Rumbling Chapter Two
Kevin Huizenga, writer/artist
USS Catastrophe, 2009
What impressed me most about Rumbling, Kevin Huizenga’s adaptation of a dystopian/post-apocalyptic short story by Italian writer Giorgio Manganelli, is how effectively it conveys that whole Handmaid’s Tale/The Road things-fall-apart vibe while still residing squarely in Huizenga’s wheelhouse of formal play and finely observed transcendence-through-the-mundane detail. So you get a very effective vignette in which this alternate-future Glenn Ganges, an irreligious foreigner stranded in a country torn apart by a religious civil war, overhears a mother tell her kid it’s impolite to stare at Glenn, that the reason he wasn’t praying when the bells rang is because God doesn’t talk to him like He does to us; or, following that, a sequence where Glenn is picked up by a local to be driven to his boss the ambassador’s safehouse in the country and starts wondering if the man is going to do him harm, but then is slowly lulled to sleep by the rhythm of the passing countryside. Excellent dystopian stuff in both cases, but moreover, they both end up showcasing Huizenga’s preexisting strengths: I loved how the little boy’s confused/fascinated torrent of thoughts upon being introduced to the idea of an irreligious man were conveyed by an explosion of thought balloons cut off by the panel borders, and how Glenn’s long ride into the country was depicted by two panels featuring the pick-up truck’s sideview mirror jutting into the passing scenery, reflecting Glenn’s weary and then sleeping face. Meanwhile the wide array of warring factions gives Huizenga ample opportunity to design more of the kinds of symbols and logos that seem to burst out of his comics like automatic writing, and there’s a funny recurring bit that takes a Chris Ware-style enlargement of key words in a narrative caption to splash-page extremes. In other words it’s a comic that succeeds on a lot of levels all at once.
I actually think this material comes across better in the story’s current delivery mode, a standalone self-published minicomic, than it did in Or Else #5, the final issue of Huizenga’s Drawn & Quarterly one-man anthology, in which Rumbling‘s first chapter appeared. There it was surrounded by short pieces that were in some cases related enough to the main story to feel like a full-fledged part of it but in other cases really had nothing to do with it; the lingering feeling that all this stuff was connected served to mute the first chapter’s impact and hinder its momentum. In Rumbling Chapter Two, Rumbling‘s all you get, and the comic’s the better for it.