Cold Heat Special #9
Frank Santoro & Lane Milburn, writers/artists
PictureBox, June 2009
The most inscrutable of the Cold Heat Specials thus far, which is saying something, this second Santoro/Milburn CHS collaboration in a row is also the least action-oriented thus far. In its 17 story pages (I tend to count minicomic covers for the official page count up top), Cold Heat heroine Castle putters around a castle, appropriately enough. As light from a fireplace, a candle, and eventually dawn illuminates her and her surroundings, she gazes upon a painting and into a mirror, whereupon the figure from the painting appears to come to life…or does he? Whether the sword-wielding horseman is a ghost or just a figment of her imagination is immaterial: The point is to use Castle and her surroundings to evoke the experience we’ve probably all had of being up late at night, alone in the barely staved-off dark, our thoughts running wild in the emptiness.
With each page done in a two-color silkscreen riff on Cold Heat proper’s pink and blue color scheme, the book is a thing of beauty–unsurprising, for comics-makers of Santoro and Milburn’s obvious talents. What is surprising is Milburn’s proficiency for this sort of tone-poem of a story. Most of the Closed Caption Comics veteran’s work that I’ve seen thus far has been geared toward the monstrous, so watching him work off Santoro’s layouts in an experiment to see how best to convey firelight and insomnia is a treat (even if I had to read the thing twice to make sure I understood what was happening–or what wasn’t happening). As is frequently the case with PictureBox products, the price point appears designed to actively punish the casual reader, but to be fair this is about as geared toward someone whose bookshelf’s only graphic novel is Maus as Final Crisis Aftermath: Ink is aimed at someone who bought The Dark Knight off an endcap at Wal-Mart. It’s for we few, we proud, we artcomix aficionados, and lucky for us.