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Sunday, July 08, 2007

MOME Summer 2007 -- So we've had two years of MOME now, and every volume (this is the eighth) has contained a critical mass of good, forward-looking comics, enough so to make each one worth recommending to anyone interested in where comics is at, and where it's going.

Eleanor Davis is the star this time around, contributing a cover, incidental drawings sprinkled throughout the volume, an exceptional 12-page story and the subject of an interview with Gary Groth, one of the inventors of comics journalism and one of its finest practitioners (as well as the publisher of MOME, it should be noted).

Davis's story leads off the issue, and it is a gorgeous lesson in formalist seduction. "Stick and String" explores the primal intersection of like and not-like, and visual metaphors abound: male vs. female, dance vs. music, primitive vs. well, less-primitive. It's also a simple story about a sexual encounter, and it's hard to imagine any adult not finding meaning and resonance in it.

Tom Kaczynski's "10,000 Years" reads like the superintelligent bastard child of Adrian Tomine and Wally Wood, perhaps what comics would look like today if the Comics Code had not put EC Comics out of business in the 1950s, and the superhero had remained one genre among many in the '60s, '70s and '80s.

"Young Americans" by Èmile Bravo sticks its dick in your head and makes a milkshake of your mind's expectations, and is a dark highlight of the year in comics. To say any more would spoil the current volume's greatest moment.

There are two contributions from Sophie Crumb this time out, a one-pager that is a minor delight and a multi-page story that kind of makes me sympathetic with those who wish MOME were a Sophie-free zone. I do think her work would be better served in her own series, but I don't know if more Belly Button issues are planned. And maybe it's my bias toward autobiographical stories, but her dream comics (and those of most other cartoonists as well, it should be noted) tend to not interest me much.

Paul Hornschemeier closes out the issue with another chapter in his "Life with Mr. Dangerous" serial, which is a pleasure to read but difficult to assess on a semi-annual basis and may read better once collected under one cover.

Al Columbia, Lewis Trondheim and others also contribute, making for a good mix of established masters and progressive newcomers.

I kind of understand why Christopher Butcher wrestles with what MOME is, exactly. Each issue offers up a lot -- a lot of good work by great cartoonists. The next volume promises work by Jim Woodring, so there's no question that it's one of the most significant and even fun anthologies of comic art today. But each issue feels like another piece in a puzzle rather than a discreet comics event suitable for regular periodical placement on the magazine rack at Borders, maybe between AdBusters and ArtForum. With tweaking, MOME seems to me poised to be a real presence in the growing real-world interest in what is possible in comics. As it stands, MOME seems aimed at the already-converted artcomix lover, and I am without question in that camp.

I love MOME, but I feel like the world could love it too, if it didn't feel so much like something you needed to get in on the ground floor to fully understand and enjoy. I'd like to see Fantagraphics apply some knob-twisting to make each new volume feel like an event unto itself, with maybe one or two more articles complimenting the interviews, and perhaps less serialized pieces and more standalone works of genuine wonder, like this issue's "Stick and Stone" by Eleanor Davis.



Blogger Robin said...

I did not grow up reading comics and never cared for superhero art or stories. Then in this last year when I took a trip, my friend loaned me Watchmen and I was swayed enough by it to begin going to the comic section of my campus bookstore. Fortunately for me (since I was only semi-enamored with that quality superhero tale) the campus bookstore seemed to be stocking their shelves with the most critically acclaimed graphic novels, I came to realize. There was, to say the least, a good compliment of Fantagraphics publications including MOME. I looked at the current edition at the time and found unique artistic visions and depth of storytelling and I converted to comics and I have since been hooked. (Although I have a strong distaste for Crumb including her father save for his portraiture)

Anyways I have now become a devout student of sequential art and now have a broader appreciation of it, due in large part from stumbling upon MOME which then lead me to start reading The Comics Journal - ah sweet heaven of serious critical thought.

I just thought I would share with you how MOME got me into comics.

09 July, 2007 20:26  

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