let desire control you.”  Sami Alwani's drawing style, a kind of pliable and elastic line work, is perfect for this story's shifting landscape of surrealism and Saehmeh's self-absorbed and internal way of living with himself and with others.  “The Misfortunes of Virtue” is the kind of comics short story that will one day be used to justify whatever time NOW exists as an ongoing publication.

“The Gigs” by E.S. Glenn:
This surreal story follows several characters that are criminal types.  Three of them can be described as an artist and a hit man:  Junior, the struggling painter-hit man; Butterfly, the recently paroled blues singer-songwriter-hit man; and Philip T. Crow, a self-published poet-hit man.

The Gigs'” graphical storytelling and graphic design are like a modern take on the revered cartoonist Winsor McCay's old-timey Little Nemo work.  The beautiful clear-line art and the gorgeous rich colors are mesmerizing.  My mind's eye savored the experience of reading this story.

“I, Keira” by Veronika Muchitsch:
Keira lives in an Ikea-like “home goods” store (Store No. 87) as a living mannequin.  The story is a procession of lighting, geometric shapes, colors, and patterns into which Keira becomes another object.  I am more intrigued by the graphics and graphical storytelling than I am by Keira … but I actually want more of this.

“Garden Boys” by Henry McCausland:
Two boys go on a treasure hunt and adventure through urban back lots and vacant properties – all of which seem to have a pastoral theme.  “Garden Boys” is like a young adult graphic novel distilled into 12 beautifully drawn pages.  I want more of this.

“Red” by Zuzu:
I know I've seen Zuzu's art somewhere before, or I saw something that looked like it.  “Red” is a slice-of-life of a larger story, but what is here – an except of friendship – is sweet.

“Saint Cole” by Noah Van Sciver:
I'm calling this an autobiographical comic, although I am not sure that anyone uses that term anymore.  Van Sciver recounts a book store signing in Paris that he did to promote his new graphic novel.  However, one of his best known works, the graphic novel, Saint Cole (Fantagraphics Books, 2015), hangs over the story.  This story offers flashbacks concerning the road Van Sciver took to Saint Cole, which included stints as a sandwich shop manager and hawking his minicomics from one comic book shop to another.

I'm prejudiced, but I love “Saint Cole” the short story, and I guess it's time for me to read the actual graphic novel.  A portrait of the artist as an always striving man … this story is poignant and absorbing because Van Sciver makes cartoon Noah so damn likable.

“Cheminant Avec Emily” by Walt Holcombe:
In English, the title is “Walking with Emily.”  This is another autobiographical tale in which Holcombe recounts his deep friendship with a young woman, Emily, whom he meets at San Diego Comic-Con in the late 1990s.  Their relationship gets a soundtrack when Emily introduces Holcombe to the music of the real-life French-Canadian duo, singer-songwriters and sisters, Kate and Anna McGarrigle.

Beautifully drawn, poignant, and bittersweet, “Cheminant Avec Emily” testifies that it is the bittersweet in life that acts like salt on the fruit of love and friendship – accentuating the sweetness.  This story reveals the art of the comics short story and exemplifies the comics short story as art.  I feel like a traitor making Noah Van Sciver's “Saint Cole” the second best story in NOW #8, but Holcombe's story steamrolls through this comic book like the Los Angeles Lakers' LeBron James charging into the lane on the way to a power-dunk.

“The Intoxicated” by Maggie Umber:
I think this story is supposed to evoke emotions in the reader.  That it scares me must say something about me.  I like the art which looks as if it were drawn in charcoal.

“Binge Eating” by Tara Booth:
Yeah, if you have issues with eating too much, you will get this in-your-face gem.

“Now” by Nick Thorburn:
This back cover comic strip about the playful evolution of a father-son relationship is an excellent bit of macabre comedy expertly executed in three panels.

So, the final verdict on NOW #8 is that there is a lot of interesting drawing and illustrating going on in here.  Some are simply examples of beautiful illustrating, while others are visually striking.  Others are odd and unique, while others are not so much about being pretty, as they are simply powerful.

Of NOW#1, I said that if the volumes that followed were half as good as the debut was, then, NOW would be a must-read series for serious comic book readers.  NOW #8 is more than half-as-good, much more.  So get NOW … now.

I READS YOU RECOMMENDS:  Fans of classic alternative-comics anthologies will want to discover NOW: The New Comics Anthology.

8.5 out of 10

Reviewed by Leroy Douresseaux a.k.a. "I Reads You"


The text is copyright © 2020 Leroy Douresseaux. All Rights Reserved. Contact this blog for syndication rights and fees.


Amazon wants me to inform you that the link below is a PAID AD, but I technically only get paid (eventually) if you click on the ad below AND buy something(s).

No comments:

Post a Comment