Comics Time: Mome Vol. 10: Winter/Spring 2008

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Mome Vol. 10: Winter/Spring 2008

Al Columbia, Sophie Crumb, Dash Shaw, Ray Fenwick, Émile Bravo, Jim Woodring, Robert Goodin, John Hankiewicz, Tom Kaczynski, Jeremy Eaton, Kurt Wolfgang, Paul Hornschemeier, Tim Hensley, writers/artists

Eric Reynolds & Gary Groth, editors

Fantagraphics, December 2007

120 pages

$14.95

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Mome Vol. 10 by contributor, in order of appearance:

* Al Columbia’s gorgeous and frightening front cover is so great that I found myself trying to justify the “someone’s about to torture an animal” back cover image, where normally I’d just say “fuck that shit.”

* I really like the ink and watercolor portrait that is Sophie Crumb’s first contribution to this volume. Her comics, though, are more of the smug writing and unpleasant art that have put me off of her work in past volumes.

* Dash Shaw’s science-fiction story is my favorite thing by him I’ve seen so far. I feel like his lo-fi diagrammatic art and layouts are really clicking here, while the storyline’s central conceit of a man who comes from a world where time runs backwards is ambitiously complex and demands Shaw be inventive in solving the problems it presents him with visually. The use of color is measured and smart, and there’s a weird pathos to both the ideas and the way Shaw draws the characters. I could imagine Kevin Huizenga doing a wicked cover version of this strip.

* Ray Fenwick does his sublime/ridiculous prose/subject matter juxtaposition thing again and I don’t think it works all that well here. Celebreality gossip culture is a soft target.

* Émile Bravo does another sociopolitical pictographical parodical morality play involving various ethnicities’ views of those below their rung in the social hierarchy; it’s a sensible idea but not something that blows you away with its insight, and I think he undercuts it slightly with the punchline.

* In the conclusion to Jim Woodring’s “The Lute String,” Pupshaw and Pushpaw are punished by the elephant god for their transgressions by being sent to Earth Prime! It’s as much fun looking at Woodring’s art as it is seeing this pair of pranksters get their comeuppance, and meanwhile it’s really odd and funny to see Woodring draw normal people. That punchline panel is a scream.

* I really like the way Robert Goodin draws people, with big forearms reminiscent of Popeye and really unique facial designs. I’ve seen world-culture myths adapted before, of course, and this Indian shaggy-dog story doesn’t stand out all that much in terms of the moral imparted or the mechanics of getting there, except for that lovely art.

* John Hankiewicz’s debut Mome contribution is a doozy. The narrated story, a tale of a gentrifying neighborhood reminiscent of Tom Kaczynski’s contribution to Vol. 9, draws attention to Hankiewicz’s finely detailed environments and thus heightens the frisson of seeing three very different types of figures moved through it by the cartoonist: a fairly realistic representation of the narrator and (I think) his father; a giant-headed, Tweedle-Dee/Tweedle-Dum-esque couple whose out-of-scale-ness represents the gaily crass nouveau riche new inhabitants of the neighborhood–in one memorable panel, they appear totally and disconcertingly naked; and a thickly delineated, faceless abstraction of a female, symbolyzing the anonymous self-mutilator whose weblog or livejournal the narrator habitually visits. It’s this strip I’ll return to, no doubt.

* I was going to say something like “Tom Kaczynski returns to the familiar territory of industrial/commercial environments altering people’s internal landscape,” and then I thought how funny it is that a subject like that is familiar territory for someone. I’m grateful that’s the case even though I don’t think it’s all quite cohered to the level of power he hopes for yet. This one comes close, but for some reason I think it would have worked better if it were longer and had more time to build up to the ending.

* Jeremy Eaton’s art is text-heavy and really loose, Stieg-esque I suppose. I’m not 100% sold on his short-story-ish tale of a retarded man accused of a gruesome crime, and I’m not sure the limited scope of his layouts gives his loose line enough room to breathe and really have an impact, but I’d like to see more.

* This is my favorite chapter of Kurt Wolfgang’s “Nothing Eve” so far. It’s replete with insightful observations about crowd dynamics, and a funny (if slightly overwritten) wink at how Hollywood inflects our view of how momentous occasions are supposed to unfold.

* Paul Hornschemeier’s heroine gives her one-night-stand the kiss-off in this installment of “Life with Mr. Dangerous,” and I think the scene plays realistically and uncomfortably. But Amy’s affect is so flat and her reasons for being such a downer all the time so underexplored that it seems to me like it’ll be really hard for her to hold our interest as a main character in an eventual collection of this story; I found myself agreeing with her gossipy coworker’s harsh assessment of her even while I thought the coworker herself was a bit too one-dimensionally glib.

* The punchline panel for Tim Hensley’s sole Wally Gropius strip this volume continues the disturbingly violent undercurrent he kicked off with the Jillian/incest strip last ish, and also serves as a rejoinder to the callous Columbia image that follows on the back cover.

* As is the case with pretty much every volume of Mome, it’s tough to imagine a better value for your alternative comics-buying dollar. The range in tone, style, subject matter, and even quality makes it a uniquely bracing quarterly(ish) view of the state of the art.